Every prophet is a forerunner of the Messiah; he exhorts his listeners to repentance and conversion, but he also points to the future. St. John the Bapist was the last and greatest Forerunner to the Messiah, and in his suffering and death, his passion, he is a forerunner to the Passion of Our Lord for the sake of his people.
In John’s death we see sentence pronounced on many people without the Baptist having to say a word. For criticizing Herod for treating his sister-in-law as his wife John was imprisoned. He died over a girl’s dance, but also due to Herod’s fear of being embarassed in front of his peers. In dying for the truth John revealed the truth of Herodias’ wickedness, her daughter’s manipulation of her uncle, and Herod’s rashness and weakness, even though he was supposedly in charge. Should John have remained silent in the first place? He knew his mission and carried it out.
The example of St. John the Baptist today reminds us that we should not be shy about testifying to the truth. Sometimes that witness is not given in words, but it must always be given by example. It may not result in death, but it can result in character assassination or social isolation. Let’s ask Our Lord for the courage to give witness to the truth.
Readings: Mark 6:17–29.