Venerable Bede has a thoughtful homily on the death of John the Baptist, whose head was cut off by order of Herod, at the prompting of his wife Herodias. The story told in Mark 6 is a dramatic tale of revenge and loyalty, and we celebrate it today as a feast of the church. The Church calls it “The Passion of John the Baptist” because it’s like the Passion of Jesus.
Bede says John’s story was noticed by heaven, where things are judged differently than here on earth. If John had remained silent about Herod’s conduct, perhaps he could have gained a few peaceful years of life.
“His persecutor had demanded not that he should deny Christ, but only that he should keep silent about the truth. Nevertheless, he died for Christ. Does Christ not say: I am the truth?”
John’s death prefigured the death of Jesus Christ, Bede says; because of the values both of them valued, they were unjustly killed.
“He preached the freedom of heavenly peace, yet was thrown into irons by ungodly men; he was locked away in the darkness of prison, though he came bearing witness to the Light of life.”
But heaven notices– not the span of our lives– but how we live them, speaking the truth.