- John the Baptist’s lifestyle was as austere as his message. Is your life in sync with your message as an LGBTQ person or ally? Do seasons like Advent and Lent propel you to clarify your paths?
- The Baptist was no puppet of the status quo. By confronting the hypocrisy of the religious establishment (Matthew 3:7) and the immorality of Herod (Mark 6:17-29), John spoke truth to power. As an LGBTQ person or ally, what steps, small or large, can you take in situations where your conscience might be in stark opposition to authority figures and immoral power? Have any larger social movements like Me Too, Black Lives Matter, Occupy, Cancel Culture, Women’s March, Earth First, and others influenced or activated you? What else motivates you to act?
- John the Baptist speaks about baptisms of water and Holy Spirit (often imagined as fire). Reflecting on your own baptism and confirmation, how do the elements of water and fire bring meaning to you this Advent? Can these symbols be applied to interpret LGBTQ history and spirituality, and/or the ecological signs of the times?
- Today’s gospel seems partial to the influence of men in its narrative (Jesus Christ, Son of God, Isaiah, John). The painting above, by Leonardo da Vinci, on the other hand, portrays John with fairly androgynous characteristics. Jean-Pierre Isbouts, in his article,“Transgender Motifs in Leonardo’s Art,” suggests that John’s tilted head, long flowing hair, and downcast eyes filled with love and sorrow could perhaps be a “deliberate allusion to Mary, the only other human being who loved Jesus without any qualification.” How do you envision John the Baptist? How important is gender to you in appreciating the message and ministry of biblical/historical characters?
- Do you see the wilderness of Advent as a place of absence or of presence? What is absent or present for you in this season? What blessings or hope do you seek, as you leave the wilderness to fulfill your vocation and ministry as an LGBTQ person/ally?
The uniqueness of John the Baptist has had a prominent place in art over the centuries. Each artist portrayed something radically different about this man who pointed to hope in Christ.
In the video below, “Saint John the Baptist: From Birth to Beheading,” Jennifer Sliwka, art historian, and Ben Quash, theologian, open up a fascinating window into the person and prophecy of the Baptist, inviting us into the uncommon story behind the brush strokes.