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A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark 6:17-29

Herod was the one who had John the Baptist arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, whom he had married . John had said to Herod, " It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife." Herodias harbored a grudge against him and wanted to kill him but was unable to do so. Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man, and kept him in custody. When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed, yet he liked to listen to him. She had an opportunity one day when Herod , on his birthday, gave a banquet for his courtiers, his military officers , and the leading men of Galilee. Herodias' own daughter came in and performed a dance that delighted Herod and his guests. The king said to the girl, "Ask of me whatever you wish and I will grant it to you." He even swore many things to her, " I will grant you whatever you ask of me, even to half of my kingdom." She went out and said to her mother, "What shall I ask for?" She replied, " The head of John the Baptist." The girl hurried back to the king's presence and made her request, " I want you to give me at once on a platter the head of John the Baptist." The king was deeply distressed, but because of his oaths and the guests he did not wish to break his word to her. So he promptly dispatched an executioner with orders to bring back his head. He went off and beheaded him in the prison . He brought in the head on a platter and gave it to the girl. The girl in turn gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb. The Gospel of the Lord Praise be to you Lord Jesus Christ.

Reflection: St John the Baptist

Are we prepared to be martyrs for Jesus Christ?

John the Baptist was the cousin of Jesus and was a few months older than the Saviour. He died maybe age 33 or less. He was cared for by Mary most likely when he was born. He was a strong man who knew of his Saviour . He did not hold back his words, but on the other hand knew how to console, and lead his followers to Jesus. He never took center stage because he knew Jesus was the Messiah. He always disappeared in the background . He cried out for repentance, and he called Jesus, "The Lamb of God."

John the Baptist is referred to as the last of the Old Testament prophets and the first of the New Testament Christians. God chose his father, Zachary, and his mother, Elizabeth, to partake in the miracle of miracles--God is beginning the "redemption of mankind".

As Zachary is offering prayers to God in the temple, the Angel Gabriel appears announcing the birth, stating , " Your son will be filled with the Holy Spirit , even from his mothers womb, and he shall convert many of the children of Israel to God." (1)

John was chosen to prepare the people of Israel for Jesus.

Nothing is impossible with God . John in his mothers womb leapt for joy when Mary spoke. John chose the desert to prepare the way of his mission. He literally lived in the desert, and off the desert. He appears in public life with a camel's hair cloth shirt, and for his food- wild honey and locusts.

He was the introduction to Jesus and he spoke just as Jesus would have spoken. John the Baptist was admonishing people to leave behind their evil ways, and spoke the truth without hesitating and in so doing became a martyr for Jesus.

John the Baptist died "for the whim of a sinful girl, the vice of a sinful woman, the weakness of a sinful man." (1)

"This Lamb", whom John had prepared for 30 years but just met at the River Jordan, was "to die the ultimate sacrifice of all sacrifices for the sins of all the world". (1)

1. "St John the Baptist: The Man the Saviour Praised" by Reverend Daniel A Lord, SJ

Prayer: Dearest Lord, what an honor given to John the Baptist, to be the precursor of Jesus. What courage he had. May we, when faced with the challenges of our faith, be bold and willing to speak up for what is correct. Amen

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