Today the Orthodox Church celebrates the Beheading of the Holy and Glorious Prophet, Forerunner, and Baptist John. This is one of the 12 great feats of the Church and falls on A Sunday this year. It is strange because outside of Great Lent Sunday is usually never a strict fast day but today, with the exception of wine and oil, it is a strict fast day for us Orthodox.
In the past John has had an issue with King Herod. The issue is the fact that Herod married his brother Philips wife, and that was just not done. John has spoken out about this and has made Herod’s wife extremely mad. During a birthday celebration, her daughter dances for the King and he is so pleased by this that he tells her she can have anything she wants even to half of his Kingdom. What does she ask for? She wants the head of John the Baptist. Her mother put her up to that.
Now Herod finds himself in a bit of pickle. If he breaks his word to her, the entire Kingdom will know and they will not trust him, but is he gives in… You see Herod is afraid of John. Well in the end he gives in and beheads John and the head is brought to his wife on a plate. John had made Herod’s wife mad and she exacted revenge on him.
There are many things that we can take with us from this feast. We need to stand up for things that we see are wrong. We need to speak out when anyone, including the government, is not doing the right thing. Yes we are to support and pray for the government but not when it goes against the will of God. We need to put God first in all things.
On of my predecessors here in the parish was a priest that spent 18 years in prison in Communist Romania. He was locked up because he was very critical of the government of Romania. Freedom of speech was not something that was tolerated in Romania and so he was locked up along with his brother. His brother died in prison but he was released and sent in exile to America. He served as priest here at St. Michael’s though the 1960’s and early 70’s.
He went to prison for standing up for what he believed. He did not preach what was popular but what was right. And he suffered the consequences for it. St. John did the same thing. He preached what was right, and he paid the price for it with his very life.
Are we willing to do the same thing, or when the going gets tough will we cut and run? Are we willing to die for what we believe? Are we willing to not just go along, but to stand up for what is right?
This is what it means to be a Christian. It’s not easy, just ask the martyrs.