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A Practical Commentary On Holy Scripture by Frederick Justus Knecht D.D.

[Mat. 14:1–12. Mark 6:14–29. Luke 9:7–9]

HERODIAS was filled with hatred of John the Baptist, and sought to destroy him. But Herod esteemed John, and for a time obeyed him in many things. Moreover Herod was still afraid of the people, who considered John a great prophet.

Now Herod, on his birthday, gave a banquet to the princes and nobles of his kingdom. And the daughter of Herodias, by her former husband, coming in, danced before the guests, and Herod was pleased; whereupon he promised, with an oath, to give her whatsoever she would ask of him, even if it were the half of his kingdom.

But she, being instructed beforehand by her mother, said: “Give me here in a dish the head of John the Baptist.” The king was grieved on hearing these words, but thinking himself bound to keep the oath which he had sworn before his guests, he sent word to the gaoler, who beheaded John and presented his head on a dish to the wicked daughter of a still more wicked mother. Then the disciples of the holy Baptist took the body of their master, and buried it; and they came to tell Jesus what had happened.

Growth in sin. When Herod persuaded his brother Philip’s wife to leave her lawful husband for him, both he and Herodias committed a grievous sin. This sin led them on to commit other sins. Herod threw John into prison, though he “knew him to be a just and holy man”. He thus sinned against justice. Herodias hated the holy Baptist, persuaded her daughter to sin, and thus caused the Saint’s death.

Oaths. Herod sinned by taking an oath thoughtlessly and without necessity. Now, ought he to have kept his oath when the sinful request for John’s head was made to him? No; for an oath to do something sinful is, in itself, invalid. A man sins if he takes such an oath, and he sins again if he keeps it.

Human respect made Herod grant the girl’s cruel request. He was ashamed in the presence of his guests to break a promise which obviously could not apply to a gift such as was asked of him. He did not fear to offend God by committing a very grievous sin, but he shrank from the false judgment of men, and thus gave the cruel and murderous order on his birthday—the very day when those in power were accustomed to perform acts of mercy.

Sharing in the guilt of others. Even the guests were not innocent of John’s death. They ought to have remonstrated with Herod, and not have passed by his sin in silence.

Virtue alone is beautiful. We all detest the daughter of Herodias. She was beautiful, she wore fine clothes, she danced very cleverly, but she had a vicious heart.

St. John died a martyr to his calling. Having been called by God to be a preacher of penance, he represented Herod’s sin to him, and reminded him of the law of God. On this account he died a violent death at the age of thirty-two. To him applies the eighth beatitude: “Blessed are they who suffer persecution, for justice’ sake.” His soul passed directly into Limbo, where he, like St. Joseph, awaited the arrival of the Messias, and the speedy accomplishment of the work of Redemption. When our Lord ascended into heaven, he was taken up with Him into everlasting happiness. The Church honours him as a great Saint, and on the 24th of June celebrates his nativity, because he was born without original sin.

Dancing is often the occasion of sin, and unseemly dancing is for-bidden by the Sixth Commandment.

Intemperance (or gluttony) is a capital sin. Herod would not have been carried away by the sight of the girl’s dancing to make a rash and frivolous oath, unless he had been excited by too much wine.

Comparisons to be drawn between St. John and Elias, Herod and Achab, Herodias and Jezabel.

The end of Herod. Later on, Herod was deposed by the Roman emperor and banished to Lyons. Both he and his wife died in misery. The daughter of Herodias perished during a pleasure-party on the ice. The ice broke, she fell into the water, and her head was severed from her body by a piece of broken ice.

APPLICATION. Do you ever swear without necessity, or use the name of God irreverently in your conversation?








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