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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

The Spirit of the Lord is upon you.
The child you shall bear will be holy.

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

Look down, O Lord, on your servants.
Be it unto us according to your word.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Since ancient times, the Church recalls not only the birth of John the Baptist but also the day of his death at the hands of Herod, who preferred to listen to the whim of a woman with a wicked heart rather than to the harsh but true words of the prophet. He is the last, the greatest of the prophets, the one who prepares the advent of the Messiah. The rigour of his words stand in contrast to our habit to bend all in our own interest; his being, which is essential, helps us to free ourselves of the superfluous; his hope reminds us that we cannot recognize Jesus without preparing our hearts, without facing the desert of the heart and of the many places in the world. Let us listen to his voice to prepare a way for the Lord who comes. The Baptist preached justice and conversion of heart. And he had entered the soul of the king. Conversely, Herodias was increasingly annoyed by the preaching of the prophet and hated him. Herod unfortunately did not continue to hear the word of the prophet; fear, which he felt for the reproach made to him, prevented him from listening to the point of conversion. It is the bitter experience of the rejection of preaching that inevitably leads to hardening of the heart until it becomes wicked. Herod, though reluctantly, let himself be overwhelmed by events, even of whimsical nature, and became a murderer. Each priority was overwhelmed: his word was more important than the life of the prophet. And Herod decided to have the Baptist beheaded. From the perverted heart of Herod sprang murder and the attempt to make evil triumph over good. Different was the behaviour of those who flocked to the Jordan to listen to the Baptist: they flocked acknowledging that they were sinners in need of forgiveness, of change, of salvation. John’s testimony prepares the heart to welcome the Lord. This happens each time the Gospel is preached. Some of John’s disciples after having heard him speaking of Jesus began to follow him. Not to listen to the voice of the prophet, to disregard his words that urge or that correct, mean beheading that Word by making ineffective its pressing invitation to welcome the Lord. Let us not go looking in the desert at a reed shaken by the wind, that is at one of the many images we look at without understanding; let us not even look for a man clothed in soft garments, because these men are in the palaces of the kings as many false reassurances of well-being. Let us be questioned by the one who shows us the Lord present in the world, because he is the man who knows how to wait. And only those who wait, who wake up from sleep, recognize the present salvation.

Memory of the Mother of the Lord

Calendar of the week
Sunday, 14 January
Liturgy of the Sunday
Monday, 15 January
Prayer for peace
Tuesday, 16 January
Memory of the Mother of the Lord
Wednesday, 17 January
Memory of the Saints and the Prophets
Thursday, 18 January
Memory of the Church
Friday, 19 January
Memory of Jesus crucified
Saturday, 20 January
Sunday Vigil
Sunday, 21 January
Liturgy of the Sunday