The story of John the Baptist, the precursor of Jesus, the one who said "Not I, this is" the Messiah. "He revealed him to the first disciples and then his light went out little by little, to the dark of that cell, in the prison, where, alone, he was beheaded". He died there in the cell, in anonymity, "like so many of our martyrs".
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Martyrdom is a gift of life, it is the great witness that life has value only in giving it to others said Pope Francis at Mass this morning at Casa Santa Marta. He was inspired by the passage from the Gospel of Mark (Mk 6: 14-29), which tells of the killing of John the Baptist, "the greatest man born of woman" according to Jesus.
The Gospel story has four characters, which the Pope invites us to observe "opening our hearts" so that the Lord speaks to us: King Herod "corrupt and undecided", Herodias, the wife of the king's brother, who "only knew how to hate", Salome, "the vain dancer", and "the prophet beheaded alone in a cell".
Francis described the story beginning from the end, with the disciples of John asking for the body of the prophet and placing it in a sepulcher. "The greatest ended like this". "But John knew this, he knew he had to annihilate himself." He had said this from the beginning, speaking of Jesus: "He must grow, but I should diminish". And he "he faded until his death". He was the forerunner, the precursor of Jesus, the one who said "Not I, this is" the Messiah. " He revealed him to the first disciples and then his light went out little by little, to the dark of that cell, in the prison, where, alone, he was beheaded".
But why did this happen? Francis asked. "The life of the martyrs is not easy to tell. Martyrdom is a service, it is a mystery, it is a very special and very great gift of life ". And things end violently, because of "human attitudes that lead to taking away the life of a Christian, of an honest person, and to make him a martyr".
The Pope then analyzed the attitudes of the protagonists of the story. The king, first of all, who "believed that John was a prophet", "listened to him willingly", at a certain point "protected him", but kept him in prison. He was undecided, because John "rebuked his sin", adultery. In the prophet, Herod "heard the voice of God telling him: 'Change your life', but he could not do it. The king was corrupt, and where there is corruption, it is very difficult to escape". A corrupt man who "tried to make diplomatic balance" between his own life, not only adulterous, but also full "of so many injustices he carried forward", and the conscience of the "holiness of the prophet who was before him". And he could not undo the knot.
Then Herodias, the wife of the king's brother, killed by Herod so he could have her, the Gospel only says that he "hated" John, because he spoke clearly. "And we know - Francis has said - that hatred is capable of everything, it is a great force. Hatred is the breath of Satan. We think that he cannot love, he cannot love. His 'love' is hate. And this woman had the satanic spirit of hatred ", which destroys.
Finally the third character, the daughter of Herodias, Salome, good at dancing, "who greatly pleased the guests, the king". Herod, in that enthusiasm, promised the girl "I will give you everything". "He uses the same words that used Satan to tempt Jesus." If you worship me I will give you everything, all the kingdom. " But Herod could not know.
"Behind these characters there is Satan, sower of hatred in the woman, sower of vanity in the girl, sower of corruption in the king. And the 'greatest man born of woman' ended up alone, in a dark cell of the prison, on the whim of a vain dancer, the hatred of a diabolical woman, and the corruption of an undecided king. He is a martyr, who let his life become less, and less, and less, to give place to the Messiah".
John died there in the cell, in anonymity, "like so many of our martyrs", the Pope commented. The Gospel only says that "the disciples went to take the body to give it burial".
Francis concluded, we should all dwell upon this “great witness, of a great man, of a great saint".