daily biblical sermons

Fr. Steven Scherrer
Homily of Friday, 4th Week of the Year, February 06, 2009
Heb 13:1-8; Ps 26; Mk 6:14-29

"And the king was exceedingly sorry; but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her" (Mk 6:26).

Today we hear the account of the death of St. John the Baptist, and at the same time we see the weakness of King Herod. It is a contrast between St. John the Baptist, on the one hand, who had the courage to tell the truth and warn the king, saying to him that it was not lawful for him to marry the wife of his brother; and the cowardice of the king, on the other hand, in that he, not wanting to break his word and promise to give to the daughter of Herodias what she requested, and not wanting to appear foolish before his guests, ordered John to be beheaded in prison and his head given to the girl. Herod knew that he was doing wrong, for he "feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and kept him safe. When he heard him, he was much perplexed; and yet he heard him gladly" (Mk 6:20). And because he knew that he was doing wrong, St. Mark tells us that "the king was exceedingly sorry" when he heard the girl's request (Mk 6:26).

Thus we see Herod acting out of human respect, rather than doing what was right. Herod had publicly said to the girl after her dance, which "pleased Herod and his guests" (Mk 6:22), "Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will grant it... Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom" (Mk 6:22-23). So now after having said all this, he was ashamed to refuse the girl and break his oath and thus appear foolish before his guests. So he decided to do evil rather than good, for in that way he could avoid appearing foolish.

How often do we do the very same thing? How often do we do what is wrong in order to avoid appearing foolish in doing what is right. We are so often ashamed to do what is right. We fear the thoughts and words of others. We fear their judgments of us if we do what is right, and therefore we do not do it. But what is the result of acting like this? It is that we feel bad and guilty, far from God, depressed, and sad. We should learn something from this experience, and in the future avoid acting out of human respect. But how often, in a new situation, do we forget our former guilt, and once again do the very same thing, avoiding doing what would cause us embarrassment, even though it was the right thing to do. We should learn from the pain in our heart when we act this way, and so be prepared in the future to act as John did, and not out of human respect and cowardice as Herod did.



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