Life and Death ChoicesFr. Barnabas Powell
I learned a new word today: insouciant. It means “showing a casual lack of concern; indifferent.” I was reading an article from The Telegraph, a paper out of Britain, concerning the economic impact of emerging markets on the world economy. Heady stuff! And most of which I simply didn’t understand.
But I was intrigued with the word “insouciant.” It seemed to capture the attitude of the moment in our pop culture society.
Here in the US, pop culture is all abuzz over the antics of a former Disney child star call Miley Cyrus. This is a young lady whose fame is fading, so she did what so many other attention-craving performers have done: she “acted out.” She really showed an “insouciant” attitude toward her own reputation and that of her family.
But the twin weaknesses of fear and pride produce that kind of behavior. They always do.
In today’s Gospel Lesson (Mark 6:14-30) we read of the Beheading of the blessed Forerunner, John the Baptizer. Most of us know the story well and annually on this date the Church calls our attention to this event as both a warning and a lesson for our souls. A girl dances suggestively before a group and the leader of the group, enamoured with his own lusts, promises to make the girl rich. All she has to do is tell him what she wants. And the girl’s mother tells her to ask for the head of the Baptizer on a platter. She does. She gets it.
St. John had been confronting Herod the king with his immoral lifestyle completely inconsistent with a life of one who is to lead the people of Israel. Herod doesn’t much like it but he doesn’t do anything to John because he fears the people. The common folks considered John a prophet, and so he was. In fact, St. John was the last Old Testament prophet, and the announcer of the coming of the Messiah!
Look at the mix of attitudes and activities that come together to bring us to this tragic conclusion. Fear and Pride dominate. Fear of being exposed as weak. Pride driving actions that produce death. But not just physical death. After all, that’s the least of our worries. Besides, the physical death of John will be remedied. But the death that grips a king, a girl, and her mother; well, that’s a death that is both self-imposed and has eternal consequences. All fed by Fear and Pride.
But John offers us another picture: Humility and Faith. John tells the truth, knowing it may cost him his life. But truth is more valuable to John than his own comfort. John doesn’t assume his survival is “necessary.” He is convinced that spiritual life is more important that physical life. To be sure, he would rather not die physically, but if you make him choose, then wisdom, humility, and faith make the choice clear.
Today, you probably won’t face the physical life and death choices of the persons in our Gospel Lesson, but you will face big and small opportunities that will reveal to the universe what you believe is most important. From your behavior in that daily traffic jam, to your ethics at your job, to how you spend your money and treat your children, you will make spiritual life and death choices all day today.
Because of your faith, you will have both the humility and the faith to prioritize your life today to witness your commitment to Christ. Today, you will make the choices that reveal you desire eternal life and not merely the pampered survival of a temporary comfort. Thank you for your witness to all around you of the humility and faith of someone who is Orthodox on Purpose.