Memorial of the Passion of John the Baptist
(I Corinthians 1:17-25; Mark 6:17-29)
In Shakespeare’s tragedy, Julius Caesar, the protagonist says: "Cowards die many times before their deaths. The valiant never taste of death but once." He is referring to the many occasions in which cowards betray their consciences during their lifetimes by failing to do what is right. King Herod proves himself such a coward when he executes John the Baptist in today’s gospel.
Herod does not wish to be seen as a liar or a coward in front of his guests. As he promised his stepdaughter anything that she asks, he feels compelled to deliver the head of an innocent man which she requests. Ironically, Herod acts like the coward what he wants to avoid being known as. A brave man would have scolded his stepdaughter openly for making such an outrageous request.
On the other hand, John the Baptist showed real courage by speaking out against a public scandal. He put his life on the line by criticizing Herod for marrying his brother’s wife. His death is rightly memorialized through the centuries as a testimony to truth and decency.