Feast of the Beheading of John the Baptist
Besides Jesus and Mary, only one other person has a birthday and death-date marked by the Church: John the Baptist. The feast of his birth falls on June 24, but today we celebrate the feast of his death.
The Gospel today recounts how king Herod had John imprisoned because John told Herod he should not have married his brother’s wife. This enraged the king’s wife, and she wanted John killed, but Herod kept him in prison because he liked to hear John speak, even though he found what John said “perplexing.”
On his birthday, a dancer entertained Herod and the court. She danced so beautifully that Herod granted her one wish. His wife influenced her to ask for John’s head. Herod was distressed, but granted the wish and John the Baptist was killed.
John gave his life to the truth, so it is not surprising that he was killed for speaking it. His mission was to conform his life to truth so that when Christ came along, he might recognize and clearly proclaim him. May God give us courage to give our lives to truth as well.
Several relics of John the Baptist rest in the reliquary in the Basilica, and his beheading is depicted in a stained glass window there.
The Snite Museum of Art on campus contains an etching from Rembrandt depicting the beheading of John the Baptist; see that image here.
St. John the Baptist, your gave your life for truth--pray for us!