(Vatican Radio) God’s ‘style’ is not man’s ‘style,’ because God triumphs through humility. That was Pope Francis’ message in his homily during daily Mass at the Casa Santa Marta.
God’s style can be seen in the death of the greatest of the prophets, St John the Baptist. This “just and holy man,” the “greatest man,” the man who had prepared the people for the coming of the Messiah, was beheaded in the darkness of his cell, alone, condemned by the vindictive hatred of a queen and the cowardice of a submissive king.
The ultimate prophet
And yet that is how “God triumphs,” the Pope said, commenting on the day’s Gospel which relates the circumstances of John’s death:
“John the Baptist, ‘the greatest man born of a woman’ – so says the formula for the canonization of John. But this formula was used not of a Pope, or even of Jesus. That man is the greatest man born of a woman: The greatest saint: Thus Jesus canonized him. And he ended his life in jail, beheaded, and the final phrase [of the Gospel reading] seems almost one of resignation: ‘When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.’ This is the end of ‘the greatest man born of a woman.’ A great prophet. The ultimate, the last of prophets. The only one to whom it was granted to see the hope of Israel.”
The suffering of the greatest
Pope Francis took his congregation beyond the text of the Gospel, inviting them to enter into John’s cell, to look into the soul of the voice crying out in the desert, of the one who baptized the crowds in the name of Him who was to come, the one who was now weighed down not only by the iron chains that bound him in his prison, but by the shackles of some doubt, despite everything:
“But he also suffered in prison – let us say the word – the interior torture of doubt: ‘But maybe I made a mistake? This Messiah is not how I imagined the Messiah would be.’ And he invited his disciples to ask Jesus: ‘But tell us, tell us the truth: are you He who is to come?’ because that doubt made him suffer. ‘Was I mistaken in proclaiming someone who isn’t [who I thought]?’ The suffering, the interior solitude of this man. ‘I, on the other hand, must diminish, but diminish thus: in soul, in body, in everything…”
Humble to the very end
“To diminish, diminish, diminish.” That “was the life of John,” Pope Francis repeated. “A great man who did not seek his own glory, but the glory of God”; a man who died in such a prosaic manner, in anonymity. But with this attitude, the Pope concluded, John “prepared the way for Jesus,’ who, in a similar manner, “died in agony, alone, without the disciples’:
“It does us good to read this passage from the Gospel, the Gospel of Mark, chapter 6. Reading this passage, seeing how God triumphs: the style of God is not the style of man. Asking the Lord for the grace of humility that John had, and not leaning on our own merits or the glory of others. And above all, the grace that in our life that might always be a place that Christ might grow greater, and we might come down, even to the very end.”