saturday 29 August 2020
The Beheading of St John the Baptist
John the Baptist is the only saint in the calendar (apart from St Joseph) who has two feasts to himself. One, in August, celebrates his death, and one, in June, celebrates his birth. And this is as it should be, for as Christ himself said, John was the greatest of the sons of men.
Entrance Antiphon: Ps 118: 46-47
I spoke, O Lord, of your decrees before kings, and was not confounded; I pondered your commands and loved them greatly.
O God, who willed that Saint John the Baptist should go ahead of your Son both in his birth and in his death, grant that, as he died a Martyr for truth and justice, we, too, may fight hard for the confession of what you teach. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
First reading: 1 Corinthians 1:26-31
Take yourselves for instance, brothers, at the time when you were called: how many of you were wise in the ordinary sense of the word, how many were influential people, or came from noble families? No, it was to shame the wise that God chose what is foolish by human reckoning, and to shame what is strong that he chose what is weak by human reckoning; those whom the world thinks common and contemptible are the ones that God has chosen – those who are nothing at all to show up those who are everything. The human race has nothing to boast about to God, but you, God has made members of Christ Jesus and by God’s doing he has become our wisdom, and our virtue, and our holiness, and our freedom. As scripture says: if anyone wants to boast, let him boast about the Lord.
Psalm 32(33):12-13, 18-21
R/ Happy the people the Lord has chosen as his own.
- They are happy, whose God is the Lord, the people he has chosen as his own. From the heavens the Lord looks forth, he sees all the children of men.
- The Lord looks on those who revere him, on those who hope in his love, to rescue their souls from death, to keep them alive in famine.
- Our soul is waiting for the Lord. The Lord is our help and our shield. In him do our hearts find joy. We trust in his holy name.
Gospel Acclamation: Mt 5
Alleluia, alleluia! Happy those who are persecuted in the cause of right, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.Alleluia!
Gospel: Mark 6:17-29
Herod sent to have John arrested, and had him chained up in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife whom he had married. For John had told Herod, ‘It is against the law for you to have your brother’s wife.’ As for Herodias, she was furious with him and wanted to kill him; but she was not able to, because Herod was afraid of John, knowing him to be a good and holy man, and gave him his protection. When he had heard him speak he was greatly perplexed, and yet he liked to listen to him. An opportunity came on Herod’s birthday when he gave a banquet for the nobles of his court, for his army officers and for the leading figures in Galilee. When the daughter of this same Herodias came in and danced, she delighted Herod and his guests; so the king said to the girl, ‘Ask me anything you like and I will give it you.’ And he swore her an oath, ‘I will give you anything you ask, even half 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 straight back to the king and made her request, ‘I want you to give me John the Baptist’s head, here and now, on a dish.’ The king was deeply distressed but, thinking of the oaths he had sworn and of his guests, he was reluctant to break his word to her. So the king at once sent one of the bodyguard with orders to bring John’s head. The man went off and beheaded him in prison; then he brought the head on a dish and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother. When John’s disciples heard about this, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.
Prayer over the Offerings
Through these offerings which we bring you, O Lord, grant that we may make straight your paths, as taught by that voice crying in the desert, Saint John the Baptist, who powerfully sealed his teaching by the shedding of his blood. Through Christ our Lord.
Communion Antiphon: Jn 3: 27, 30
John answered and said: He must increase; but I must decrease.
Prayer after Communion
Grant, O Lord, as we celebrate the heavenly birth of Saint John the Baptist, that we may revere, for what it signifies, the saving Sacrament we have received and, even more, may rejoice at its clear effects in us. Through Christ our Lord.
We gain inspiration from the Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist, the Messiah’s Precursor. All his life moves around Jesus, to the extent that without Him, the very existence and aim of the Messiah’s Precursor would have been meaningless. Towards the end of his life, when preaching the messianic freedom, John is thrown into prison: «For John had told Herod, ‘It is not right for you to live with your brother’s wife’». Herod was hard-hearted to the point of wasting precious life to satisfy a common promise. We have to be careful what kind of promises we make and at what expense. It could simply veil our eyes to the sanctity of life which we cannot create. May we always gain zeal for the truth.