Holey Heart

A Bad Promise

Today is the Memorial of the Passion of John the Baptist. To be honest, I didn’t even know that was a day we commemorated in the Church year. As I read the story this morning about how John was executed, I couldn’t help but think of a contemporary and very timely scenario.

For those who don’t know the story, I urge you to read today’s daily readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/082913.cfm

The only thing worse than making a bad promise is keeping a bad promise. That is the axiom that popped into my head when I read this story. Herod made a promise, a very public one, and he was manipulated into keeping it, with devastating results.

All of us, especially parents, make threats we hope we don’t have to carry out. Why do we do that to ourselves?

A wise and experienced parent once told me that if I threaten my children with a punishment, I had better be prepared to follow through, because one little inconsistency would undermine my credibility and forever ruin my ability to discipline them. As a result of this advice, I rarely threaten, and when I do, I move swiftly. Ask my kids what happened when each of them used a curse word.

I generally don’t use this forum to discuss my political views, because I think it distracts from the unity we can find on spiritual matters. But today’s reading compels me to break from tradition, if only this once. It is my hope that we will find unity on this as well, and act accordingly.

There is talk of my country using force in Syria because they “crossed the red line” and allegedly used chemical weapons. A bad promise was made, and now some people think we need to keep it in order to keep our credibility in the world.

Syria isn’t a naughty child who needs to be disciplined. And our credibility on the world stage has been under suspicion for quite some time now. If other recent wars have taught us nothing else, it should have taught that there is a time to defend ourselves against aggression, a time to speak out against violation of human rights and use economic means to encourage change, and a time to mind our own business – without putting our heads in the sand.

I hope and pray that our leaders will do everything they can to avoid military force. I hope and pray that we cooperate with the world’s other super powers who are urging us to back off. I hope and pray that we see that the only thing worse than making a bad promise is keeping it. I hope and pray that those in power don’t act on pride and fear like Herod did.


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