August 4, 2012 - Saturday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time

Jeremiah 26:11-16, 24
Psalm 69:15-16, 30-31, 33-34
Matthew 14:1-12

The Gospel today contains a great example for us: Herod. He is a clear example of how not to live. We can learn a lesson from Herod if we are as little like him as possible.

Herod’s first problem was that he imprisoned a man who told him the truth. It was wrong of him to be living with the divorced wife of his brother. St. John the Baptist had the courage to say it, so Herod put him in prison. When some prophet of God warns us of our sins, our reaction should not be anger but thanks.

Herod’s second problem was the situation he got himself into. He was drinking at a party when his niece, who was his now stepdaughter, began dancing. I think we all know that she was not doing the foxtrot. Herod shows here a depth of debauchery. If he were praying instead of lusting after his stepdaughter, none of this would have happened.

Herod’s third problem was the oath he swore. He made a promise: “whatever you want, I will give you.” The principle here is simple: if you have ever promised to do something wrong, do not do it. We are never obligated to sin. We can never be justified in killing someone because we promised to.

Herod’s fourth problem was the guests who were present. He would not have killed John the Baptist if this were a small family party, but he does not want to lose face in front of his friends. Clearly he has the wrong kind of friends. Good friends help us do good. Bad friends do not. No one can be called a good friend if they are a cause of sin for us.

Most of us will never be in the exact position that Herod had got himself into, but we do know that bad decisions lead to more bad decisions until we stand before a crowd of people and have to decide whether to lose face in the sight of the world or make a terrible decision. Even at that last moment, Herod could have said “No.” All of his poor choices up to that point did not make him kill John the Baptist. Best of all is not to get to that point, but if we are at that point, let us be willing to lose the respect of the whole world rather than do evil.