A Martyr for Marriage
Herod the Great had 14 children by eight different wives. His son, Herod Antipas, was given charge of Galilee. His half brother, Philip lived in Rome with his wife Herodias and their daughter, Salome. When Herod Antipas went to Rome to visit Philip, he fell in love with his brother’s wife who was also the daughter of one of his other brothers. Thereby making Herodias Philip’s niece. There was a ten year difference in their ages. His brother Herod Antipas was the younger brother/uncle with only five years difference in age between Herod and Herodias. What a messy and incestuous family!
Jewish law forbade the taking of a brother’s wife in marriage and prophesied that such a couple would be barren. Which actually happened for this couple. Along comes John the Baptist who preached loudly the truth about Jewish marriage laws as written in both Genesis and Leviticus. Although Herod was fascinated by John’s preaching and enjoyed listening to him he failed to respond to the truths spoken by John. Herodias, on the other hand, responded with hatred and looked forward for an opportunity to shut him down for good.
Meanwhile, Jesus is teaching his followers that anyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery. (Lk.16:18) But his disciples counter with the objection that Moses allowed divorce. Jesus retorts that that was only because of the hardness of their hearts. People were so stubborn that they would divorce anyway, regardless of God’s law! He continued that it was not that way in the beginning. Look back to Genesis where it says that the two will become one and what God joined together no one should tear apart.
Today we see how the Church allows annulments for serious reasons and that confounds some Catholics. How is that any different than divorce? The annulment means that there were obstacles to the legitimacy of the Sacrament of marriage and therefore there is cause to declare it nul and void. Legally a marriage contract can be broken for almost any reason. The difference being one is a sacrament and the other is a contract. That’s a bit of a simplification but I’m not a theologian.
John the Baptist was the precursor of the Messiah but he was also a martyr for the truth about a religious marriage. That is, when a man and a woman marry they are united in a oneness of flesh not unlike our union with God when we receive Him in the flesh in the Eucharist. John saw the marriage bond as indissoluble and holy and a truth worth dying for.
Observing the current divorce rate it appears that most people do not see marriage as a sacred reflection of the union between Christ and his Church.It is a bond that is worth dying for. Anyone who has been married for 25 or 50 years can tell you that there were many occasions when it would have been easier to quit. But love isn’t just for romance; It is a decision to work it through in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health; until natural death. Marriage is more covenant than contract. Every marriage has difficulties that must be met together in faith, whether it be poverty, sickness, a sick child, infidelity, alcohol. pornography or poor communication. The marriage commitment is to help one another get to Heaven. Love is a choice and a decision not a feeling. It is a decision to push forward together and work together to find solutions to the pollution in our lives. Satan will always try to tell us lies that will pull us apart if we let him.
John the Baptist preached the truth about marriage and died a martyr because of it. To die for the truth is not to die in vain. “We may not have to die for the truth but at least amend our lives when we hear it.” (St. Caesarius 543)A Martyr