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The Passion of Saint John the Baptist

Feast of Herod

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Peruzzi Chapel, Santa Croce, Florence

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Memorial: The Passion of St. John the Baptist

From: 1 Thessalonians 3:7-13

Paul Rejoices over the Good Reports Brought by Timothy (Continuation)

[7] For this reason, brethren, in all our distress and affliction we have been com-
forted about you through your faith; [8] for now we live, if you stand fast in the
Lord. [9] For what thanksgiving can we render to God for you, for all the joy which
we feel for your sake before our God, [10] praying earnestly night and day that
we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith?He Prays for the Thessalonians

[11] Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to
you; [12] and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another
and to all men, as we do to you, [13] so that he may establish your hearts unbla-
mable in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus
with all his saints.*********************************************************************************************

6-8. St Paul discreetly allows the Thessalonians to see how zealous he is for
their souls: far from being indifferent to their state of spiritual health, he sees it
as a matter of life or death. Concern for the solid faith of those entrusted to him
is his very life. Timothy has reported that the Thessalonians were “standing fast
in the Lord” and that makes him very happy.

9. The fact that the Thessalonians are steadfast in the faith in spite of persecu-
tion is not due only to their own merits; the credit must go mainly to the grace
of God; and so St Paul thanks the Lord for the help he has given them.

“For all the joy we feel…before our God”: that is, in the presence of God. Prayer
provides the outlet the Christian needs for expressing his feelings and desires; it
is an intimate conversation with God which he can have at any time: “While we
carry out as perfectly as we can (with all our mistakes and limitations) the tasks
allotted to us by our situation and duties, our soul longs to escape. It is drawn
towards God like iron drawn by a magnet. One begins to love Jesus, in a more
effective way, with the sweet and gentle surprise of his encounter” (St. J. Escri-
va, “Friends of God”, 296).

10. St Paul’s first stay in Thessalonica was a very short one, because unrest
caused by Jews forced him to leave in a hurry (cf. Acts 17:5-10). That meant
that he was unable to give any advanced religious instruction to the believers
— which is why he wants to see them again.

He does not confine himself to wishing he could see them; he uses his super-
natural resources (including prayer) to obtain what he wants, for prayer should
precede and accompany preaching. Otherwise there is no reason to expect
apostolic work to bear fruit. Although faith is born of preaching (cf. Rom 10:17),
preaching alone cannot produce faith; St Thomas teaches that it is necessary
for grace to act on the heart of the listener (cf. “Commentary on Rom”, 10, 2).

11. Earlier St Paul referred to the obstacles Satan put in the way of his return
to Thessalonica (cf. 2:18). That is why he now prays the Lord to “direct his way”
— prayer being the best resource he has.

“May our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct [singular verb] our
way”: it is interesting to note that the verb is singular even though it has two sub-
jects. It would be wrong to dismiss this as insignificant, for it hints at the myste-
ry of the three Persons in the one God.

12-13. Love is a supernatural virtue which inclines us to love God (for his own
sake) above all things, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God. Given
that charity is a virtue which God infuses into the soul, it is something we must
not only practise but also ask God to increase in us.

Supernatural love, or charity, embraces everyone without exception. “Loving
one person and showing indifference to others”, St John Chrysostom observes,
“is characteristic of purely human affection; but St Paul is telling us that our love
should not be restricted in any way” (”Hom. on 1 Thess, ad loc.”). When a per-
son practices this virtue in an uninhibited way, his holiness gains in strength: he
becomes irreproachable “before our Lord and Father”; “in this does the true merit
of virtue really consist—and not in simply being blameless before men […]. Yes,
I shall say it again: it is charity, it is love, which makes us blameless” (”ibid.”).

“With all his saints”: referring to believers who died in the grace of God.

Source: “The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries”. Biblical text from the
Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of
the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain.

Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and
by Scepter Publishers in the United States.


From: Mark 6:17-29

John the Baptist Beheaded

[17] For Herod had sent and seized John, and bound him in prison for the sake
of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife; because he had married her. [18] For John
said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” [19] And Hero-
dias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, [20] for
Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and kept him
safe. When he heard him, he was much perplexed; and yet he heard him gladly.
[21] But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his
courtiers and officers and the leading men of Galilee. [22] For when Herodias’
daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king
said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will grant it.” [23] And he
said to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.”[24] And she went out, and said to her mother, “What shall I ask?” And she said,
“The head of John the Baptizer.” [25] And she came in immediately with haste
to the king, and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John
the Baptizer on a platter.” [26] And the King was exceedingly sorry; but because
of his oath and his guests he did not want to break his word to her. [27] And im-
mediately the king sent a soldier of the guard and gave orders to bring his head.
He went and beheaded him in the prison, [28] and brought his head on a platter,
and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother. [29] When his disciples
heard of it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.


