Psalm 118 (Morning)
Psalm 145 (Evening)
1 Corinthians 2:6-16
Link to J. Alfred Prufrock: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poem/173476
Link to Coldplay lyrics:
The image of John the Baptist’s head on a platter, gruesome as it is, has certainly caught the attention of painters, poets and songwriters over the years. Whether it’s the famous painting by Caravaggio, T.S. Eliot’s poem, or Coldplay’s song Viva la Vida, this difficult to digest image has long captured the imagination of the arts.
Yet, have you ever noticed that Scripture is deafeningly silent when it comes to the last hours of John the Baptist?
If there was ever a chance for people to hear words of comfort in the face of danger, or faith in God beyond death, this was the place…yet…nothing. The only thing we hear, really, is about Herod…both his inability to resist, and a small amount of regret for not doing so. We don’t know what John said to God in his last hours or minutes, we don’t know if he faced death bravely, was afraid, or taken totally by surprise. We don’t know if he bore his death silently or had last words. We don’t even know if he was awake or asleep when the task was completed.
Today’s Gospel story (or perhaps, the parts where it is silent) serve as a reminder that there are so many tragic stories in this world where people are victimized in senseless acts of brutality, and those stories are taken with them to the grave. Sometimes mass graves. In some of those stories, the graves are not found for years…or never…and in the minds of the families of those victims, their loved one simply disappeared. They never know if the person is alive or dead. In one chamber of their heart is the sinking feeling they are most certainly dead; in another chamber of their heart is that dim flicker of hope that never goes away, that hopes it’s all a bad dream, and their loved one will walk through the door when they least expect it. Over time, it may even take on the surreal feeling that it seems that person never existed at all.
It’s why when we do know of atrocities and abject violations of human rights, it’s imperative to let what stories that emerge be told, and most importantly, be heard. So much of our salvation history comes from giving voice to the vulnerable and the victimized, and it’s why Christ arising triumphant from the grave has meaning.
When is a time in your life that “the story that wasn’t told” was the loudest story in the room? How were you called to give voice to that story?
Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, is a grateful member of Trinity Episcopal Church and a postulant to the priesthood in the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri. She occasionally finds time to write about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid.
“Salome with the Head of John the baptist”, Caravaggio (157-1610): public domain