The Beheading of John the Baptist

29 August -- Lesser Festival -- Red

The main celebration for John the Baptist is on 24 June, the date observing his birth, but John was also the forerunner of Christ in his death and, as the gospels of Matthew and Mark relate it, followed his denouncing of immoral ways and his call to repentance. On hearing of John's arrest, Christ's first words immediately take up John's call: Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near; repent, and believe the good news.

Collect

Almighty God,
who called your servant John the Baptist
to be the forerunner of your Son in birth and death:
strengthen us by your grace
that, as he suffered for the truth,
so we may boldly resist corruption and vice
and receive with him the unfading crown of glory;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

A reading from the prophecy of Jeremiah.

See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight -- indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?

For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years. Then I will draw near to you for judgement; I will be swift to bear witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired workers in their wages, the widow and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the alien, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.

For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, have not perished. Ever since the days of your ancestors you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts.

This is the word of the Lord.         Malachi 3. 1-7a

Responsorial Psalm

RThe messenger of the covenant is coming, says the Lord:
[the one in whom I delight].
In the Lord have I taken refuge;
how then can you say to me,
"Fly away like a bird to the hilltop. R

"For see how the wicked bend the bow
and fit their arrows to the string,
to shoot from ambush at the true of heart. R

"When the foundations are being destroyed,
what can the righteous do?"
The Lord is in his holy temple;
the Lord's throne is in heaven. R

His eyes behold the inhabited world;
his piercing eye weighs our worth.
The Lord weighs the righteous as well as the wicked,
but those who delight in violence he abhors. R

For the Lord is righteous;
he delights in righteous deeds;
and the just shall see his face. R         From Psalm 11

A reading from the Letter to the Hebrews.

What more should I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets -- who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented -- of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.

Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

This is the word of the Lord.         Hebrews 11.32 - 12.2

Hear the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew.

Herod the ruler heard reports about Jesus; and he said to his servants, "This is John the Baptist; he has been raised from the dead, and for this reason these powers are at work in him." For Herod had arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, because John had been telling him, "It is not lawful for you to have her." Though Herod wanted to put him to death, he feared the crowd, because they regarded him as a prophet.

But when Herod's birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company, and she pleased Herod so much that he promised on oath to grant her whatever she might ask. Prompted by her mother, she said, "Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter." The king was grieved, yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he commanded it to be given; he sent and had John beheaded in the prison. The head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, who brought it to her mother. His disciples came and took the body and buried it; then they went and told Jesus.

This is the gospel of Christ.         Matthew 14. 1-12

Post Communion

Merciful Lord,
whose prophet John the Baptist
proclaimed your Son as the Lamb of God
   who takes away the sin of the world:
grant that we who in this sacrament have known
   your forgiveness and your life-giving love
may ever tell of your mercy and your peace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.