“What will this child turn out to be?”
From our perspective, we could comfortably say that no one could have imagined John losing his head because he stood up to King Herod. It would have been beyond conception that a man from the hill country could have been capable of stirring up the wrath of the King.
Some like to remember that the Church has placed this feast around the solstice…the turn of the season… asking us to celebrate the gift to the world of the one who announced the turn of the old order in the coming of Jesus. Others, perhaps, like to recall that despite all the obstacles, including the doubts of Zechariah and Elizabeth (and on the surface, reasonable doubts), the divine plan was fulfilled. Some ponder the seemingly waste of a good man’s life. His community, as Jesus once said, “are so unteachable.” We pause in judgement, for are we any better?
John reminds me of a recent article by Andrew Hamilton in the Madonna on ‘Heroes’. We all need heroes. They inspire us to learn, to play, to research, to pray. They also are harbingers of hope. Hope that there are still people who stand for something positive, for a change in how we act; that not everything is done for glory or the bank account, that remind us that each of us is capable of doing good. As Andrew wrote, “Heroes are not burdens, rivals or role models. They are, above all, gifts to be housed in our imagination, given to us for celebration and encouragement.”
As we remember and say thanks for John and the gift of his short life, let us remember and say thanks for the heroes we encounter each day such as the checkout person who is so patient in tough working conditions and the grand example of generous seniors who volunteer their time to care for the next generation. This list is endless, the recognition is often missing, and some lose their lives helping others.
We often say of the new born who comes unexpectedly (and sometimes unplanned and initially unwanted), “What will this child turn out to be?” May we hope that the child will grow in wisdom and grace and be a light for us as John has been down the centuries.
Not a bad record for a young man who was killed to save the face of the King; who raised no army nor won a physical war but gave hope to a community that, at last, the time of salvation had come!