The beheading of St. John the Baptist is horrifying not only because it is an awful way for an innocent man to die, but also because his head is given as a party favor to a young girl. The young girl won this gift not by her virtue, but by seduction. The Voice is silenced by the hatred of a woman. She doesn’t hate John, she hates what he says, she hates to hear the sound of his voice because it delivers the Law. When John goes silent, the Law itself goes silent. We see how powerless John was to save all the individuals at this party, we see how the law did not provoke conversion, but rather frustration and rage. The Law is simply that Word by which we were created calling to the forefront of our mind what our conscience already knows and understands. The Law amplifies the voice of our conscience, which is why St. Paul said that the Law gives sin more power. The Law causes the quiet voice of our conscience, that would convict us of our own wrongdoing, to become shrill and unbearable. The Law then simply implies that if we don’t like hearing how wrong we are, we should change our ways. The problem is, we are not convinced that we will be happy if we change our ways to conform to the Law. We can attempt to conform ourselves to the Law and still remain far from God – that was the problem of the Pharisees: they did everything correctly according to their understanding, but could not recognize God when He came in the flesh speaking the very Word they claimed to understand.
The broken search for happiness experienced by those awful partygoers could not be corrected or fixed: it needed to be healed. The Law is a standard, not a remedy. Perhaps that is why God allowed them to kill the voice of the Law, the last of the prophets. Now the Good News may be heard and the hand that saves extended. The Law condemns, but Jesus saves. Jesus allows the voice of the Law to be silenced so that His Words of mercy and forgiveness might be heard more clearly. If our guilt cries out to us loudly, mercy cries out all the more loudly in Jesus. He comes to heal hearts, to set them free to love, and to fill them with peace. In this way he responds more immediately to our search for happiness than the Law ever could. The Law dictates righteous actions while grace justifies the heart: it cleanses the inside of the bowl.1