Today we remember the Passion of Saint John the Baptist, who gave his life as a martyr for the sake of moral truths. The backdrop leading up to his death presented much scandal and deceit. It started with a warning by John the Baptist to Herod that Herod should not have taken up with Herod’s own sister-in-law (the wife of Herod’s own brother, Philip). Rather than having John the Baptist killed for having the audacity to call Herod out, Herod placed him in prison. “Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man” (Mark 6:20). Yet Herodias, Philip’s wife and now Herod’s lover, had other designs. She wanted John the Baptist dead, as he was causing trouble for her.
Demise of John the Baptist
At Herod’s birthday celebration, with many dignitaries present, Herodias’ daughter (and Herod’s niece) performed a dance that enthralled Herod so much that he stated “Ask of me whatever you wish and I will grant it to you” (Mark 6:22). Unsure what to request, she consulted her mother, Herodias. Knowing that she had Herod cornered, Herodias replied, “the head of John the Baptist” (Mark 6:24). To save face amongst the party guests, Herod felt compelled to agree and granted the request. He prompted the executioner to bring the head of John the Baptist to the party. The executioner followed Herod’s orders and brought the head of John the Baptist on a platter to the party. The executioner gave the platter to the girl, who gave it to her mother (Mark 6: 27-28).
Exemplar of Virtue
John is a wonderful example of virtue for us today because of his living witness to Christ. Here’s just the highlights:
- Courage, bravery and fortitude to speak the truth to Herod
- Faith, patience and perseverance to await the outcome of his fate, while he sat in prison
- Hope and love for Christ
- Honor and justice to not condone Herod and Herodias’ sin.
Today we honor Saint John the Baptist, who Jesus referred to as “among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist” (Matt 11:11).
Thank you Saint John the Baptist for your witness to Christ, and for witnessing to us some two thousand years later. Saint John the Baptist’s message does not change: “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand” (Matt 3:2)!