Beheading of the Holy Prophet, Forerunner, and Baptist John: Because John had denounced Herod Antipas for putting away his own wife and marrying the wife of his brother Philip, Herod imprisoned John. At a feast held in honor of Herod’s birthday, his stepdaughter Salome danced for him. Herod promised her anything; her mother Herodias told her to ask for the head of John on a platter. This martyrdom is commemorated on this day because a church, built over the Forerunner’s tomb, was dedicated on this day to his beheading by the Emperor Constantine and his mother Helena.
The memory of the righteous is celebrated with praise, but for you, O Forerunner, the Lord’s testimony is enough. You were shown to be more honorable than the prophets since you were deemed worthy to baptize in the waters the Lord you had proclaimed. Therefore, you fought for the truth, and with joy proclaimed the good news to those in Hades, that God has appeared in the flesh to take away the sins of the world and to grant us great mercy.
The glorious beheading of the Forerunner was part of God’s saving plan that the coming of the Savior might be announced even to those in Hades. Let Herodias mourn for she sought a lawless murder because she loved neither the Law of God nor eternal life, but only this false and fleeting life.
Acts 13: 25-33
In those days Paul spoke to the Israelites saying: “As John’s career was coming to an end, he would say, ‘What you suppose me to be, I am not. Rather, look for the one who comes after me. I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals on his feet.’ My brethren, children of the family of Abraham and you others who reverence our God, it was to us that this message of salvation was sent forth. The inhabitants of Jerusalem and their rulers failed to recognize [Jesus], and in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets which we read sabbath after sabbath. Even though they found no charge against him which deserved death, they begged Pilate to have him executed. Once they had thus brought about all that had been written of him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. Yet God raised him from the dead, and for many days thereafter Jesus appeared to those who had come up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. These are his witnesses now before the people.
“We ourselves announce to you the good news that what God promised our fathers he has fulfilled for us, their children in raising up Jesus, according to what is written in the second psalm, ‘You are my son; this day I have begotten you.’”
Mark 6: 14-29
At that time King Herod came to hear of Jesus, for his reputation had become widespread and people were saying, “John the Baptizer has been raised from the dead; that is why such miraculous powers are at work in him.” Others were saying, “He is Elijah”; still others, “He is a prophet equal to any of the prophets.” On hearing of Jesus, Herod exclaimed, “John, whose head I had cut off, has been raised up!” Herod was the one who had ordered John arrested, chained, and imprisoned on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, who he had married. That was because John had told Herod, “It is not right for you to live with your brother’s wife.” Herodias harbored a grudge against John for this and wanted to kill him but was unable to do so. Herod feared John, knowing him to be an upright and holy man, and kept him in custody. When he heard John speak he was very much disturbed; yet he felt the attraction of his words. Herodias had her chance one day when Herod held a birthday dinner for his court circle, military officers, and the leading men of Galilee. Herodias’ own daughter came in at one point and performed a dance which delighted Herod and his guests. The king told the girl, “Ask for anything you want and I will give it to you.” He went so far as to swear to her: “I will grant you whatever you ask, even half my kingdom!” She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” The mother answered, “The head of John the Baptizer.” At that the girl hurried back to the king’s presence and made her request: “I want you to give me, at once, the head of John the Baptizer on a platter.” The king bitterly regretted the request; yet because of his oath and the presence of the guests, he did not want to refuse her. He promptly dispatched an executioner, ordering him to bring back the Baptizer’s head. The man went and beheaded John in prison. He brought in the head on a platter and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother. Later, when his disciples heard about this, they came and carried his body away and placed it in a tomb.
2 Corinthians 12:20 – 13:2
Brothers and sisters: I fear that when I come I may not find you to my liking, not may you find me to yours. I fear I may find discord, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, slander and gossip, self-importance, disorder. I fear that when I come again my God may humiliate me before you, and I may have to mourn over the many who sinned earlier and have not repented of the uncleanness, fornication, and sensuality they practiced.
This is the third time I shall be coming to you. [Scripture says,] “A judicial fact shall be established only on the testimony of two or three witnesses.” I said before when I was there the second time – and I repeat it now in my absence – to those who sinned before and to all the rest, that if I come again I shall not spare you.
Mark 4: 24-34
The Lord said to his disciples: “Listen carefully to what you hear. In the measure you give you shall receive, and more besides. To those who have more, more will be given; from those who have not, what little they have will be taken away.”
He also said: “This is how it is with the reign of God. A man scatters seed on the ground.He goes to bed and gets up day after day. Through it all the seed sprouts and grows without his knowing how it happened. The soil produces of itself first the blade, then the ear, finally the ripe wheat in the ear. When the crop is ready he ‘wields the sickle, for the time is ripe for harvest.’”
Jesus went on to say: “What comparison shall we use for the reign of God? What image will help to present it? It is like mustard seed which, when planted in the soil, is the smallest of all the earth’s seeds, yet once it is sown, springs up to become the largest of shrubs, with branches big enough for the birds of the sky to build nests in its shade.” By means of many such parables he taught them the message in a way they could understand. To them he spoke only by way of parables, while he kept explaining things privately to his disciples.
Icon courtesy of Jack Figel, Eastern Christian Publications – ecpubs.com
Monday, August 28 –