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Firm, yet compassionate.
John the Baptist was a man of principle, taking the spiritual life seriously. Firm in his resolve to follow Jesus, yet compassionate in understanding the mercy of Jesus. Firm in standing up for what is right, but compassionate in dealing with the brokenness so much a part of people’s lives. Can you be both firm and compassionate?
This story is probably very well known to us. It’s been recounted in an opera and in many other instances. (It is) this bizarre situation where the girl wants the head of John the Baptist on a platter at the urging of her mother. I can’t say that in any universe this would be considered a normal family.
It hardly seems like this would be the request that a girl of any age would want to make, even if her mother suggested it. John is a powerful example to us because he demonstrates courage.
The reality is it’s very difficult to stand up for what is right when we face challenges. If we’re in a group of people that agree with us, then it’s not so difficult. We’re simply stating what everybody else believes.
But if we find ourselves in a group of people that do not share our beliefs, then it becomes more difficult. Then it requires a gift of the Holy Spirit. It requires courage for us to stand up for what is right. John the Baptist was an interesting disciple of Jesus, obviously a relative, but on the one hand, as we see in this recounting of the story of Herod, a man who was very, very clear about his convictions and willing to act on them.
And yet, at the same time, his message had to have enough compassion and care to attract tax collectors and sinners and prostitutes because people came to him recognizing that in what he had to say there was the gift and the opportunity for new life.
This is the way it can be for us as well. The real challenge is to open ourselves to the gift of the Holy Spirit so that when we’re proclaiming the good news, we can do so both with conviction and compassion.