“An un-believed truth can hurt a man much more than a lie. It takes great courage to back truth unacceptable to our times. There's a punishment for it, and it's usually crucifixion.” ― John Steinbeck, East of Eden
Gospel Text: (MK 6:17-29)
Herod was the one who had John the Baptist arrested and bound in prison
on account of Herodias,
the wife of his brother Philip, whom he had married.
John had said to Herod,
“It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”
Herodias harbored a grudge against him
and wanted to kill him but was unable to do so.
Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man,
and kept him in custody.
When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed,
yet he liked to listen to him.
She had an opportunity one day when Herod, on his birthday,
gave a banquet for his courtiers,
his military officers, and the leading men of Galilee.
Herodias’ own daughter came in
and performed a dance that delighted Herod and his guests.
The king said to the girl,
“Ask of me whatever you wish and I will grant it to you.”
He even swore many things to her,
“I will grant you whatever you ask of me,
even to half of 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 back to the king’s presence and made her request,
“I want you to give me at once
on a platter the head of John the Baptist.”
The king was deeply distressed,
but because of his oaths and the guests
he did not wish to break his word to her.
So he promptly dispatched an executioner with orders
to bring back his head.
He went off and beheaded him in the prison.
He brought in the head on a platter and gave it to the girl.
The girl in turn gave it to her mother.
When his disciples heard about it,
they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.
In today's Gospel reading, God fails to protect John the Baptist. Was it because John didn't pray for protection? He probably did! So why was he killed if not because God abandoned him? Perhaps he had strayed from God's will? No. Herod killed him while John was doing the Lord's work.
Based on this, we might surmise that working for God is not safe. It sure seems so whenever we take an unpopular stand on the truth. Let's be honest. We prefer to feel comfortable. We avoid situations that might result in persecution. We tend to be people-pleasers instead of God-pleasers, so that others will like us and approve of us.
Today the Church celebrates the martyrdom of Saint John the Baptist. He died because he spoke the truth when it would have been easier to lie. How did he get so strong? How did he get to be strong enough to speak the truth, even when he knew speaking the truth might mean the end of his life?
The answer is simple – John the Baptist prayed and practiced penance. And if we do the same with consistency, we to will stand up for and speak the truth in season and out of season.