The Death of John the Baptist
Somebody, by the name of Judith, said something about strength: “Never set a standard in the love you’re looking for because you’ll end up eating your words. For love comes with the unlikely person and if you ask God why, He will answer: love just moves in a mysterious ways!!!” And Pierre Troubetzkoy added: “Why should man expect his prayer for mercy to be heard by what is above him when he shows no mercy to what is under him?”
Today’s gospel narrates how Herod beheads St. John the Baptist upon the instigation of Herodias, Herod’s illegitimate wife. It is illegitimate because she is actually the wife of Herod’s brother, Philip. The beheading happens because of bragging. And also he made a promise. Promise, according to him, is not meant to be broken. As we usually heard that promise is made to be broken. But for Herod, it is not. It has to be fulfilled even at the expense of other people. He tells Herodias’ daughter: “Ask me anything you like and I will give it to you.” Having said this in the presence of his guests, he cannot take back what he says and so when Herodias’ daughter asks for the head of John, Herod gives in to the demand. Because of his perverted sense of ‘word of honor’ he yields to the request to bring John’s head on a platter.
Actually today’s gospel gives us a glimpse of two types of person. St. Mark seems deliberately to compare these two. On one hand, we have St. John the Baptist. He is a strong, worthy of our admiration and credible person. He is not afraid to tell the truth. He speaks honestly, boldly and courageously and is not afraid of the consequences of the right thing he has done. In fact, he is beheaded because he is not afraid to say the right thing that Herod is living an immoral life. He simply tells Herod, “It is not right for you to live with your brother’s wife.”
On the other hand, there is Herod, a type of a person who is weak and no backbone, not courageous and balimbing or humok og ilong (a Cebuano expression easy to get). His reaction to different people and events shows that he has a very unstable and unsure personality. A concrete proof is: when St. John criticizes him for living an immoral life, he is angry at St. John. But when he meets St. John in prison he begins to fear him because he is righteous and a holy man.
Nowadays, we are surrounded with so many Herods including ourselves. There are so many times our Christian and moral principles are compromised out of human respect. We know that as Catholic Christians we must stand up for Christ and His gospel message. Somebody had said that we are scared, we are afraid it is going to cost us too much to speak up. We might lose a friend, we might lose some business if we take a firm stand in the community for something that involves Christian and human values.
And so let us think of St. John and other Christian martyrs. Let us suffer for few inconveniences, loss of few worthless friendships, perhaps a little material loss in order to stand up for Christ. That is why if we look for true Christian way of life let us look for people who are like Johns. Better imitate John the Baptist, is he strong and fearless.