TODAY, we commemorate the martyrdom of the Glorious Forerunner of the Lord, St. John the Baptist.
John the Baptist, the cousin of Jesus, was born in Judea to Zachariah and Elizabeth. His ministry began when he was 30 years old, preaching and baptizing Jews in the Jordan River. In preparation for the coming of the Messiah, his message was "Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven has come near." He also said "Bear fruit worthy of repentance."
Tradition says that after the baptism of Jesus, St. John the Baptistâ€™s mission was brought to a close. Soon, afterwards, he was arrested for publicly denouncing the adultery of King Herod Antipas with Herodias. Herod Antipasâ€™ lawful wife was the daughter of Arethas, the King of Arabia, whom he had left without any cause and against every commandment of the law, because he desired Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip.
King Herod knew that St. John was a righteous and holy man, and he admired John preaching, so instead of executing him, Herod put John into prison. He was treated well and his disciples were allowed to visit him. Herodias, on the other hand, did not share Herodâ€™s respect for John and wanted to have him killed.
The opportunity came during Herodâ€™s birthday party. Herodiasâ€™ daughter Salome performed an enchanting dance in front of Herod and his guests which truly pleased him to the point that he vowed to grant whatever she might ask for. Salome consulted her mother who prompted her daughter to ask for the head of St. John the Baptist on a platter.
The request distressed the King but he had to fulfill his promise to save face with his guests. Johnâ€™s head was brought on a platter and was given to the girl, who offered it to her mother.
According to a long-standing tradition, it was August 29 in A.D. 28, when John the Baptist was beheaded.
St. John, the Forerunner and Baptizer, persevered in his faith, serving and obeying God in humility. Let us reflect on the life of St. John the Baptist and ask his intercession to make us always ready to recognize the coming of Jesus into our lives.