Mark 6:17-29 (Memorial of St. John the Baptist)
“Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man, and kept him in custody. When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed, yet he liked to listen to him” (Mark 6:20).
“The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is single, your whole body will be full of light” (Matthew 6:22).
Herod was attracted to the light; he enjoyed listening to John. The prophet’s simplicity, the tetrarch’s perfect foil, awakened his original nature. But darkness had an even stronger pull on the diploid potentate, whose inner compass swung between north and south, attraction and repulsion.
Body, soul, spirit, mind, heart and passions were all out of sync in Herod. The beguiling voice of Herodias, the drunken dance, and his “honor” before his guests snuffed out the glowing embers of John’s words.
Herod the Great, his ancestor, massacred thousands of infant sons on account of the birthday of an infant king. Herod Antipas beheaded the Forerunner of the Son of God on his own birthday.
The birth of one triggered the death of others. Existence and non-existence supplant each other cyclically in a bipolar cosmos torn by envy and rivalry.
As the guests toasted the life of one, they dismembered the life of another. Did Herod see the irony of his birthday (deathday) party?
The Herodian bloodbath reached its pinnacle in the crucifixion of John’s cousin and Lord, whose resurrection to eternal life finally transcended the futility of the “dog-eat-dog” cycle.