Memorial of the Passion of John the Baptist
(II Thessalonians 3:6-10.16-18; 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." Caesar is referring to the many occasions in which cowards betray their consciences. Out of fear they fail to do what is right. King Herod proves himself to be a coward in today’s gospel.
Herod fears that his guests will think of him as weak-kneed for refusing to carry out the promise he made. He also shows himself a coward for not reprimanding his stepdaughter for her outrageous request. Quite the opposite, John the Baptist shows real courage by speaking out against Herod for causing a public scandal. He knows that civic leaders should give good example to the people by living upright lives.
We are being continuously jarred by the unseemly acts of politicians. Marital infidelity and cavorting with prostitutes are regular front-page features. We need to look to Jesus for a remedy. He will tell us not to cast stones on the guilty. But he will add that their sins cannot be tolerated. They should repent, do penance, and find consolation from us. After all, we too struggle at times to live righteously.