READING OF THE DAY: 29 AUGUST, 2013

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“Herod was the one who had John 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’s 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.” -Mark 6:17-29.

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SAINT OF THE DAY: 29 AUGUST, 2013

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The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist
(† 31)

Saint John the Baptist was called by God to be the precursor of His divine Son.

In order to preserve his innocence spotless, and to improve upon the extraordinary graces which he had received in his earliest infancy, he was directed by the Holy Spirit to lead an austere and contemplative life in the wilderness.

There he devoted himself to the continuous exercise of devout prayer and penance.

When Saint John was thirty years old, the faithful minister of the Lord began to discharge his mission.

Clothed with the garments of penance, he announced to all men the obligation weighing upon them of washing away their iniquities with the tears of sincere compunction.

He proclaimed the Messiah, who was of his own age but whom he had never seen, when one day Jesus came to be baptized by him in the Jordan.

Saint John was received by the poor folk as the true herald of the Most High God, and his voice was, as it were, a trumpet sounding from heaven to summon all men to avert the divine judgments. Souls were exhorted by him to prepare themselves to reap the benefit of the mercy offered them.

When the tetrarch Herod Antipas, in defiance of all laws divine and human, married Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip who was yet living, Saint John the Baptist boldly reprimanded the tetrarch and his accomplice for so scandalous an adultery.

Herod, motivated by his lust and his anger, cast the Saint into prison. About a year after Saint John had been made a prisoner, Herod gave a splendid entertainment to the official world of Galilee.

Salome, a daughter of Herodias by her lawful husband, pleased Herod by her dancing, to the point that he made her the foolish promise of granting whatever she might ask.

Salome consulted with her mother as to what to ask, and that immoral woman instructed her daughter to demand the death of John the Baptist, and that the head of the prisoner should be immediately brought to her on a platter.

This barbaric request startled the tyrant himself; but governed by human respect he assented and sent a soldier of his guard to behead the Saint in prison.

Thus died the great forerunner of our blessed Saviour, some two years after his entrance upon his public ministry, and a year before the death of the One he announced.