The figure of John [the Baptist] demonstrates two laws about authentic people and shatters two dangers to which man’s authenticity generally succumbs. He shatters two situations in which an authentic man so very often suffocates and drowns. The first law and the first danger: the prophet stands before the king. And the first point:
• do not permit regard for private security or personal existence to make you into an inauthentic person.
So very often throughout history, whenever prophet and king have encountered one another, the king is always in the superior position. What is easier, what is simpler, than to muzzle a prophet! Yet, indeed, hasn’t it been – not the voices of those who went into the palaces and were welcome there – but rather the voices calling in the wilderness who filled the cosmos, who prepared the way, who directed people toward Advent, and who arranged for the proper meeting with the end and the Ultimate? Prophet and king! The prophet must have known that the king’s power and force and majesty would fall upon him and crush him if he said, “‘Non licit’: That is wrong because it is inauthentic and is not in accordance with the divine order.” And John said it, and he was crushed, and he was brutalised, and – for all time and eternity – he stands as the witness within history, as the witness before the face of the Lord, as authenticity itself. And he was right! Along with that are the second law and the second danger.
• Futility or ineffectiveness do not dispense one from speaking the truth, declaring what is wrong, and standing up for what is right and just.
How could this prophet think he could interfere in the family history and family scandals of the king, and be successful? Whoever considers success, or makes his decisions or attitudes dependent upon whether something is futile or certain of success, is already corrupt. Then authenticity no longer means his personal encounter with what is real; it is rather his personal dependence upon success, upon being heard, on popularity and applause, and on the roar of the great throngs. He is already corrupt. And woe if the prophets are mute out of fear that their word might not be heeded.
– Fr Alfred Delp, 20th century