Fr Paul reads from the Gospel of Mark (6: 17-29) which tells how John the Baptist came to be beheaded by Herod.

Fr Paul notes that this feast of Saint John the Baptist is one of two we celebrate for him. This one in August which celebrates his death, and the other one is in June, which celebrates his birth. This is how it should be, for as Christ himself said, a greater than John the Baptist has never been seen.

St John the Baptist may have been the greatest, but Fr Paul says you could also say he is the most tragic. John was a prophet from before the time he was born – remember he leaped in his mother’s womb when he heard the announcement of the coming of God. But his task was to proclaim the fulfilment of all the prophecies. By doing this, he would do himself out of a job. And yet he did it: with unequalled courage. John spread the news that he, the greatest of all men, was the least in the kingdom of heaven.

Some would have preferred him to fight, to continue to build up his followers, to defeat this upstart whom, John, himself had baptized, to seize his place in history. But we know that he didn’t. He was true to his calling and what God had asked him to do – and so, rightly, he has his place, and he has glory in heaven.

In closing, Fr Paul invites us to pray, ‘St John the Baptist, Pray for us!’