16-29. It is interesting that the extensive account of the death of John the Baptist
is inserted here in the Gospel narrative. The reason is St. John the Baptist’s spe-
cial relevance in the history of salvation: he is the Precursor, entrusted with the
task of preparing the way for the Messiah. Besides, John the Baptist had a great
reputation among the people: they believed him to be a prophet (Mark 11:32);
some even thought he was the Messiah (Luke 3:15; John 1:20); and they flocked
to him from many places (Mark 1:5). Jesus Himself said: “Among those born of
women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11).
Later, the Apostle St. John will speak of him in the Gospel: “There was a man
sent from God, whose name was John” (John 1:6); but the sacred text points out
that, despite this, he was not the light, but rather the witness to the light (John 1:
6-8). More correctly, he was the lamp carrying the light (John 5:35). We are told
here that he was a righteous man and preached to everyone what had to be
preached: he had a word for people at large, for publicans, for soldiers (Luke 3:10-
14); for Pharisees and Sadducees (Matthew 3:7-12); for King Herod himself (Mark
6:18-20). This humble, upright and austere man paid with his life for the witness
he bore to Jesus the Messiah (John 1:29 and 36-37).

26. Oaths and promises immoral in content should never be made, and, if made,
should never be kept. This is the teaching of the Church, which is summed up
in the “St. Pius X Catechism”, 383, in the following way: “Are we obliged to keep
oaths we have sworn to do unjust and unlawful things? Not only are we not ob-
liged: we sin by making such oaths, for they are prohibited by the Law of God or
of the Church.”

Source: “The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries”. Biblical text from the
Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of
the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain.

Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and
by Scepter Publishers in the United States.

Catholic Culture

Ordinary Time: August 29th

Memorial of the Passion of Saint John the Baptist


August 29, 2019 (Readings on USCCB website)


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.

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Old Calendar: Beheading of St. John the Baptist; St. Sabina, martyr

The Church, having celebrated the earthly birthday of St. John the Baptist on June 24, today honors the anniversary of his martyrdom. Besides our Lord and our Lady, St. John the Baptist is the only one whose birth and death are thus celebrated. Today’s Gospel relates the circumstances of his execution. He had the courage to blame Herod to his face for the scandal of his illegal union with his sister-in-law Herodias, whose husband was still alive. Herodias contrived to make Herod imprison him and took advantage of an unexpected opportunity to obtain through her daughter Salome the beheading of the saint.

According to the 1962 Missal of St. John XXIII the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, today is the feast of St. Sabina. The titular church of St. Sabina of the Aventine is a gem of Christian architecture. It owes its origin to the generosity of a Roman lady of the name of Sabina who gave to the Christian community the house that she possessed in this aristocratic quarter of Rome. The martyrologies also commemorate another St. Sabina who died in Umbria. The identity of name has caused confusion between the two women.

Martyrdom of John the Baptist
In addition to the feast of the nativity of St. John the Baptist (June 24), the Church, since the fourth century, commemorates the martyrdom of Christ’s precursor. According to the Roman Martyrology, this day marks “the second finding of his most venerable head.” The body of the saint was buried in Samaria. In the year 362 pagans desecrated the grave and burned his remains. Only a small portion of his relics were able to be saved by monks and sent to St. Athanasius at Alexandria. The head of the saint is venerated at various places. That in the Church of St. Sylvester in Rome belongs to a martyr-priest John. Also in the Dominican church at Breslau the Baptist’s head is honored.

Excerpted from The Church’s Year of Grace, Pius Parsch

There is no doubt that blessed John suffered imprisonment and chains as a witness to our Redeemer, whose forerunner he was, and gave his life for him. His persecutor had demanded not that he should deny Christ, but only that he should keep silent about the truth. Nevertheless, he died for Christ. Does Christ not say: “I am the truth”? Therefore, because John shed his blood for the truth, he surely died for Christ.

Through his birth, preaching and baptizing, he bore witness to the coming birth, preaching and baptism of Christ, and by his own suffering he showed that Christ also would suffer.

