I don't know why it never crossed my radar before. I suppose it has something to do with the influence of the biblical movies and their depiction of the scene of today's Gospel: the beheading of John the Baptist. The focus tends to be on the "big three" players: the spineless King Herod, the scheming Herodias (simultaneously Herod's sister-in-law and consort), and the girl, manipulated and manipulating. Their extraordinarily dysfunctional family (even by today's standards!) leads to the noble prophet's head being displayed like a trophy. All, we're told, because Herod had made some over-the-top promises and was reluctant to take them back "because of the guests."
This year I finally asked myself: how many guests were they? And why were all of them so passive? What if I had been at that dinner? Would I have looked away, hoping that someone--someone else--would say whatever needed to be said to change the terrible subject?
Is this audience-like passivity something that afflicts us today, too? Could the 21st century John count on you or me?