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Pope in Santa Marta: Life is for giving, not keeping


In his daily homily at Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis reflected on the martyrdom of John the Baptist. He said John's life serves as an example for everyone. 

POPE FRANCIS
“Life only has value in giving it, in giving it in love and truth. In giving it to others, in daily life and in the family. It is always to give. If someone takes life for themselves, to guard it, like King Herod in his corruption, or the lady with her hatred, or the girl with her vanity – not realizing a bit immature - life dies, withers up and becomes useless.”

The pope encouraged Christians to open their hearts to God and to think about the four people he mentioned from the Gospel: John the Baptist, King Herod, Herodias and Salome.  

EXTRACTS FROM POPE'S HOMILY
(Source: Vatican News)

The pope said that John knew he had to diminish and annihilate himself to the point of death because Jesus must grow. The forerunner of Christ denied he was the Messiah but showed Jesus to His disciples and gradually faded away until he was extinguished and beheaded in the dark and lonely cell of the prison.

The pope described martyrdom as a service and mystery which entails the very great gift of life. He met a violent end because of “human attitudes that lead to taking away the life of a Christian, of an honest person and make him a martyr,” the pope said.

The pope said that, at first, Herod “believed John was a prophet,” listened to him willingly and protected him to a certain extent but held him in prison. He was undecided because John reproached him for the sin of adultery.  

The king heard God’s voice asking him to change his life but he could not because he was corrupt, and it is very difficult to get out of corruption. Herod could not come out of the tangle as he tried to make “diplomatic balances” between his adulterous life and many injustices and the awareness of the holiness of the prophet whom he decapitated. 

The Gospel says that Herodias “hated” John because he spoke clearly. Pope Francis described hatred as “Satan’s breath”, saying it is very powerful, capable of doing everything excepting loving. The devil’s “love” is hatred and Herodias had the satanic spirit of hatred that destroys.

The daughter of Herodias was a good dancer and a delight to the diners and Herod who promised the girl everything she asked, just like Satan tempted Jesus in the desert. 

Pope Francis explained that behind these characters there was Satan, who sowed hatred in the woman, vanity in the girl and corruption in the king.

The precursor of Christ, the "greatest man born of a woman", as Jesus described him, ended up alone, in a dark prison cell, the victim of the whim of a vain dancer, the hatred of a diabolical woman and the corruption of a vacillating king. John, the pope said, is a martyr, who allowed himself to diminish in order to give way to the Messiah.

John died in the cell, in anonymity, “like so many of our martyrs,” the Holy Father noted, adding this "is a great witness, of a great man, of a great saint".

“Life,” the pope explained, “has value only in giving it, in giving it in love, in truth, in giving it to others, in daily life, in the family.”

If someone preserves life for himself, guards it like the king in his corruption or the woman with her hatred, or the daughter with her vanity, a little like an adolescent, unknowingly, life dies and withers, becoming useless.

The pope concluded urging all to think about the four characters in the Gospel and to open our hearts so that the Lord may speak to us about this.