Our conscience is a voice inside of us, counselling us on what to do and what to avoid doing. There are those in our lives who try to help us to second that voice, helping us to see what is good, and what is true. There are also those who don’t really help us in the spiritual or moral life, and they try to drown out that voice, probably because they stopped listening to it in their own souls a long time ago, or are trying to drown it out themselves and want company. When stories of Our Lord in today’s Gospel begin to spread, Herod thinks it’s John the Baptist, back from the dead. Was he haunted by what he did to him? God knows.
John tried to second the voice inside of Herod urging him to do the right thing: to not treat his brother’s wife as his own, to be courageous when tough truths had to be acknowledged. Herod, despite all his power, was enslaved by an unhealthy relationship, by public opinion, and by a desire for Herodias’ daughter. Herodias knew how to manipulate him for her own ends: she hated John for testifying to the truth, and little by little Herod gave in to her desire to punish John. When Herod drew the line at killing John, due to his fear of public opinion, Herodias engineered a situation where another public would respond badly if he didn’t kill John, a situation in which he let himself get entangled due to his desire for Herodias’ daughter. In having John beheaded he was also drowning out the voice of the true and the good in his soul, aided by Herodias, who wanted to silence that same voice as well.
Circumstances and bad influences can hinder us from following that good voice of conscience in our soul, but that same voice reminds us that, in the end, our decisions are our own, and we must take responsibility for them. Let’s ask Our Lord today to help us hear his voice in our souls, to listen to it always, to second it in the lives of others, and to avoid those things, people, and places that try to drown it out.
Readings: Leviticus 25:1, 8–17; Psalm 67:2–3, 5, 7–8; Matthew 14:1–12.