Immaculate Heart of Mary, Ora pro nobis.

This blog is dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and in reparation for all the sins committed against Her Most Pure Heart. May Her Immaculate Heart draw us closer to Her Divine Son, Our Most Precious Lord.

Monday, August 29, 2011

August 29: The Beheading of St. John the Baptist

This article will begin a series this week on a topic that is very personal to me—divorce and remarriage.  As a child from divorced parents, my life has been affected in ways that seldom are addressed.  The story of the Martyrdom of John the Baptist is a perfect way to begin this discussion.

St. John reproached Herod with his unlawful union.  The adulterous Herodias and her shameless daughter Salome forced Herod to behead the Precursor.  The Gospel of the Mass describes his martyrdom.

            St. John the Baptist is often called the Precursor or the Forerunner.  He is given these titles to illustrate that St. John was designed by God to prepare the people for the coming of Our Lord.  He was freed from original sin while still in his mother’s womb and he lived a perfectly sinless life.  He lived an austere life in the desert but spent his time preaching of the need for repentance for the Israelites, and preparation for the coming of the Messiah.  He especially became noted for baptizing people in the River Jordan.  The more he baptized, the more people came to hear him preach, and the more attention he drew to himself.  He didn’t mince words and he was never hesitant to chastise sinners for their behavior.  Many people loved him and listened to him.  He was, as his title suggests, the one who prepared the way for Our Lord.
            We know from Scripture that St. John the Baptist and Jesus were preaching and teaching during the same time.  We also know, from that same Scripture, that St. John was filled with great humility and was quick to point out that he was not the Christ.  In fact, sinless though he was, he didn’t find himself worthy to remove the sandals from Our Lord’s feet.  Perhaps because of his humility and honesty, St. John attracted a large number of followers.  As he traveled, people came to him to be baptized and to hear him preach.  One of those people who apparently was fascinated with St. John’s preaching was the son of Herod the Great, Herod Antipas.
            This King Herod was as vile and immoral as his father.  He lived a life of debauchery and self-satisfaction.  He displayed his wickedness and sin out in the open for everyone to see.  He was shameless.  At this time, King Herod had a wife, the daughter of the King of Arabia.  While they had married probably for political reasons, she was his lawful wife, nonetheless.  But upon one of his visits to Rome, Herod fell in love with his niece, Herodias, who was also the wife of his younger brother.  They engaged in an adulterous affair, and eventually Herod divorced his wife and brought his concubine to Galilee.  As if this weren’t scandalous enough, his concubine had a daughter Salome, who was both wicked and shameful.
            When Herod continued to flaunt his new “wife” around, St. John the Baptist refused to be silent.  He admonished King Herod for his behavior, by reminding him that divorcing his wife was sinful, unlawful, and unacceptable.  He encouraged him to repent and discharge the wicked, adulterous Herodias back to Rome.  But because neither Herod nor Herodias wished to be chastised or repent, Herod had St. John imprisoned.  He wanted to have St. John executed right away but he was afraid that killing St. John might cause a revolt among his followers.  Herod knew that St. John was an honest and upright man and that he had no reason, other than selfish pride, to kill him.   Herodias, however, was to have her way and her revenge.
            For his birthday, King Herod planned a grand feast and festival.  All the princes, judges, officials, and important people of Galilee attended.  There was plenty of drinking, eating, and dancing.  The shameful Salome, niece and stepdaughter of King Herod, danced erotically for her King.  Because he was so entranced and mesmerized by Salome, Herod promised he would give her anything as a reward for his pleasure.  On advice from her evil mother, Salome requested the head of St. John the Baptist.  Since King Herod didn’t want to disgrace himself, since he preferred his own lawlessness and sinfulness to that of God’s laws, he ordered that St. John be executed in his prison cell.  St. John’s head was then brought as a gift to the wretched and disgraceful Salome who in turn handed it to her evil and hateful mother, Herodius who mockingly threw his head out with the garbage.  When St. John’s disciples heard the news, they came immediately to retrieve his body and buried him in a tomb. 
            According to Tradition, St. John’s head was found and retrieved by the wife of one of Herod’s officers.  St. Joanna took his head and buried it on the Mount of Olives where it remained hidden for centuries.  His head was found in the 5th century but hidden again to protect it from Muslim invaders.  It was found again 400 years later and was transferred to Constantinople.
            St. John the Baptist was killed because he condemned Herod’s actions of divorcing his wife and marrying his lover.  The Catholic Church has countless numbers of martyrs who have also died condemning such.  St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More were both martyred for refusing to accept the English King Henry VIII’s divorce of Catherine of Aragon.  In French history, King Robert was excommunicated for divorcing his wife Susannah to marry his lover, Bertha. 
The Catholic Church has consistently taught that divorce and remarriage is always unlawful and sinful.  As such, it is never permitted.  (In some cases annulments are issued, which I will address later this week.)  Protestants, persons of other religions, and secular people adhere to the idea that a marriage can be dissolved in certain circumstances.  This idea, however, has brought a tremendous evil onto society.  Currently, modern society is facing an epidemic of incredible magnitude.  The family has been totally broken apart.  Many men and women are on their 2nd, 3rd, or 4th marriages.  There are children from each of these partnerships that live in a constant state of confusion.  Plenty of children don’t know their mothers or fathers and have siblings they will never meet.  These children are all but abandoned and often times have to make their own way in the world, without any real guidance or support. 
I grew up in one such environment.  This week I am going to be like St. John the Baptist.  I am going to bring divorce out into the Light and condemn it.  I am certain that I will share a similar fate with the great St. John. 

St. John the Baptist, pray for us, that we have your humility when we approach Our Lord.

St. John the Baptist, pray for us, that we may have the courage to condemn the evils in our society, regardless of the cost.

St. John the Baptist, pray for us, that divorced people or people considering divorce have the courage to reconcile.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this. St. John the Baptist is our patron for our homeschool this year. He is the perfect witness, given what he knew. What more could we ask?
    Sometimes we have the idea that we are alone in the fight. Then we think of him...Thanks again.