Such was the quality and strength of the man who accepted the end of this present life by shedding his blood after the long imprisonment. He preached the freedom of heavenly peace, yet was thrown into irons by ungodly men. He was locked away in the darkness of prison, though he came bearing witness to the Light of life and deserved to be called a bright and shining lamp by that Light itself, which is Christ.

To endure temporal agonies for the sake of the truth was not a heavy burden for such men as John; rather it was easily borne and even desirable, for he knew eternal joy would be his reward.

Since death was ever near at hand, such men considered it a blessing to embrace it and thus gain the reward of eternal life by acknowledging Christ’s name. Hence the apostle Paul rightly says: “You have been granted the privilege not only to believe in Christ but also to suffer for his sake.” He tells us why it is Christ’s gift that his chosen ones should suffer for him: “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us.”

— Saint Bede the Venerable

Things to Do:

St. Sabina
According to legend, Sabina was born in Vindena, Umbria, and became the wife of a notable person having the name Valentine. She was converted to the faith by her maid Serapia, a Christian virgin. When Serapia died a martyr’s death (her feast occurs on September 3 in the Roman Martyrology), Sabina gave her servant’s holy body an honorable burial. On that account she was cast into prison by Emperor Hadrian and brought before the judge Elpidius. “Are you Sabina, illustrious by family and marriage?” he asked. “Yes, I am,” came the reply, “but I thank my Savior Jesus Christ that through His servant Serapia He has freed me from the power of hell.” Due to her contempt of the gods, she was condemned to death. Christians buried her body in the same grave as her teacher in the faith.

Excerpted from The Church’s Year of Grace, Pius Parsch

Things to Do:


The Word Among Us

Meditation: Mark 6:17-29

The Passion of Saint John the Baptist (Memorial)

They came and took his body and laid it in a tomb. (Mark 6:29)

Today we celebrate the feast of one of the greatest heroes of our faith: John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus, who cried out, “Prepare the way of the Lord” (Mark 1:3).

John did not hesitate to speak truth to the powerful, even if it cost him his freedom and his life. But we sometimes forget that he was not a lone ranger preaching in the desert. Scripture tells us several times that John had gathered his own disciples. While in prison, John sent his disciples to Jesus to confirm that he was the Messiah (Matthew 11:2; Luke 7:18). At his death, John’s disciples came to take his body for burial (Mark 6:29). How they must have loved him! It’s likely that they also visited him in prison, encouraging him as he sat in his chains.

This is one of the hidden reasons why John inspires us so much. He didn’t try to do it all on his own. As resilient and full of faith as he was, John knew that he needed help, and he willingly accepted it.

John can be a model for each of us. We all need people to strengthen us in our faith. They can accompany us in simple things like going to Mass or praying a Rosary. They can rejoice with us over our blessings and weep with us in our sufferings. They can visit us in the hospital or comfort us as we approach death. We are not meant to follow Jesus alone, and companions like these can make the journey much easier and much more joyful.

Of course, spiritual friendship is not one-way. Even as someone comforts you, your openness and faith can lift them up. You can support them in their time of need and rejoice with them in times of success.

So think about the people around you. Many of them are on a faith journey with you. How do they support you? How might you support them? A phone call, a lunch, or an invitation to go to Mass together might make all the difference! You can follow in John the Baptist’s footsteps and follow Jesus with companions.

“St. John the Baptist, pray for me to remain faithful to the end.”

1 Thessalonians 3:7-13
Psalm 90:3-5, 12-14, 17



Marriage = One Man and One Woman Until Death Do Us PartDaily Marriage Tip for August 29, 2019:

Today we celebrate the martyrdom of John the Baptist, who died witnessing to Christ and the sanctity of marriage. May God give us the same courage in our own day!


Regnum Christi

August 29, 2019 – Witness to the Truth

Memorial of the Passion of Saint John the Baptist

Mark 6:17-29

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.

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe in your wondrous shining glory, although this is hidden from my eyes. I hope in the peace and everlasting joy of the world to come, for this world is a valley of tears. I love you, even though I am not always able to discern the love in your intentions when you permit me to suffer. You are my God and my all.

Petition: Lord, let me never fear the consequences of speaking the truth.

