Herod’s Folly

Matthew 14: 1-12
Lv 25:1,8-17 / Ps 67

On Herod’s birthday, the daughter of Herodias danced for them and pleased Herod so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked.

Beware of a dancing girl’s sway,
Her passion can burn like hot coal;
Take care lest she leads you astray,
Like Herod you might lose your soul.

At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the reports about Jesus, and he said to his attendants, “This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead! That is why miraculous powers are at work in him.” Now Herod had arrested John and bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, for John had been saying to him: “It is not lawful for you to have her.” Herod wanted to kill John, but he was afraid of the people, because they considered him a prophet. On Herod’s birthday, the daughter of Herodias danced for them and pleased Herod so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” The king was distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he ordered that her request be granted and had John beheaded in the prison. His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl, who carried it to her mother. John’s disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus. (Matthew 14: 1-12)

Reflection

The beheading of an innocent man who was considered a prophet by the people at the time was the most vile deed by a man of power and considerable influence. And what made it even more heinous was because it was carried out for a dancing girl whose shameless and lewd performance extracted a reward foolishly promised. King Herod must have been intoxicated by so much wine and merriment that he was even willing to give half of his kingdom (Mk.6:23). A sinful dancing act led to an even greater sin — the murder of a holy man of God.

Like King Herod, many men and women of wealth and influence (even of good social standing) have seen their fortunes and/or reputations take a bad turn because of the combination of alcohol and lewd dancing. In the past, marital problems were caused only by the husbands, who frequented bars or nightclubs for male entertainment. Once they have more than they can drink, they lose control over their passions (and their money). Today, women have also found their own nocturnal entertainment apart from their husbands. Ballroom dancing has become so popular that “dancing instructor” has assumed a new and lucrative “profession”. Quite a number of modern dances like Samba, Foxtrot, Lambada, and belly dancing, with their indecent body movements are no different from the lewdness of Salome’s dancing. The “Art of Dance” is described by Encyclopedia Brittanica: “Because of its physical appeal, dance lends itself to erotic purposes . . . practiced by both sexes.” Many a “D.I.” have been slapped, punched, and even shot by irate jealous husbands.

Whatever “modern Christians” might say about the forms of dancing found in dark nightspots today, it is still morally dangerous to expose ourselves to pleasurable acts that can lead to depravity or sinful consequences. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit which we must safeguard at all costs. St. Paul said it so clearly: “I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship” (Rom.12:1). “Make no provision for the desires of the flesh” (Rom.13:14), lest you fall like Herod’s folly.

Lord, make us dance only for joy, in praise and in song, to worship You in Your glory, and to thank You for all our blessings, in Jesus’ Holy Name. Amen.

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