BEHEADING of JOHN THE BAPTIST
(Monday, September 11)
Herod’s decision to agree to the beheading of John the Baptist was just another of a chain of preceding bad decisions. He had decided to marry his brother’s wife, Herodias, who was the type of woman who enjoyed seeing the head of a prophet on a plate; then, he had John the Baptist imprisoned “for the sake of Herodias” (Mk 6:17), because John was telling Herod that his marriage to her was not lawful; and at his lavish birthday party, Herod mindlessly (and probably drunkenly) swore to the dancing girl to give her whatever she wants. So, he ends up agreeing to that which he himself did not really want, which was the violent execution of the Forerunner of the Lord. Note that Herod was capable of good decisions, as we can see by the “many things” he did, according to what John said, when Herod would “hear him gladly.” But he was not able to set and maintain boundaries, when it came to his sexual desires, and probably also in the area of food and drink, so he became a slave, not only to his own desires, but also to people-pleasing.
This is why we fast on the feast-day of The Beheading of John the Baptist, celebrated today on the Older Calendar. Fasting is an exercise in adhering to certain boundaries, not only but importantly also in the areas of food and drink. Somewhat ironically, setting and adhering to our own boundaries liberates us to thrive within their healthy framework. We become more free and more effective in realizing our vocation, in maintaining the sense of purpose that God sets before us, so we work in synergy with Him on the work-in-progress that each of us is. We are like His work of art, within the frame that is our daily discipline. As Chesterton says somewhere, “The essence of a picture is its frame.” By the prayers of St. John the Baptist, Lord, grant us the wisdom and courage to move forward today in freedom, within the healthy boundaries of Your good will for all of us.