We may be familiar with the expression, ‘speaking truth to power’. It can often be a dangerous business.
John the Baptist spoke God’s truth to the powerful Herod, telling him that it was against God’s law for him to marry his brother Philip’s wife, as he had done. For speaking this truth, John incurred the anger of Herod’s wife, Herodias, and her resentment towards John was a factor in John’s unjust persecution. However, the other factor in John’s execution was Herod’s own moral cowardness.
The gospel reading says that Herod knew John to be a good and holy man and that he liked to listen to John. Yet, Herod ordered John’s execution at the request of his wife because he had promised her daughter Herodias anything she wanted. He didn’t want to lose his honour by refusing her unexpected request for the head of John the Baptist. Herod knew he was killing a good and holy man, but his honour and reputation meant more to him.
When evil is done, such as the killing of the innocent, it is often due to a combination of factors, a coming together of the moral failings of several people. The opposite is also the case. The doing of some good is often due to a coming together of the moral virtues of several people. There is a coalition of evil in the gospel reading, Herod, Herodias and her daughter, but there is also a coalition of good there as well.
There is John the Baptist and also his disciples who ensure he has a dignified burial even if he had an undignified death. When Jesus called people of all sorts to follow him, he was forming a coalition of good to work for the coming of God’s kingdom on earth. It came to be called the church. We all belong in that coalition of good. We are called by the Lord to work together to further God’s good work in our world. Sometimes, we will have to do that in the face of the kind of coalition of evil that is there in today’s gospel reading. Amen
Fr. John Peter