“Lord Jesus Christ, I surrender everything to you—my health, my thoughts, my plans, my desires, my whole life. Thank you for your welcoming arms and loving smile. Thank you, Jesus, for your desire and your power to make me whole!”
From a homily by Saint Bede the Venerable, priest
Precursor of Christ in birth and death
As forerunner of our Lord’s birth, preaching and death, the blessed John showed in his struggle a goodness worthy of the sight of heaven. In the words of Scripture: Though in the sight of men he suffered torments, his hope is full of immortality. We justly commemorate the day of his birth with a joyful celebration, a day which he himself made festive for us through his suffering and which he adorned with the crimson splendor of his own blood. We do rightly revere his memory with joyful hearts, for he stamped with the seal of martyrdom the testimony which he delivered on behalf of our Lord.
There is no doubt that blessed John suffered imprisonment and chains as a witness to our Redeemer, whose forerunner he was, and gave his life for him. His persecutor had demanded not that he should deny Christ, but only that he should keep silent about the truth. Nevertheless, he died for Christ. Does Christ not say: I am the truth? Therefore, because John shed his blood for the truth, he surely died for Christ.
Through his birth, preaching and baptizing, he bore witness to the coming birth, preaching and baptism of Christ, and by his own suffering he showed that Christ also would suffer.
Such was the quality and strength of the man who accepted the end of this present life by shedding his blood after the long imprisonment. He preached the freedom of heavenly peace, yet was thrown into irons by ungodly men; he was locked away in the darkness of prison, though he came bearing witness to the Light of life and deserved to be called a bright and shining lamp by that Light itself, which is Christ. John was baptized in his own blood, though he had been privileged to baptize the Redeemer of the world, to hear the voice of the Father above him, and to see the grace of the Holy Spirit descending upon him. But to endure temporal agonies for the sake of the truth was not a heavy burden for such men as John; rather it was easily borne and even desirable, for he knew eternal joy would be his reward.
Since death was ever near at hand through the inescapable necessity of nature, such men considered it a blessing to embrace it and thus gain the reward of eternal life by acknowledging Christ’s name. Hence the apostle Paul rightly says: You have been granted the privilege not only to believe in Christ but also to suffer for his sake. He tells us why it is Christ’s gift that his chosen ones should suffer for him: The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us.
Admiral Jeremiah Denton
(June 15, 1924 - March 28, 2014)
Admiral Denton spent over seven years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. In this moving presentation, he recalls how, through the power of prayer, he withstood extreme torture rather than betray God or his country.
For his valor, he was awarded the Purple Heart, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal, the Navy Cross, and the POW Medal.
O Lord, you promised that if I build my life on the rock of your word, I will stand fast. And yet, there are times when waves of trouble and anguish seem ready to overwhelm me. In those moments of distress, strengthen me to pick up my tools again and keep building as you command.
When I feel alone and afraid, help me hold fast to your promises. When fear and worry threaten to sweep away my house, help me shore up its foundations by not being anxious about tomorrow (Matthew 6:34). Let your words of love sink into my weary heart to renew me and ward off despair and self-pity.
My God, whenever the winds blow, remind me to plead with you, using the very words you inspired. “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I walk about mournfully because the enemy oppresses me?” (Psalm 42:9). Remind me to comfort my soul with the prayer of your psalmist: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God” (42:5-6).
O Eternal Word, you are with me and in me! I need never feel empty, for you fill my house to overflowing with your presence, your peace, and your love. I need never give in to fear, for you are faithful, and your deeds are marvelous. I need never submit to weakness, for your grace can make me strong.
Lord, I believe that as I walk by the light of your word, all gloom will vanish, and my spirit will be refreshed. So let the rains fall. Let the floods come. Let the winds blow and beat upon my house! It will stand and not crumble, for it is built on you, who are my Rock!
“Come, let us sing to the Lord and shout with joy to the rock who saves us! Let us praise the truthfulness, fidelity, and magnificence of our God! Come, let us lift up our heads and join in the chorus of saints and angels who stand before his throne. Let us make Mary’s words of praise our own: ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!’ (Luke1:46-47), Let us build on and with the living Word of God!"