Prompted by her mother, she said, ‘Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.’ And the king was sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests, he commanded it to be given; he sent and had John beheaded in prison.” (Matthew 14:8-10)
While our first reading today contains God’s instructions to Moses for the establishment of the year of Jubilee, our Gospel passage contains circumstances surrounding the death of John the Baptist, about whom Jesus said: “Among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist.” (Matthew 11:11).
John the Baptist died in active service. Like a soldier on a battleground, he died proclaiming the truth of the sanctity of marriage. Regardless of how our society paints it, adultery is a sin. It is an offence against God and humanity. John the Baptist told Herod: “It is not right to have your brother’s wife.” For daring to tell him the truth, Herod arrested and imprisoned John. Herod felt that since he was rich and powerful, he was above God, who specifically instructed: “Thou shall not commit adultery.”
Should John the Baptist have kept quiet? That would mean he has failed as the voice of conscience in society. So many preachers today are more concerned about financial prosperity than spiritual prosperity. We have become like doctors who treat their patients without telling them how to avoid those things that bring them again and again to the hospital.
The book of Proverbs says: “Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well… Let them be for yourself alone, and not for sharing with strangers. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth… May her breasts satisfy you at all times; may you always be intoxicated by her love. Why should you be intoxicated, my son, by another woman and embrace the bosom of an adulteress? For human ways are under the eyes of the Lord, and he examines all their paths. The iniquities of the wicked ensnare them, and they are caught in the toils of their sin. They die for lack of discipline, and because of their great folly, they are lost.” (Proverbs 5:15-23)
Apart from being an offence against God, adultery destroys trust in the heart of one’s partner. It punctures their self-esteem and psychologically destroys the bond of love that previously existed. The reason why sex is reserved only for marriage is because it is an act of total self-giving, and you can only give yourself to your spouse. Adultery is stealing what belongs to someone. Faithfulness to one’s spouse attracts God’s blessings. The book of Proverbs teaches us: “Do not let loyalty and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favour and good repute in the sight of God and people.” (Proverbs 3:3-4).
Rather than repent, Herodias sought an opportunity to kill John the Baptist as if killing the prophet equals killing the truth. One lesson from today’s Gospel passage is to avoid making promises or talking too much when we are happy or intoxicated (under alcohol). While drinking alcohol is not a sin, we must be responsible for whatever we do or say afterwards. Herod could not return his words when he realised the girl asked for John the Baptist’s head. She could have also asked for Herod’s head. Think before you speak.
On the other hand, Herod only gave the order to behead John the Baptist because he hated listening to his preaching. Herod thought he would have peace by killing John the Baptist, but he was never at peace. When he heard the fame of Jesus, he wished it was a return of John the Baptist. There is nothing to gain from sin. Rather we stand to lose everything.
Let us pray: Almighty ever-living God, grant me an increase of self-control. Through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen
Bible Study: Leviticus 25:1,8-17, Ps. 67:2-3,5,7-8, Matthew 14:1-12).*
@Rev. Fr. Evaristus E. Abu