Today, the Church commemorates in prayer the end of the glorious life journey of John the Baptist. His death was related to his preaching of the coming of the Saviour only indirectly, but probably had more to do with his digression from his life’s mission. He had preoccupied himself with Herod and intervened in his personal life. For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” Yet, the Church teaches us that he had suffered for the truth. For if God is the ultimate truth, what he was proclaiming from the beginning of the world through His prophets in His one essence with the Father and the Holy Spirit must also be the truth. Among all else, He commanded: “None of you shall approach any one of his close relatives to uncover nakedness” (Leviticus 18:6). Likewise, He affirmed: “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” (James 2:10).
Admittedly, Herod does not appear to us as evil; moreover, he even seems to be a lover of the truth. He had had him bound and put in prison, yet he knew him to be a righteous and holy man, and he protected and liked to listen to him. But despite listening to him and doing as he told him in many cases, he did not sever his unlawful marriage, making meaningless all the rest. He became captive to his sin was moving fast towards his destruction. Even his visible virtue became a trap for him. Trying to keep his word, he became the killer of the prophet.
That way, stumbling at one point, he broke the whole law. It is even more horrifying to observe the workings of a single notable virtue in a spiritually blinded person. Enter Herodias’ daughter, an outstanding example of obedience. When the daughter of Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests. The king promised to give her whatever she asked, up to half his kingdom. But she did not become dizzy with her success. On hearing Herod’s oath, she went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” In her obedience, she was unafraid to hurry in to the king and ask for the head of John the Baptist.
It is no accident that evil seeks first to corrupt the head; that is because the devil’s first dream is to hit our Lord the Almighty, the head of our Church; he seeks to cut us off from Our Lord Jesus Christ and see our virtues turn unto vices without Him. It is no coincidence that the Lord allowed His forerunner to die by beheading, as he did many of His other disciples. He wanted the rest of us to know what happens to a body with a severed head so we would realise the awful fate of the spirit without the truth.
Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds