Standing up for marriage…and getting your head chopped off
In today’s Gospel from the Mass (Mark 6:14-29), there is a powerful story about the importance, and cost, of standing up for marriage:
 King Herod heard of it; for Jesus’ name had become known. Some said, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; that is why these powers are at work in him.”  But others said, “It is Eli’jah.” 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 had sent and seized John, and bound him in prison for the sake of Hero’di-as, his brother Philip’s wife; because he had married her.  For John said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”  And Hero’di-as 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 kept him safe. When he heard him, he was much perplexed; and yet he heard him gladly.  But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and the leading men of Galilee.  For when Hero’di-as’ daughter 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 grant it.”  And he vowed to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.”  And she went out, and said to her mother, “What shall I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the baptizer.”  And she came in immediately with haste to the king, and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.”  And the king was exceedingly sorry; but 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.
There is a strong message in the Gospel about the sanctity of marriage and the cost of being a witness to that sanctity:
- Herod had divorced his first wife and married Herodias, the divorced wife of his brother Phillip.
- John the Baptist preaches the truth about the sanctity of marriage: “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife”. John is referring to Leviticus 20:21 which says that it is an “impurity” to take a brother’s wife.
- John the Baptist is unflinching in his condemnation of the impure union of Herod and Herodias, despite the murderous reputation of Herod and his family. His condemnation gets him beheaded.
- Upon hearing of John the Baptist’s death; Jesus is troubled by John’s death (his cousin) and withdraws to a quiet place to rest, fast and pray (Mark 6:31).
- Jesus speaks up about the sanctity of marriage a number of times (see Matt 19:4-6) and holy marriage is a great theme throughout the Bible (the Wedding at Cana, Marriage Feast of the Lamb in Revelation).
- Jesus certainly agreed with John’s condemnation of the degradation of marriage; Jesus calls John the Baptist “righteous” (Matt 19:32), a pronouncement that He would not have given if John’s teachings on marriage were false.
- John the Baptist, rather than turn a blind eye to the degradation of marriage, speaks up and is killed for it.
Today, there is broad rejection of marriage, divorce is a diseased epidemic and many are agitating for the perverted and unnatural notion of “gay marriage.”
Those who are not ignorant of Scripture and the Church’s teaching for the last 2000 years, know that Jesus condemns the assaults on marriage and will judge those who participate in these sins and refuse to repent.
Those who oppose such degradations to marriage are commonly called “bigots”, “backwards” or “homophobic”. In some places, speaking out against homosexual unions are being prosecuted as hate crimes.
All Christians are called to heed Christ’s call to repentance and holiness, sometimes requiring heroic stands against the evils of the times.
Be brave and strong in Christ and stand up for what the Church has faithfully passed down from Christ Himself.
Don’t despair when the hoards attack. Don’t forget, they attacked the righteous John the Baptist too.