Monday in the Tenth Week of Ordinary Time

Matthew 14:1-12; Mark 6:14-29; Luke 9:7-9

How Pathetic a Man Is When Completely Overcome with Passion

Here is one of the sadder stories in the gospels, how a righteous man, the “greatest born of women,” Jesus said, had his head sawn off for the price of a dancing girl.  The entire episode manifests the contrast between the man of God and the wicked royal family.  And for what crime was John guilty?  He had the temerity to tell King Herod that he sinned in having his brother’s wife, an obvious and serious breach of the seventh commandment.  John did not say this because he disliked Herod; I really don’t think like or dislike, love or hate, had anything at all to do with any of John’s messages.  John said what he said as a prophet of God who spoke God’s word.  Obedience to and love for God were John’s only motives.

But Herodias, the adulteress, was maddened by the prophet’s insolence and was determined to get him out of the way, only Herod wouldn’t allow it.  The passage in Mark tells us that he was perplexed by John’s words, yet heard him gladly; moreover, he feared John for he knew him to be a righteous man.  But Herodias was seething with rage, biding her time, weaving her web for John’s destruction.  Well, the time came.  On Herod’s birthday in which he invited his nobles and leading men to a great banquet for celebration, the daughter of Herodias danced for the king.  The king was pleased.  He told her to ask anything she wanted.  The child obviously had every possession a girl could want so she ran to her mother to ask what she was missing.  Herodias knew exactly what the child lacked: the head of John the Baptist.  The child, as wicked as her mother, complied.  Herod, too cowardly before his guests to disappoint the girl, made good his proffer.

If you’ve ever seen the movie, Jesus of Nazareth, its depiction of this vile man is, I believe, quite accurate.  They portray him drooling, crawling, boiling over with passion as this child of perhaps thirteen dances sensuously before these degenerate men.  He is so overcome by, so drowning in, his own lusts that he foolishly offers this budding slut anything as reward for her gratuitous display of entertainment.  He learns to regret it.  There are few things more pathetic than a man who cannot control his passions, his appetites, himself.  Character is something that is long in the making, be it noble or debauched.  A man such as Herod becomes like this over a lifetime of depravity.  He becomes a slave to his flesh (Proverbs 25:28; John 8:34; Romans 6:16) and is unable to repent because he is a slave.  The Lord has set us free from this.  Let us walk as free men and women of God, as Christ would have us be, as Christ has freed us to be.

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