"For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and a holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly." This was the same Herod who was the scion of an evil root, the son of that other Herod who ordered the murder of the Holy Innocents. Yet this Herod was, in fact, a sincerely religious man. His piety was genuine, though, as it turns out, it was only skin deep. All of this religiosity did not stop him from committing acts of debauchery and murder.
History is replete with cruel men and criminals who were likewise religious and professed a moral code. Consider Ivan the Terrible, who would attend Vespers with his court and later retire to a downstairs room to torture his enemies (both real and imagined). Whenever it suits such a person, they can easily compartmentalize their faith and do as they want, feeling no concern for the pain and suffering of others.
This is so because they are essentially self-centered, "narcissists" in modern psychological parlance. All that really matters to them in the end is the fulfillment of their own needs and desires. Thus Herod took for himself his brother Philip's wife, though he knew full well that this was wrong. St. John, in sharp contrast, was willing to decrease in order that Christ might increase. He was but a voice crying in the wilderness, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord!" His whole purpose in life was not to draw attention to himself, but to point the way to Christ.
And so he was willing to suffer and to die for the sake of the Truth, without any compromise or self-serving motives whatsoever. He bore witness at all times to that same Christ Who proclaimed, "I am the way, the truth and the life."
Paradoxically, those like Herod who look out only for themselves, for "number one," sooner or later end up losing everything, while those willing to bear witness to Christ whatever the cost will eventually inherit eternal life in God's heavenly Kingdom. It is not enough, you see, to be religious and to profess moral ideals. A saving faith demands an absolute and conditional commitment to the Truth and a willingness to sacrifice everything we are and have for the sake of the Kingdom. Such a faith is the antithesis of a lying, conniving and deceitful life dedicated to the acquisition of personal power, wealth and prestige.
May the life of the Baptist inspire us all to be faithful to God at all times and in all places, striving to live a life of holiness, purity and devotion to the Truth. May the love of God ever dwell in our hearts, banishing every trace of pride, self-centeredness and lust for power.