FEB. 5. ORDINARY TIME (B) WK. 4 FRI. MK. 6. 14-29
King Herod had heard about Jesus, since by now his name was well known. Some were saying, ‘John the Baptist has risen from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.’ Others said, ‘He is Elijah’; others again, ‘He is a prophet, like the prophets we used to have.’ But when Herod heard this he said, ‘It is John whose head I cut off; he has risen from the dead.’
Now it was this same Herod who had sent to have John arrested, and had him chained up in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife whom he had married. For John had told Herod, ‘It is against the law for you to have your brother’s wife.’ As for Herodias, she was furious with him and wanted to kill him; but she was not able to, because Herod was afraid of John, knowing him to be a good and holy man, and gave him his protection. When he had heard him speak he was greatly perplexed, and yet he liked to listen to him.
An opportunity came on Herod’s birthday when he gave a banquet for the nobles of his court, for his army officers and for the leading figures in Galilee. When the daughter of this same Herodias came in and danced, she delighted Herod and his guests; so the king said to the girl, ‘Ask me anything you like and I will give it you.’ And he swore her an oath, ‘I will give you anything you ask, even half my kingdom.’ She went out and said to her mother, ‘What shall I ask for?’ She replied, ‘The head of John the Baptist.’ The girl hurried straight back to the king and made her request, ‘I want you to give me John the Baptist’s head, here and now, on a dish.’ The king was deeply distressed but, thinking of the oaths he had sworn and of his guests, he was reluctant to break his word to her. So the king at once sent one of the bodyguard with orders to bring John’s head. The man went off and beheaded him in prison; then he brought the head on a dish and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother. When John’s disciples heard about this, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.
A primary lesson from this reading is that one should never allow one’s actions to be determined by the values and opinions of others; - an issue that makes itself known more times than we are prepared to admit!
It is clear from this Gospel passage that Saint John the Baptist was an exceptional person, even to Herod himself, and Christ even labelled him “The Greatest Man ever born!” so Herod was well aware of his “goodness”!
We are even told: “Herod knew John to be a good and holy man, and so gave him protection”, - and; - “he was greatly distressed at the request for his execution?”
We are also told ‘why’ he did not do what he knew to be right; - in that, at a party he had made a rash and ill-considered promise, so he was faced with a dilemma to “do what he knew to be right”, or, “to do what those around him wanted”!
How often we are caught in this same quandary, between doing what we know God would like us to do, and not doing what he wants; - because of the views of those around us; - who are frequently not people of Faith?
This quandary is common to Christians, as they are aware of the values and teachings of Christ, the Son of God; - but they are equally aware of the values and teachings of “The World”!