“God’s style is not man’s style because God wins with humility.” The death of the greatest prophet, John the Baptist, shows it. He prepared the way for Christ “to step aside later on”. This was Bergoglio’s comment on today’s Gospel during the homily of the Mass celebrated at St. Martha’s House. Francis reminds us that the “greatest” of men, the “just and holy” man who had prepared the arrival of the Messiah, ends up being beheaded in a dark cell, alone, condemned by the hatred of a vengeful queen and by the “cowardice of the king dominated by her”.
Yet, this is God’s way to win. “The greatest man born from a woman: this is what the John’s canonization formula says. But this formula was not pronounced by a Pope, but by Jesus. Jesus canonized him as ‘‘the greatest saint’’. He meets his end in jail, with his throat slit, and his last words seem to show resignation: ‘When John’s disciples learn about what has happened, they come and take his body and put it in a tomb’. This is the end of ‘the greatest man born from a woman’. A great prophet. The last of the prophets. The only one who was allowed to see the hope of Israel.”
But evident facts are not enough for the Pope. He tries to enter John’s cell to peer into the soul of the voice that shouted in the desert and baptized the crowds and who is now chained not only to the irons of his imprisonment “but probably – the Pope considers – also to the strains of some uncertainty that is consuming despite everything. In prison, he suffered also the inner torture of doubt: ‘Maybe I was not wrong? This Messiah is not how I imagined Him’. He has sent his disciples to ask Jesus: ‘Is it you who has to come?’, Because that doubt pained him. ‘Did I make a mistake when I announced someone he is not? Did I deceive the people?'”.
“Shrinking”, this is how “John’s life was”, Francis repeats. “A great man who did not seek his own glory, but that of God”, who ends in such a “prosaic and anonymous” way. With this attitude, “he prepared the way for Jesus,” who similarly “died in anguish, alone, without disciples: it will be good for us to read today this passage from the Gospel of Mark, Chapter VI. See how God wins: God’s style are not man’s style. Asking the Lord for the grace of humility John had without taking the glories and the merits of other people. Above all, asking for the grace to have always room in our life for Jesus to grow and for us to shrink till the end.”