A Clear Head

Herodias’s own daughter came in and performed a dance that delighted Herod and his guests.  The king said to the girl, “Ask of me whatever you wish and I will grant it to you.”  He even swore [many things] to her, “I will grant you whatever you ask of me, even to half of my kingdom.  She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?”  She replied, “The head of John the Baptist.”

–Mark 6:22-24–

            The dance that Herodias’ daughter performed for King Herod was no innocent ballet like “Swan Lake.”  No!  It was a lewd burlesque designed to arouse sexual passion.  Live pornography you might call it.  Under the influence of sexual passion, Herod was willing to throw away half his kingdom.  He ended up by killing Saint John the Baptist, a righteous prophet.

            One takeaway from our Gospel is that we should never make important decisions while under the influence of strong passions—whether they be sexual passions, anger, grief, or even horror.  It’s not a good idea to do your taxes on your honeymoon.  I’d never trust a heart surgeon who habitually throws temper tantrums.  A widow ought not to make any crucial decisions within a year after her husband’s death.  The worst time for a legislature to pass gun-control laws is in the immediate wake of a mass shooting.  In short, wisdom and passion do not mix.  When important decisions are to be made, it’s best to act with a calm mind.

            When a glass of muddy water is allowed to stand, the mud settles to the bottom, and the water becomes clear.  Similarly, when our minds are calm and undisturbed by passions and emotions, we are apt to see clearly and make sound judgments.

            Here is another image:  When a person stands upright, the head is over the heart, and both are over the guts.  If we are to make wise decisions, decisions that are both sound and upright, our mind must rule our will, and both must override our passions.