The Passion of St. John the Baptist

            We commemorate today the martyrdom of John the Baptist. What we are actually celebrating is his courage to witness to the truth: to stand up and say to King Herod, “There is right and there is wrong. And what you are doing is wrong.” As a result, John the Baptist was beheaded.

            Was John “imposing his morals” on others? No. He was telling the truth. And the reason was to help Herod avoid the terrible disease called sin.

            A true prophet of God, John, did not fear the powerful. He cared enough about their souls that he called them to repentance when they exercised their power in a corrupt manner or when they failed to choose what is true and good.

            A lot of things in our society are telling us, in one way or another: “Do not impose your own morals on others.” Sad to say, many people have conveniently adopted this mentality –often to avoid speaking some inconvenient truths.

            I read a book authored by Bishop Charles Chaput titled “Render unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living out Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life.” I remember this book because of John’s courage to witness to the truth. This is what Bishop Chaput wrote: “People who take God seriously will not remain silent about their faith.” “They will act on what they believe, sometimes at the cost of their reputation and careers.” “Obviously the common good demands a respect for people with different beliefs and a willingness to compromise whenever possible.” “But for Catholics the common good can never mean muting themselves in public debate on the foundational issues of human dignity and sacredness of life.” We really cannot remain silent about extra-judicial killings, about death penalty, about social injustices.

            Christian faith is always personal but never private. That is why any notion of tolerance that tries to reduce faith to a set of opinions that we can indulge at home but need to be quiet about in public will always fail. That is like asking a married man to act single in public. He can certainly do that but he will not stay married for long.”

            As we honor John the Baptist, let us sincerely ask for the grace of courage to witness to the truth: to talk about human dignity and the sacredness of life, to make a stand against extra-judicial killings and death penalty, to strive to promote peace that is based on social justice –no matter what the cost!

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