Thursday we will remember the Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist. The gory details need not detain us here. You can read the full account in Mark 6:17-29, or listen to it at Mass if you prefer. Dancing girls, a wicked ruler, beheading... none too attractive but all too interesting.
Leave it to Benedict XVI to pull from the story a spiritual lesson of the first magnitude.
"The task set before the Baptist as he lay in prison was to become blessed by this unquestioning acceptance of God's obscure will; to reach the point of asking no further for external, unequivocal clarity, but,instead, of discovering God precisely in the darkness of this world and of his own life, and thus becoming profoundly blessed.
John even in his prison cell had to respond once again and anew to his own call for metanoia or a change of mentality, in order that he might recognize his God in the night in which all things earthly exist. Only when we act in this manner does another- and doubtless the greatest- saying of the Baptist reveal its full significance: 'He must increase, but I must decrease' (Jn 3:30). We will know God to the extent that we are set free from ourselves."