John, Jesus and Ravi

John, Jesus and Ravi

Grace and peace to you from the Mystery in whom we live and move, and have our being. The death of John the Baptist.

“I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” The king was deeply grieved, yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her.”

Mark 6:14-29

I’ve often lived in the illusion that my words were of great importance. Simply because I had power. I am a father. I‘ve been a pastor. I am a counselor. Therefore, what I say is the word.

Those with power and pride will only be obeyed. The powerful believe they are being revered and respected, yet may only be idolized or feared.

How we embrace our power determines whether we will be followed and respected or worse, obeyed and parroted. Those who possess both humility and power will be followed. A populist wields his or her power with allure and an air of celebrity. Respect be damned, if those qualities cause their immorality to be overlooked! The desire to be near a famous face and live as though you have favor from them answers the question, “Why do good girls go for bad boys?” I’m afraid we have often been pied-pipered into being one of those girls or boys.

The death of John the Baptist

John the Baptizer was popular with the humble, those who were drawn to a new way. Humble is not exhibited in John the same way we would expect. He told Herod his marriage was wrong; he was beheaded. Why? Though he was offering a path of to freedom for people who were prepared, it was stifling to the beguiling power mongers.

Today, we are still drawn to those with humble wisdom and prophetic warnings, yet we choose a mesmerizing, unabashed populist who will remove challenging voices by beheading their intent, character and righteousness.

How can it happen? It happens, in my opinion, because the real voices are those crying in the wilderness. Their voices alone resonate with a message of belonging, hope, and the universal nature of love. How else would we be able to put what we thought was important aside at the birth of a baby or the death of a loved one? Perhaps it’s because the voice of challenging love that beckons us to go another way is at times a disturbing invitation. It would mean death to my ego, my occupation and my position in the life I have created. Even if it needed others’ participation or votes to get there.

Off with their heads!

We spend billions to put people in leadership, thinking they will do our bidding, maybe change the world. And if they do not give us what we want, we behead them and take away their voices. This seems to happen after they beheaded the voices around them who informed them that their attachments and addictions are not good for them or the people around them.

How am I to look at the Touchpoint that has arisen in me? I want to see my writing as essential, as an invitation to transform the world around me. Damn! This is what John was calling me to repent from.  How easy the three demons, the need to be right, enough and in control creep into my mind and heart till I sip from the intoxicating bottle of pride.

Perhaps John was a voice for all the attachments that become entrapments on our way to the freedom that awaits us. How insidious is this hubris when it reaches the depths of harm to others. At some point we need to assess the movement of those we’ve idolized. After all, they’re only human.


When I attended my first spiritual direction weekend retreat at Stillpoint: The Center for Christian Spirituality, I was barely into the 2-year program, and we were asked to practice in triads: one, the spiritual director; one, the other directee; and one a witness, for feedback. As a counselor, pastor, and speaker for many years, I thought I’d be good at this. Well, I made the first guy cry, in a good way, I thought. I simply took him to a place that resonated with him.

Ravi, my mentor, said to my collar-popping self, “Henry, you went to the place it needed to go.” I said, “Thank you, Ravi.” I’d always taken pride in my magic in the behavioral health world! I don’t remember his exact words, but he also said something like this: “But your directee did not go there on his own. You took him there. Discernment listens deeply, as the directee seeks inner discernment. You are simply seeking discernment with him as a midwife to his birth of new awakenings.” All I heard was, “Henry, you suck.” My pride hurt and muffled and wrestled with his knowing discernment. I so wanted Ravi’s favor, like Opie, fishing with Andy Griffith. Ravi was not enamored by popularity and fame. Ravi was a voice to my populist pride. I thought, “Well, others like what I do.”

What Henry learned in Triads

More happened in that session, and I went to my room and packed, ready to walk out of the Episcopal retreat center in LA’s Echo Park. I yelled to no one, aloud, “I can’t believe I’m paying for this abuse!” I sat on the edge of the bed and heard a voice inside me saying, “Henry, they are just a bunch of human beings.” (There was an expletive before the word ‘human’ that I left out.) I returned to the group and talked with Ravi, and he said, “Henry don’t ever lose your magic. But in spiritual direction, it’s about the directee, and how Spirit directs them together. You are a witness; listen for your own prompts.”

For so many of my years in the treatment world, I would often have only one meeting with a client, and I needed to get the client there quickly. But ‘Listening to my discernment’. This was different. I needed to listen to the voice (Ravi), calling me into my own wilderness and away from the pride of populism.

A Blessing

May we never behead the voice of Spirit’s guidance; it may come in the most unlikely places. And may we never fall for the beguiling prideful voices of untamed power and veiled promises, or for those who pander by the pools of popularity. May we go to the uncomfortable wilderness to seek out our inner John in the deep places of our hearts. His call will lead us to our brother, Jesus.

Jesus was silenced, but where the Spirit is of the Lord is, there is freedom.


Wednesday Respite is a 30-min contemplative service of scripture, prayer, music and a Spirited Touchpoint by Henry Rojas, spiritual director at Spirit in the Desert.

Touchpoint is a reflection on where God’s story touches our life story. It is a short homily based on a biblical story of people in the Old and New Testaments and their relationship with God. Our spiritual ancestors’ experience of God’s grace connects with our lives in the present and our relationship with the Divine. Previous Touchpoints are available as PDFs or on SoundCloud.


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