Readings: Sirach 47:2-11; Psalm 18; Mark 6:14-29
There is a hollow ring to Herod's vow. He piles up oaths, vows and promises: he will not break his word to the daughter of Herodias. But it is a false integrity, at the service of wickedness. He seems decisive, but only when in his cups. In the bigger picture Herod is fearful, perplexed, and split. He seems to be powerful but in fact is lost.
John the Baptist by contrast seems to be powerless but in fact is secure. He is an outsider (his odd way of life in the wilderness) but he knows what justice requires. His integrity is at the service of goodness. He knows how essential it is that vows, oaths, and promises, should be reliable, not the kind of promise a drunken Herod now makes to Salomé but the kind of promise on which marriage is established.
Not that John the Baptist necessarily saw the bigger picture. He is sustained by his faith in God and his confidence that in defending justice he is serving God. His job is to do what he knows to be right and leave the final outcome to God. So it was also with Jeremiah, Stephen, Thomas More, and countless other persecuted believers and martyrs. They entrust themselves to God, do what they know to be right even at the cost of their lives, and leave the final outcome to God.