Mark 6:14-29King Herod heard of the demons cast out and the many who were anointed and cured, for Jesus' name had become known. Some were saying, "John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him." But others said, "It is Elijah." And others said, "It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old." But when Herod heard of it, he said, "John, whom I beheaded, has been raised."
For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, because Herod had married her. For John had been telling Herod, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife." And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, "Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it." And he solemnly swore to her, "Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom." She went out and said to her mother, "What should I ask for?" She replied, "The head of John the baptizer." Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, "I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter." The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John's head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.
Today I would like to talk about evil. There was a time, approximately half a lifetime ago when I would have argued that there were no truly evil people in the world. There were those who were mentally ill. There were others who were greedy, and lustful and nasty in other ways but I reserved evil for creatures like Satan and I was not convinced Satan existed.
In fact, I remember having a long discussion with my building principal at that time about the existence of evil. He believed evil existed and I did not and neither of us budged from our positions. Today I am older and maybe a little wiser and I have come around. It exists today as it did in the time of John the Baptist. There is no shortage of events that have taken place in the last two thousand years that could be classified as evil.
Evil was taking place in our story today. Herod has a banquet and Herod's step-daughter who was also his niece danced for Herod at the banquet. Apparently she danced so well that Herod was quite taken with her. To make a long story short Herod regrettably has John the baptist's head cut off, put on a platter, and given to her.
There is no way you can take this story and justify the actions of these very sick people. These evil people. I believe the story of John the Baptist's beheading is a cautionary tale of how evil can take hold in our lives. Lets pick this story apart:
Herod lusts after his brother's wife, Herodias, and marries her.(lust)
John speaks out against the marriage because it is against Jewish law.
Herod has John arrested because John is speaking out.(pride)
Herodias wants John dead because of his speaking out.(hatred)
Salome, Herodias daughter, dances provocatively for the king who is probably drunk.
Herod offers Salome anything she wants.
Salome checks with mother.
Mother tells her off with John's head. (revenge)
Herod does it and now he is worried that John is coming back in the form of Jesus to get him.
This whole sordid series of events started with Herod wanting someone he could not have. It might have stopped there if Herod had had the will to put Hereodias out of his mind and move on. But, Herod in his pride set in motion a series of events that led to John's death.
This episode could come right out of Game of Thrones or the Blacklist for those of you who do not get HBO. Evil has been around for a very long time and I am sure it will continue.
The question is, What do we do about it. How do we confront evil and turn our backs on it. We have a choice. We can align ourselves with evil or we can go in a different direction and follow the teachings of Jesus. We really cannot have a foot in both camps.
The problem is we are being tempted so often. Yesterday was the feast day for St. Benedict. He lived in Rome during a time when people seemed to have lost there moral compas but Benedict had a plan. He wanted his monks to not lose sight of their direction in life so he set up times of frequent prayer for his monks.
Those times were:
- Lauds or Dawn Prayer (at Dawn, or 3 a.m.)
- Prime or Early Morning Prayer (First Hour = approximately 6 a.m.)
- Terce or Mid-Morning Prayer (Third Hour = approximately 9 a.m.)
- Sext or Midday Prayer (Sixth Hour = approximately 12 noon)
- None or Mid-Afternoon Prayer (Ninth Hour = approximately 3 p.m.)
- Vespers or Evening Prayer ("at the lighting of the lamps", generally at 6 p.m.)
- Compline or Night Prayer (before retiring, generally at 9 p.m.)
In our prayer book we have Morning prayer, Noon prayer, Evening prayer, and Compline. Scheduled prayer during the day can be a powerful way to keep focused on your faith.
The point the church fathers are making is that the more we focus on our faith, on our path, the less we will be inclined to stray from it. I occasionally go to an online website on the internet called, Episcopal Cafe'. I read an article in it recently by Rev. David Sellery that speaks to the need to stay focused on good and steer away from evil. It reads:
Start each day in the knowledge that we are God’s beloved. We don’t belong to the world. We are not Satan’s creatures. To keep it that way, make a mental checklist of your vulnerabilities. Examine your conscience. Acknowledge your sins. Ask for God’s forgiveness. Forgive yourself. Then forgive others as you would hope to be forgiven. Resolve to fill the day with the love of Christ. Then live his love. Share it. Spread it. Proclaim it. Rejoice in the Lord. Thank him for his saving grace. End your day the same way… reflecting, correcting, forgiving and thanking. Then get up and do it all again tomorrow… another good day closer to home… another day delivered from evil.