The Head of John the Baptist

Don’t Lose Your Head

We have all done things we were not proud of when we were younger. That is the grace that is holy confession. We turn to the God and confess our sins to the Church, through the priest, and we are forgiven our sins. Sounds easy right? It is, but what happens when we try to hide our sins rather than confess them?

Today is the Feast of the Beheading of John the Baptist. This holy man, the final prophet of the Old Testament and first of the New Testament, gave his life ‘in the name of’ keeping a secret. He had warned King Herod that it was not right to sleep with his brother’s wife. Instead of heeding the great prophet’s warning, John was put in prison and eventually killed. The secret has been read every year since in the Holy Gospel.

Our Lord said, “For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known.” (Matthew 10.26) He doesn’t say this to frighten us, but to call us to repentance. God sees all and knows all. It is useless to try to hide from God. He saw Adam and Eve hiding in the garden, and He sees our heart before we know what it desires.

The problem with trying to hide our sins, rather than repenting of them, is that they normally are revealed with much pain later. That is a good lesson to learn from today’s commemoration. Take a moment and read the Gospel account of today’s feast and you’ll see what I mean.

At that time, Herod the King heard about the fame of Jesus, for his name had become known. He 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 Elijah.” 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 Herodias, 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 Herodias 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 Herodias’ 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. The apostles returned to Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught.

Mark 6.14-30

Herod was tormented by the idea that John the Baptist not only new his secret, but condemned it. He even thought Christ was John the Baptist ‘raised from the dead’ just to torment him. Even in the act of beheading John the Baptist, Herod tormented over the decision because he knew in his heart that John was correct. He knew John the Baptist was a holy man. He knew he should repent, but he flat out refused.

If you have ever tried to keep a secret, you know the torment and panic thinking that at any moment your secret will be revealed. Even if it never ‘gets out’ every time you meet someone you think, “Do they know my secret? How can I shut them up?” There is no longer a need to fear because God has given us His Church and Holy Confession.

I have had the blessing to hear many confessions over the years. I’ve ‘heard them all’ as they say. Well, not quite all, but I have heard too many examples of people tormented by secrets. In most cases, they are so filled with fear, even the confession in front of the Holy Altar is painful. Then, in an instant everything changes.

We confess our sins to our spiritual father in front of the Holy Altar, and suddenly the weight and fear disappear. We are free from our secret. God has forgiven us, and we no longer panic about who knows. It isn’t that we no longer are ashamed of our behavior. Shame is what brings us to holy confession. Our shame turns to commitment to avoid the sin in the future. This is all possible because of the Grace of God.

When we refuse to confess, when we insist on hiding our sins, when we try to keep our sins a secret, is when we live in fear rather than grace. It isn’t worth the torment. It isn’t worth the fear. It isn’t worth losing your head over sin. Stop hiding and start repenting. Call your spiritual father today and schedule holy confession.

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