John the Baptist stood out in a crowd. At the least today he would be arrested for disturbing the peace; at the most he would be sent to Guantanamo for an extended and quiet stay! In any case, John the Baptist knew how to "press all the right buttons" to get a severe reaction from King Herod’s wife. As we remember the death of this disconcerting prophet, we remember our own Christian responsibility to "speak the truth to power".
How many times have we heard sermons urging us to be "prophetic" in our words and actions? Yet in my own life, my preaching (with both words and actions), seems more like a whisper than the full-throated, castle-rocking, King-challenging screams of truth from John the Baptist! I can only guess at the number of homilies urging me to be bolder with my life, perhaps actually living the message given to me at my Confirmation, to be a soldier of Christ even when it hurts.
Being bold with our faith comes with a price. Like John the Baptist, preaching truth and compassion in a self-centered culture will bring down a world of hurt on the preacher. Obviously, I am not there yet. I stay safely in the middle of the pack, living comfortably and safe while so many people suffer at the foot of the Cross.
So my reflection today takes me back to the foot of the Cross, gathering there with all who suffer. At the Cross I pray for the faith of John the Baptist, the faith to proclaim God’s love for all in a way that "stirs the pot", or as our new Pontiff puts it, to "go into the streets and make a mess". I ask God to open my heart to a new reality; a crucified reality where deep love and vulnerability combine to produce true faith.
Terry McDevitt, Ph.D. is a member of our Passionist Family who volunteers at the Passionist Assisted Living Community in Louisville, Kentucky.