HOMILY FOR FRIDAY OF THE 4TH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR I.
THEME: THE DANGER OF A DEAD CONSCIENCE.
BY: Fr. Karabari Paul.
‘Herod sent and seized John, and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife; because he had married her.’
Today’s Gospel (Mark 6:14-29) focuses on Herod. Herod the tetrarch is Herod Antipas who is the son of wicked King Herod the Great’s fourth wife, Malthace, the Samaritan. Herod the Great was the one that was reigning in Judea at the birth of Christ and who slaughtered all the boys in the area of Bethlehem who were two years and younger. Herod Antipas inherited many of his father’s evil qualities. Herod Antipas was not very interested in Jewish affairs. His father was an Idumean, a descendant of Esau, and his mother was a Samaritan, a mixed breed of Jew and gentile. The Jews held him in great contempt and his disdain of the Jews was about the same.
John the Baptist had been thrown in prison by Herod Antipas because John told Herod that he was breaking God’s law by having Herodias as his wife. John’s rebukes stung them with the result that they wanted to kill him, but since they feared the reaction of the Jews, Herod threw John in prison.
Now John was absolutely correct in that it was unlawful for Herod to have Herodias, and the truth can make us very uncomfortable. Herodian family was bizarre. Notice first that verse 3 refers to Herodias as “the wife of his brother Philip.” Now this Philip is not Herod’s half brother Philip the Tetrarch, but another half brother by one of his father’s other ten wives. This is Herod Philip who had no rule. Herod Antipas had met Herodias on his way to Rome, he seduced her, and they then plotted to divorce their spouses and marry each other. That would move her up into the position of being the wife of a Tetrarch, one of Rome’s puppet rulers. She divorced Herod Philip and he divorced the daughter of Aretas, King of the Nabataeans to whom he was married. (This move later cost him dearly because Aretas took revenge because of the way his daughter had been treated and attacked Herod’s army and destroyed it. Only the intervention of a Roman army kept Herod alive and on the throne).
Herod and Herodias’ marriage was unlawful because God still considered Herodias to be Philip’s wife. In addition, their relationship was unlawful because it was against the Mosaic Law. Leviticus 18:16 and 20:21 forbids a man from marrying his brother’s wife with the exception of raising children to a deceased childless brother by levirate marriage (Deuteronomy 25:5). However, not only was Philip not dead, but Philip and Herodias had a child, Salome.
But there is yet a third reason that John told Herod that it was unlawful for him to have Herodias. It was incestuous. Herodias was the daughter of Herod’s half brother Aristobulus. Herodias was Herod’s niece which again brought them under the condemnation of the Mosaic Law (Leviticus 18:14). Herodias’ daughter Salome later followed in her mother’s footsteps for she later married her uncle, Philip the Tetrarch, and thus became her mother’s half sister-in-law and her aunt.
What would have happened if John the Baptist had behaved according to the Politically Correct ideas going around today and tried desperately not to offend anyone? Or what if he behaved like so many of us who are so timid when it comes to confronting someone with the truth? If John had acted like so many of us do, then he would not have been thrown in prison and he would not have lost his head.
Should we be courteous, respectful, and tactful? Yes, and we should also make sure that we are never coming across as self-righteous. However, we also should never be shy about declaring the truth. You can be bold when you have the truth, but maybe that is the problem with many of us. If you were threatened with jail for declaring what is righteous before God, would you continue to proclaim the truth, or would you back away? John’s goal in life was to serve the Lord, and if that meant imprisonment, then so be it. He would not compromise the message of the Lord and so he was put in prison. The righteous suffering at the hands of the unrighteous.
Today, like Salome, very many people are recruited into revenge mission and used as baits for wicked plans by family members and friends. Unfortunately, the Salomes won’t ask exactly what they would gain from the head of John the Baptist and why they should be brought into that web of hatred. Wickedness can blind us such that we abandon the request for Herod’s promised treasures or even kingdom to ask for the head of John the Baptist. Herod had the chance to say something we interpret as his frustration but Salome and the mother might not be free either. If they forgot they killed John the Baptist, posterity would never forget.
John feared God and followed Him. Herod feared everything but God, and it was only his fear of the people that he kept John alive. Sometimes, those who fear people are not afraid of God their Creator. And killers of messengers of truth do not only fear the truth but also dread what seems like the truth. May God help us all. GOD IS STILL ON THE THRONE. May God have mercy on us, heal our world, and bless us all through Christ Our Lord Amen. Good morning
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