Fr Paul reads from the Gospel of Mark (6: 14-29) which tells of John the Baptist being beheaded at the order of King Herod. Fr Paul says the story of the Passion of John the Baptist is told by Mark with more attention and sympathy than by either of the other two synoptic evangelists – Luke and Matthew. The Jewish historian Josephus tells that Herod Antipas took John into custody for fear that he might spark a rebellion. The tone of Mark’s Gospel is different; focusing on the royal birthday-party, he changes the story into a court drama, told from afar. For the detail he uses two biblical models. The wicked queen, Herodias, is modelled on Jezebel, and in the same way Herodias ‘arranges’ the death of John the Baptist. The persuasive young dancing-girl, promised half the King’s realm, is modelled on the stunningly beautiful Esther who wins the heart of the King in the book of Esther. Fr Paul says when we read this Gospel, we can feel Herodias lurking in the background as her attractive daughter seduces the King. To complete the story, we see the irony of the King’s respect for his guests triumphing over his respect for the prophet’s life.The story is placed by Mark between the mission of the Twelve and their return, suggesting that the proclamation of the message and the morals of Christianity will bring its dangers to Christian prophets, and will demand courage and even martyrdom. All the while the listener knows that Jesus, too, will be killed by an unjust ruler for proclaiming his message from God. Today’s Gospel lesson says Fr Paul is that, like John the Baptist, we need to have the courage to be Christian prophets in our world here and now.