If we look closely we will see the irony of this gospel. The king is the powerless one. He could have been powerful. He had the potential as king but he allowed himself to be manipulated by fear. His fear of looking weak was precisely what made him weak. The gospel tells us,
The king was deeply distressed, but because of his oaths and the guests he did not wish to break his word to her.
His step-daughter, his brother's wife, the guests, all in different ways held power over the king. And because of his weakness John the Baptist died. Herod looked powerful because he could order an execution but it was merely a kind of faux power.
When I was a seminarian, a retired navy captain gave me several pieces of advice about leadership. One was, "The day you have to tell people you're in charge, you're no longer in charge. You've already lost control of the situation."
Real power doesn't have to look powerful; it just is.
We can sometimes forget that we have the example of absolute power to follow. Jesus Christ was the most powerful person in the history of the world. After all, he is God. His power, his strength, his authority are unmatched. And yet, how did he demonstrate those qualities to the world.
As Christians, on this feast of the Beheading of John the. Baptist, perhaps it is time for each of us to step back and ask if we are truly ready to put our faith into action. Are we ready to challenge all of our leaders, all those who exercise authority over others, to do so according to the model of Christ? One does not have to be Christian to learn from his example.