The biblical narrative is related in Mark 6: 17-29.
Saint John the Baptist, pray for us!
Today, we locate ourselves in the second week of Advent. (I hope I am more centered this week than I was last.) The Church hears from the Lord’s cousin, the Forerunner and Prophet John the Baptist in the gospel reading. Saint John is rather mysterious and yet he’s an attractive figure who has the unique work of pointing us to the Kingdom of God unfolding in front of us; he also points out the Messiah. That’s exactly what we attempt to do within the various communities to which we belong: family, parish, religious, work, and social.
The mature Christian (or the one who takes his or her spiritual life we seriousness) takes up the Baptist’s work of doing what he did: bring others to the Lord. Each with his own work. The outward role in salvation history of Mary and Joseph, Simeon and Anna are very different, as is with John the Baptist, but also with each one of us sharing the Good News.
We seek and serve and love “one who is greater than us.”
Christ is the completion of the law for righteousness unto every one that believes. … For this reason the blessed Baptist is brought forward, as one who had attained the foremost place in legal righteousness, and to a praise so far incomparable. And yet even thus he is ranked as less than one who is least: “for the least, He says, is greater than he in the kingdom of God.” But the kingdom of God signifies, as we affirm, the grace that is by faith, by means of which we are accounted worthy of every blessing, and of the possession of the rich gifts which come from above from God. For it frees us from all blame; and makes us to be the sons of God, partakers of the Holy Ghost, and heirs of a heavenly inheritance.
St. Cyril of Alexandria
Sermon XXXVIII [Commentary on Luke]
As forerunner of our Lord’s birth, preaching and death, the blessed John showed in his struggle a goodness worthy of the sight of heaven. In the words of Scripture: Though in the sight of men he suffered torments, his hope is full of immortality. We justly commemorate the day of his birth with a joyful celebration, a day which he himself made festive for us through his suffering and which he adorned with the crimson splendor of his own blood. We do rightly revere his memory with joyful hearts, for he stamped with the seal of martyrdom the testimony which he delivered on behalf of our Lord.
Saint Bede the Venerable
Office of Readings
In an era where nihilism is prevalent, hearing that someone is full of hope for immortality is striking. What does Saint Bede mean? We know from experience that the life we live is full of contradictions and divisions in mind and heart. But we have today a man who knows his humanity and the truth of a promise that only Someone else can make good. Losing one’s head in this world allows for the soul to truly live in the next.
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.