The Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist (cf. Mark 6:17-29) is liturgically recalled today. For centuries, St. John the Baptist served as the principal model for those in religious life and as a model for Christian manhood. I always find John the Baptist a figure that convicts my Christian life.
There was a time when images of sainted founders of religious orders and other holy personages were painted with an image of the Baptist to remind the viewer many Christian virtues: the pursuit of and willingness to die for the truth, the discipleship needed to be a proclaimer of the Gospel, to build a relationship with the Messiah, to be in pursuit of the virtue of perseverance of the seeker, living the ascetic ideal, and the like.
We have to attend to St. John the Baptist not only because he was a cousin of Our Savior, but he also presents to us a method of how to live in relation to Him from whom we have eternal life. The Church gives us a rare example of holiness to contemplate that is not given to other saints: a feast of birth and death.
On the score of what the Baptist faced with passion, that is, the categorical rejection of sugar-coating the truth, and the refusal to be politically correct, the saint is images the correspondence of faith and reason. The high degree of intercourse with reality is something we don’t much appreciate today and much less desire to walk in the same footsteps. We too often lack courage –the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The enduring importance of St. John the Baptist’s example, hence, is the important call to each of us to ask the Holy Spirit to give us the gifts we need to be disciples of the Lord and missionaries in the world today. We can’t be faithful to God’s holy word with Divine Help, the same help St. John the Baptist relied upon.