John the Baptist

John’s parents were Mary’s kinswoman Elizabeth and the priest Zacharias. The barren Elizabeth conceived thanks to God. Zacharias did not believe this and was struck dumb. His speech was restored only after the birth of the child, when he inscribed its name ‘Johannes’ (God is merciful) on a tablet.

At a young age John retired to the desert of Judea, where he lived an ascetic life and wore clothing of camel hair. Later, he began converting and baptizing people in the River Jordan. He preached the coming of the Messiah (Redeemer). Christ, too, had himself baptized. John recognized him as the Messiah and said: ‘Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.’ John subsequently quarrelled with the court when he denounced King Herod for having married his sister-in-law Herodias. Herodias’ daughter Salome took revenge. After dancing seductively for the king at a banquet she demanded John’s head as a reward, which she received on a platter.

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