Thursday, February 3, 2011


1. John de Britto was one of the three notable missionaries of the Madurai mission in the last thirty years of the 17th century. His martyrdom came about like this. He happened to baptize a sick nobleman of Marava, who had five wives. The man had to send away four of them. The youngest was the niece of the Raja of Marava. She appealed to him with tears. Britto was arrested and executed at Oriyur on 4 February 1693.

2. According to Josephus the renowned Historian, Herod killed the Baptist because he was afraid of a rebellion by the people. For Mark, John the Baptist is put to death by a ruler who recognized that he was a righteous and holy man but succumbed to public pressure.

3. John the Baptist would not give in weakly to pressure, even from one who recognized his virtues. He stood by His God-given task, preaching repentance and forgiveness of sins. John’s judgment of Herod’s marriage is a public call that sinfulness be recognized.

4. This is the only episode in the Gospel that does not have Jesus at its center, which points forward to Jesus’ death. There are so many similarities between Jesus and John the Baptist. Jesus does not give into public pressure, not even to save his life, but boldly announces the present and future coming of God as king which would flow from his self-gift unto death.

5. There are also differences between them. John the Baptist was killed, but was carried by this disciples and was buried. There is nothing spoken about his resurrection, whereas Jesus died, was abandoned by the disciples but was taken care by Arimathea who should have been his enemy. Jesus has been raised after his death.

I was personally struck by the similarities between John the Baptist (JB) and John de Britto (JB) starting from their very names. Both spoke the truth and wanted to correct the irregularities of marriage. John the Baptist condemned Herod for living with his brother’s wife and Britto ensured that the Christians follow monogamy. Both John the Baptist and John de Britto fought against immorality and both were beheaded by their respective rulers. Let us learn to speak the truth even at the cost of grave inconveniences.


Short History of Christianity in India by Joseph Thekkedath SDB

The Gospel of Mark, A Commentary

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