The Beheading of St John the Baptist

Last year, in this post, I speculated on the feelings of failure and rejection St John the Baptist might have experienced on the morning of his execution. I stand by what I wrote then, but this morning I would like to suggest another aspect. I think we all secretly identify with John, the fearless speaker of truth to power, and like to think that, should we ever be in conflict with the regime of the day, we would be as brave as he. Our own attempts to speak out, to be men and women of integrity, give us a little glow of satisfaction — and if we think they don’t, either we are saints already or we are being economical with the truth about ourselves. How about turning it all round and thinking about the times when we have tried to silence others, have been deaf to what they said or treated with contempt their endeavour to alert us to something important? How quickly the glow of satisfaction changes to a blush of shame!

There are many questions about which we probably have firm, possibly fixed, opinions. Immigration, gun control, abortion, social welfare, economic policy — these all provoke quite strong reactions in most of us. That is the point. We react; we don’t always reflect. Least of all do we reflect when someone is saying what we don’t want to hear. Yet it is precisely then that we may need to listen hardest. St Benedict says of the visiting monk that he may have some observations and criticisms to make that the Lord wants us to hear. (cf RB  61.4) Instead of listening to the message, we tend to concentrate on the messenger; and if he doesn’t meet our idea of what he should be, we reject both him and what he has to say. The temptation to side with Herod rather than the Baptist is always there.

Today would be a good day to ask the Lord to open our ears and free us from the prejudice that prevents our hearing him, especially the prejudice of which we are unaware. Only then can we be people of integrity, upholders of truth and justice rather than persecutors of those who see and speak more truly than we.


6 thoughts on “The Beheading of St John the Baptist”

  1. It is, as you say, the ‘prejudice of which we are unaware’ that is the snake in the grass. Discovering our own unobserved prejudice/s is a form of hide and seek: can we seek them and surprise ourselves? Or how else shall we discover what is there?

  2. God help us

    Every thing is possible with you
    John Baptist is really a good model, a good example of how most regimes even we people we don’t like to be told our faults in order to correct our mistakes. Only the truth which can make us free.

  3. I just read Harper Lee’s novel, “Go Set a Watchman” and it reminds me of this. The daughter finds that she is angry at her father for seeing him sitting by a racist speak. She rages at her father and he calmly says, “I love you.” She comes to realize that she is her own person with her own conscience, but a bigot who thinks her way is the only way. Later she can accept that not all people will think the way she does and that is okay. She can listen to others without anger. It’s hard to do because of their violence, but we need to listen to how other people see America.

  4. …the times we have (…)
    The key word here is ‘opinion’. The most long-drawn-out arguments eg on Facebook, often rest on the precarious perch of one person’s opinion. Perhaps we need – as much as anything – to cultivate the desire for truth (which may be ‘facts’, or something more profound in our understanding). That desire helps us in listening to others, not rejecting out of hand the (unwelcome) message they carry to us.
    …but this may be only my opinion…!

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