For this is what had happened: Herod had ordered John to be arrested; and had him bound and put in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. Herod had married her; and John had told him, “It is not right for you to live with your brother’s wife.“ So Herodias held a grudge against John and wanted to kill him; but she could not, because Herod respected John. He knew John to be an upright and holy man, and kept him safe. And he liked listening to him; although he became very disturbed whenever he heard him.
Herodias had her chance on Herod’s birthday, when he gave a dinner for all the senior government officials, military chiefs, and the leaders of Galilee. On that occasion, the daughter of Herodias came in and danced; and she delighted Herod and his guests. The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want and I will give it to you.” And he went so far as to say with many oaths, “I will give you anything you ask, even half my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” The mother replied, “The head of John the Baptist.” The girl hurried to the king and made her request, “I want you to give me the head of John the Baptist, here and now, on a dish.”
The king was very displeased, but he would not refuse in front of his guests because of his oaths. So he sent one of the bodyguards, with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded John in prison; then he brought the head on a dish and gave it to the girl. And the girl gave it to her mother. When John’s disciples heard of this, they came and took his body and buried it.
The Sanctity of Marriage
In very clear and simple words our first reading tells us that “Marriage must be respected by all.“ The institution of marriage is not the creation of man but of God. From the “beginning“ God willed it so! The letter to the Hebrews also reminds us that “God will punish the immoral and the adulterous!“
John the Baptist confronted King Herod who had committed adultery by taking as wife, Herodias, who was the wife of his brother Philip. He was incarcerated for upholding the sanctity of marriage. And through the instigation of Herodias, John was beheaded.
1500 years later, another defender of the sanctity of marriage will be beheaded–St. Thomas More. He had told King Henry VIII that he could not have a divorce.
This teaching of the Church continues to reverberate through the centuries. In this difficult times again, when there are forces at working trying to destroy the integrity and sanctity of marriage we are called upon to remain steadfast in our faith for “Christ Jesus [and his teaching on marriage] is the same today, as yesterday, and forever.“