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The Everyday Prayer

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Icon of the Holy Face
Church of Sant'Egidio, Rome

Remembrance of the martyrdom of John the Baptist, precursor of the Lord

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

This is the Gospel of the poor,
liberation for the imprisoned,
sight for the blind,
freedom for the oppressed.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Mark 6, 17-29

Now it was this same Herod who had sent to have John arrested, and had 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 do so,

because Herod was in awe of John, knowing him to be a good and upright 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 at once rushed back to the king and made her request, 'I want you to give me John the Baptist's head, immediately, 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.

At once the king sent one of the bodyguard with orders to bring John's head.

The man went off and beheaded him in the 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.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Son of Man came to serve,
whoever wants to be great
should become servant of all.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Since ancient times, the Church remembers not only the birth of John the Baptist, but also the day of his death at the hands of Herod, who chose to listen to the whim of a woman with a bad heart rather than to the harsh, but true and liberating word of the prophet. The Baptist preached justice and the conversion of the heart. And he somehow managed to get to the heart of King Herod Antipas. The evangelist Mark is the only one to mention Herod’s confusion in reaction to Herodias’ cruel request, perhaps only because of his uneasiness in front of the high moral standing of the prophet. This is all to say that we should never doubt the power of the Word of God: even the hardest of hearts can be softened. Of course, accompaniment and pastoral care are required, but we must never resign ourselves, knowing, however, that Evil and its foolish servants always attempt to stop preaching. Herodias, more and more annoyed by the preaching of the prophet, grew to loathe him. Her heart clearly and systematically rejected the Baptist’s preaching on justice. She pushed Herod to commit murder. And, the king, in fact, let himself be overwhelmed, though reluctantly, by whimsical events. Every priority was turned over: a word given was more important than the life of the prophet. So, Herod decided to behead the Baptist. From the perverted king’s heart was born a homicidal act and an attempt to help evil triumph over good. Entirely different was the behaviour of those who flocked to the Jordan to hear John the Baptist: they flocked recognizing that they were sinners in need of forgiveness, of a change of life and of hope for a peaceful future. John’s testimony prepares the heart to receive the Lord—and the same thing happens every time the Gospel is preached. And so it was with some of his disciples. After hearing the Baptist talk about Jesus, they left the banks of the Jordan and began to follow the new young prophet from Nazareth. If we do not listen to the voice of the prophet, if we do not take into account his words that encourage or correct us, de facto we join Herod in beheading the Word and silencing prophecy. If there is no one who speaks, then who will invite us and explain how it is possible to know, much less meet, the Lord? Remembering the death of John the Baptist is not only to commemorate this unique prophet in the history of salvation, but also to become aware that it is painfully easy to silence the prophecy. Hence, the responsibility is to take upon ourselves the commitment to communicate today the Gospel which alone can save us.

Memory of Jesus crucified