Today my Church calendar is titled “Memorial of the Passion of St. John the Baptist.” I believe the word passion here is used in two ways – primarily because John was innocent of any crime but prefigured the passion of Jesus by his suffering and death at the hands of his enemies. John was thrown in prison and subsequently beheaded for his willingness to speak truth to power, specifically in telling Herod it was unlawful for him to have his brother’s wife, Herodias (who then was the agent of his death in a scheme that Herod was too weak to resist – MK 6:17-29). Clearly John’s death was consistent with his life. He bursts onto the scene early in the gospels, coming from the desert clothed in animal skins and feeding on locusts and wild honey. His whole purpose, his passion, was to proclaim Jesus as “the one sent from God.” Jesus recognized him by saying that no greater prophet ever lived; he earned that title by being totally authentic in his entire life.
We also read in Scripture that a prophet is not generally accepted in his native place. The world still persecuting those who arise to call us to a more honest and truthful life. Our prophets are those who hold up a mirror, showing us what needs to be converted in society, and sometimes we fail to listen because transformation seems too difficult (“What can one person do?”) or we are too comfortable or too busy to be concerned. Today is a day to think about our willingness to change and not to dismiss the voices we hear calling us to more responsibility in our living. My question to myself is about the level of my passion for justice and my compassion for those who are suffering in my world. What am I called to do or be for them? What will it cost me? Where is my courage for speaking the truth?