Today’s Gospel is about the beheading of Saint John the Baptist. King Herod divorced his first wife and then married Herodias, his brother’s wife, while his brother was still alive. King Herod had John beheaded for telling him that it wasn’t lawful for him to marry his brother’s wife.
Herodias was truly an evil hearted woman though, who did not want her position as “queen” to be jeopardized by John the Baptist’s accusations. She plotted a scheme to ease her conscience, by using her own daughter to get what she wanted, and what she wanted in the depths of her dark heart, was to get King Herod to murder John the Baptist.
It worked. For a while. Herodias retained her position as “queen” with the pretense of being King Herod’s lawful wife, without anyone calling attention to her sin anymore. But, we sure wouldn’t want to be in her shoes. If she didn’t repent of this sin during her life then she sacrificed an eternity in heaven for a few short years of pleasure and power during her life on earth.
King Herod is another story entirely. It didn’t take much convincing for him to agree to have John the Baptist beheaded. The gospel said that, “Although he wanted to kill him, (John the Baptist), he feared the people, for they regarded him as a prophet.” Herod didn’t want to kill John, but he gave in during a moment of weakness.
This is such an important lesson for all of us, that illustrates how easy it is to compromise our beliefs. In a moment of peer pressure King Herod went against his better judgment and had the greatest prophet that ever lived, killed. The same kind of thing can sure sneak up on us too, if we ever let our guard down and just go along with whatever the people around us wants to do.
In modern times, living together without the benefit of marriage is becoming more and more culturally acceptable. 41% of babies are born to unwed mothers in America, multiple divorces and remarriages are also acceptable, and the laws of our country have been changed to call same sex unions a marriage too. The lines on morality are becoming more and more blurred. We are accepting things incrementally that John the Baptist would have never tolerated.
This is really a difficult thing to face about ourselves. It is difficult for us to risk losing the love and friendship of those we care about, by speaking up against their actions that are morally wrong.
Many of us readily tolerate sin in our own families and friends, rather than confront it like John the Baptist did, because we run the risk of alienating those we care about. Parents love their adult children and do not want to risk alienating them from their lives, if they “find fault” or judge their children’s lifestyle. Young adults have friends that live together and they value their friendship too much to cause friction between them, over their morals. Young couples struggle with many problems, stresses and pressures raising their families that divorces, and subsequent multiple relationships have become very common. Only 25% of children grow up with both biological parents in the home in the US, and many other developed countries as well. Even senior citizens are not exempt from this moral decline. They have the fastest growing rates of sexually transmitted diseases now days, because they start dating again after a spouse dies.
That’s really enough to think about for the rest of the day, how easy it is for us to compromise our values for the sake of getting along with others, or out of fear of losing their love or friendship. Our acceptance of sin can creep in so gradually that we hardly notice that we are doing it. Saint John the Baptist showed us a more difficult, but holy example of moral clarity in today’s gospel. All we need now – is the courage to follow it.