The king was deeply distressed, but because of his oaths and the guests he did not wish to break his word to her (Mk 6:26).
The king referenced in today’s Gospel is the tetrarch, Herod Antipas, one of the sons of Herod the Great. He reveals the weakness of his character when he calls for the beheading of John the Baptist. He made a decision regarding the life of another person to protect an oath that he should never have made to the daughter of his wife, and ought to have stood up and shared that the dignity of the life of John the Baptist was worth more than his foolish promise.
We, unfortunately, have seen too much of this kind of leadership on the secular as well as the religious stage. Too many people who are in positions of power from the smallest to the highest levels of governance have made choices that are not in the best interest of the people they are to serve nor have they sought to stand up for and empower the dignity of the person but instead have chosen to protect self-interest, seek self-preservation, or sell out to immediate expediency.
Too many are ready to protect their ego, institutions, party, tribe, at the expense of the dignity of the unborn, children, immigrants, those of a different gender, race, ethnicity, and/or class. Jesus did the opposite. Jesus called children, who were being prevented to come to him to be healed, he raised the daughter of Jairus back to life, Jesus offered hospitality to the tax collectors, Matthew and Zacchaeus, Jesus acknowledged the faith of the Canaanite woman, the woman with a hemorrhage, and stood up for the woman caught in adultery.
Time and again, Jesus showed the moral courage to stand up for and empower those who were considered as other, those on the peripheries, those considered somehow less. He ultimately did so again for all of humanity, when he was willing to be nailed to the Cross for each one of us, to die and conquer death, that each one of us might have life, and have it to the full. May Jesus empower us to grow in moral courage so we too will stand up for the dignity of the person at all stages of development from the womb to the tomb, and implore that our leaders do the same.
Painting: “Forgiven” by Yongsung Kim, Jesus showing his moral courage in standing up for the woman caught in adultery.