Beheading of St. John the Baptist (August 29)
St. John was born at Ain-Karim, near Jerusalem. His father was Zachary, a priest in Jerusalem, and his mother was Elizabeth, a kinswoman of the Virgin Mary. He lived as a hermit in the desert of Judea until 27. He began to preach along the banks of the Jordan River and stated, "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand." Many people came to hear him, including several who would become Christ's apostles. It was John who baptized Jesus and pointed Him out as "the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world." After the baptism, John continued to preach along the banks of the Jordan.
The Gospel of Mark records the circumstances of John the Baptist's death. Herod had John imprisoned because the Baptist had condemned the ruler's marriage to Herodias, his brother's wife. Infuriated with John, Herodias plotted to kill him. At a birthday banquet, Herod, delighted by the dancing of Herodias' daughter, told her that he would give her anything she requested. At her mother's prompting, she told him, "I want you to give me the head of John the Baptist, here and now, on a dish." John's death is celebrated by a feast, because it resembles in so many ways the death of Jesus. Like his master, John went to death silently and helplessly, a victim of petty revenge, human cowardice and cruelty. His death in such absurd circumstances was his confession of faith in God, Who alone sustains the human heart when it seems crushed by evil and injustice.
The Nativity (birth) of John is celebrated on June 24.