Friday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
The destiny of the witness and of the church
Herod was the one who had John arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, whom he had married. John had said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” Herodias harbored a grudge against him and wanted to kill him but was unable to do so. Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man, and kept him in custody ….She had an opportunity one day when Herod, on his birthday, gave a banquet for …. the leading men of Galilee. Herodias’s own daughter came in and performed a dance that delighted Herod and his guests. The king said to the girl, “Ask of me whatever you wish and I will grant it to you.” He even swore … “I will grant you whatever you ask of me, even to half of my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the Baptist.” The girl hurried back to the king’s presence and made her request …. The king was deeply distressed, but because of his oaths and the guests he did not wish to break his word to her. So he promptly dispatched an executioner with orders to bring back his head. He went off and beheaded him in the prison. He brought in the head on a platter and gave it to the girl. The girl in turn gave it to her mother. Mk 6,17-28
The today passage presents the figure of John the Baptist, the one who follows Jesus being preceding him in the time. He, as well as being for excellence the witness of the Messiah, anticipates his mission and death: “A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to testify to the light” (Jn 1,6-8). The witness is not the truth, but he is the announcement: at the time of John, like today. He testifies what he has been told and what he saw in person. The witness of Jesus Christ is a fault-finder person, because he is the critical conscience of the society and sometimes even of the Church itself. He defends the rights of God and of the man, he denounces the injustice and the hypocrisy, and he takes the defense of the justice and of the freedom. As John does with Herod, the witness, even at the cost of the life, raises his finger at the right moment and says: “It is not lawful for you”. These are positions which have to be paid, as the Baptist paid, but from which it is not possible to hold back, not to lose the credibility and the power of the testimony. To be witnesses of the gospel means to be always in conflict with the constituted powers to marry the causes of the poor and the neediest people. The testimony of John anticipates and predicts that of Jesus Christ and of the Church. Even the Church, to be credible, must be criticizing and persecuted: it is the destiny and the logic of the whole history of the salvation and of each true witness.