VIII Pentecost

July 15, 2018

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. AMEN.

This morning’s Gospel lesson is a familiar, albeit sad story – the beheading of     St. John the Baptist.  When I am given a familiar story to read, I am often drawn to a new and different way to approach the story.  That is what happened this week.

I was drawn to King Herod -- Particularly King Herod’s morals.  There were to things about his morals that stuck out to me.  First, of course, is the obvious moral choice that he made – which is that he married his brother’s wife.   He divorced his first wife to marry the wife of his half-brother.  In today’s world, this might not be seen as a moral dilemma, but it was at the time.  So much so, that he was condemned by St. John the Baptist.  Because John preached against, Herod had him arrested and thrown in prison.

Then there is the second moral decision.  That involves the keeping of an oath.  As we read in the lesson, Herod held a birthday banquet with his courtiers and officers and the leading people of Galilee.  During this banquet, his step-daughter danced so beautifully, that Herod made an oath that he would give her whatever she wanted, up to half of his kingdom. 

At her mother’s behest, the girl asked for the head of John the Baptist on a platter (she through in the “on the platter” as her own little twist on the request!)  Herod did not want to execute John, but, as the lesson says:

“…because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her.  And immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard and gave orders to bring his head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, and brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother.  When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.”

This reminds me a bit of the story from the life of St. Thomas a Becket in which, in a drunken stupor in front of his noblemen, the King says of Becket, “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?” which sends the noblemen off to the cathedral to execute Archbishop Becket. 

I found it interesting to think that an oath made at a birth party, more than likely in a drunken stupor (why else would Herod promise half of his kingdom because a girl danced nicely for his guests) – this oath, Herod feels obliged to keep, but a vow to his first wife to be faithful “until we are departed by death” he throws by the wayside when he finds his sister-in-law a better catch!

This is why I have been thinking about morals this week.  It seems that Herod held an oath taken before people to be in higher regard than an oath taken before God.

I wondered about our own morals.  What do we hold to be in higher regard?  What is our moral compass?  How do we make moral and ethical decisions?

Perhaps it is a cop out on my part, but I think that it is for me to simply point out that we are all called to determine how it is that we are to live out Jesus’ teachings, rather than to prescribe that for you.

For some, to live out the teachings of Jesus may lead to becoming a pacifist.  To others, it is possible to live the teachings of Jesus and be a military chaplain or indeed a combatant.

For some, to live out the teachings of Jesus may lead to becoming an activist, and to others to help to preserve the status quo.

We have examples of Saints who sold all that they had, gave the money to the poor, and spent the rest of their lives as beggars.  This is an extreme example.

What I want us to think about this week is how it is that each of us chooses to live as a servant of Jesus Christ.  How do we make moral and ethical decisions?  It is important, at the very least, to know that we are making decisions based on our relationship to Jesus.

Do you think that by examining your life in this way, you might change some of the decisions of how you live?  What does your relationship with Jesus lead you to do?  AMEN.