  1. Speaking Truth to Power: Although Herod was a cruel tyrant, John the Baptist did not hesitate to condemn his adulterous conduct and to denounce his sin publicly. John was moved by the Holy Spirit to give witness and teach the people that no one can legitimately violate God’s commandments, not even a king. John did not fear the consequences of his actions, because he knew that if he were faithful, God would be at his side and never let him down, even if he had to suffer on account of the truth. We, too, need to give courageous witness to our family, friends and to the society at large. When we do, God will be with us and we will have nothing to fear.
  1. It Was Something That You Said: Mark tells us that Herod, although he resented what John said in accusing him of adultery, nonetheless “like[d] to listen to him,” and he was “much perplexed.” In his moral weakness, he persisted in his sin, yet the cries of the prophet to repent did reach his conscience. Herod was in confusion. Something was stirring in his conscience; the Holy Spirit was moving inside him to bring him to true repentance for his sin. God never abandons the sinner but gives him grace to turn back to him. We should never lose hope for one who seems to be lost and wandering in sin. We should always continue to speak the truth with love and pray for a full conversion. God can change the heart of even the worst of sinners. He has forgiven us so much, and he can forgive others as well.
  1. A Conversion Cut Short: The Gospel tells how Herod, in an imprudent promise to Herodias’ daughter, found himself compromised and, for fear of losing face, had to order the beheading of John the Baptist. Here his moral weakness overcame the first stirrings of the grace of conversion. He closed his heart to God’s action due to his lust and vanity, and he committed the terrible crime of murder of an innocent man. How sin can darken the conscience and extinguish God’s grace in the heart of a person given over only to satisfying their passions.

Conversation with Christ: Lord, I want to be faithful to your teachings and to be frank with those I love who need to hear your word. I know that takes prudence, courage and steadfastness. Help me to be true to you. Give me the grace of a good conscience always to speak the truth with rectitude and love for your law.

Resolution: I will pray for the grace to witness to the truth, “in season and out of season,” no matter what the consequences.


Homily of the Day

Memorial of the Passion of Saint John the Baptist

Today let us celebrate with tender, loving devotion the feast of the martyrdom of the cousin of Our Lord – John the Baptist. John was the forerunner of Jesus. He was the one tasked by God to prepare the way of the Lord. The gospel says that he was a just and holy man. Because he had to speak against evil in high places, against the King, he was imprisoned, suffered, and finally beheaded. He died a horrible death on orders from the king

Like St. John the Baptist, let us prepare the way of the Lord. Let us clear, sweep, wash, denounce, evil starting from our hearts. Let us give all to do God’s work without fear for God is with us. At all times, let us look at Our Lord for courage and strength. He is very near us. He is in us. Let us act courageously, without negligence, nor hesitation; like a faithful servant, like a soldier in the army of our God, without guile, willingly, not reasoning, not justifying; with loving obedience, giving hands, heart, head to our God. Let us do what God requires of us and leave the rest in His Hands.

Take and receive, O Lord, my body, my mind, my will, my liberty. All things I have and own are yours. They belong to you. Let me use them to prepare a way for you.


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<< Thursday, August 29, 2019 >> Beheading of St. John the Baptizer
1 Thessalonians 3:7-13
View Readings
Psalm 90:3-5, 12-14, 17 Matthew 24:42-51 or Mark 6:17-29
Similar Reflections


“We shall continue to flourish only if you stand firm in the Lord!” �1 Thessalonians 3:8
Do you ever look at the massive culture of death and feel that your prayers don’t have much of an impact? Do you ever feel that your parish or diocese wouldn’t miss you if you weren’t there?

St. Paul would argue that your faithfulness has a tremendous impact on the Church. He told the newly converted Thessalonian Christians that his missionary team could only keep flourishing if they stayed firm in the faith! (1 Thes 3:8) Elsewhere Paul said: “Who is weak that I am not affected by it?” (2 Cor 11:29) Once Paul had an open door to preach the Gospel in Troas (2 Cor 2:12), but was in such a state of anxiety about whether or not the Christians in Corinth would stay firm in their faith that he was unable to minister there (2 Cor 2:13). When Paul learned from Titus that the Corinthians had indeed stayed firm in the faith, he was consoled and resumed his mission (2 Cor 7:6ff).

We are intimately interconnected in the Body of Christ. We are “living stones” (1 Pt 2:5) built into the Church. When we don’t “stand firm” (1 Thes 3:8), others in the Church are impacted. We may seem to be a stone that no one notices, but if we aren’t firm, we weaken other living stones. When we stand firm, we strengthen other Christians. This is why St. Therese of Lisieux is a patroness of missions even though she never left her convent. Therefore, “put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm” (Eph 6:11).

Prayer: Father, may I never give in to discouragement (2 Cor 4:1).
Promise: “Happy that servant whom his Master discovers at work on His return!” —Mt 24:46
Praise: St. John the Baptizer was martyred for speaking God’s truth about adultery.