The Story Behind the Story
After having read the text several times, I was struck by the story behind the story, i.e. this story has little to do with John the Baptist.
Yes, the several writers of the Gospels want us to know about John: his beginnings, his teachings, his interactions with Jesus and they assume, correctly that we'll want to know what happened to him.
John's imprisonment is used by the inspired writers to question the nature of Jesus ('are you the One, or should we continue to look for another?') and to learn that Jesus was impressed by John's humility and service ('There is no man born of woman greater than John.').
If we read and/or listen closely, we know that Herod didn't hate John, that baptiser; on the contrary, Herod was in awe of John.
John's death boiled down to a vindictive, angry woman who was furious that John had the gall of denouncing the King's marriage to her and shouting their business all over for anyone with ears to hear: John called Herod an adulterer for his relationship with his brother's wife, Herodius.
Herod was tormented by guilt: to 'save face' he had John imprisoned, but not killed - because he knew John to be an important prophet; instead of feeling her shame, Herodius turned her feelings to anger at the truth teller.
Herodius' young daughter danced in an amazing fashion during a feast - so good was her interpretation that Herod promised her absolutely anything. Herodius told her daughter to ask for John's death and the daughter complied.
Instead of doing the right thing, 'though it may have temporarily made him look foolish or weak, Herod gave in; he had John killed.
Blind lust, fury at hearing an unpleasant truth, guilt, overcompensation, manipulation, pride and murder (probably the second murder: Herod probably had Herodius' first husband killed).
Think of just how many sins are committed in attempting to avoid addressing unpleasant truths.
How many times we turn to anger instead of introspection at the testimony of whistle blowers and truth tellers.
How many times we try to silence the messenger.
How many times we go through with a dare rather than be thought of or called a coward.
How many times we make the wrong decision to save face.
Though these actions happened 2,000 years ago their descendants are quite alive today in the world around us; perhaps we have made some of these errors in judgement.
Let us choose to learn some lessons from this story. God grant us the courage to make wise choices, acknowledge our faults and turn from our sins to life abundant.