Friday, January 21, 2011

Truth Shall Spring Out Of The Earth, And Justice Shall Look Down From Heaven

Memorial of Saint Agnes, virgin and martyr
Reading I
Hebrews 8:6-13
Brothers and sisters:
Now our high priest has obtained
so much more excellent a ministry
as he is mediator of a better covenant,
enacted on better promises.

For if that first covenant had been faultless,
no place would have been sought for a second one.
But he finds fault with them and says:

Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord,
when I will conclude a new covenant
with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.
It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers
the day I took them by the hand to lead
them forth from the land of Egypt;
for they did not stand by my covenant
and I ignored them, says the Lord.
But this is the covenant
I will establish with the house of Israel
after those days, says the Lord:
I will put my laws in their minds
and I will write them upon their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
And they shall not teach,
each one his fellow citizen and kin, saying,
“Know the Lord,”
for all shall know me, from least to greatest.
For I will forgive their evildoing
and remember their sins no more.

When he speaks of a “new” covenant,
he declares the first one obsolete.
And what has become obsolete
and has grown old is close to disappearing.
+++    +++    +++    +++
Psalm 85
R. Kindness and truth shall meet.
Show us, O LORD, your mercy,
and grant us your salvation.
Near indeed is his salvation
to those who fear him,
glory dwelling in our land.
R. Kindness and truth shall meet.
Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from heaven.
R. Kindness and truth shall meet.
The LORD himself will give his benefits;
our land shall yield its increase.
Justice shall walk before him,
and salvation, along the way of his steps.
R. Kindness and truth shall meet.
+++    +++    +++    +++
Mark 3:13-19
Jesus went up the mountain
and summoned those whom he wanted
and they came to him.
He appointed Twelve,
whom he also named Apostles,
that they might be with him
and he might send them forth to preach
and to have authority to drive out demons:
He appointed the Twelve:
Simon, whom he named Peter;
James, son of Zebedee,
and John the brother of James,
whom he named Boanerges,
that is, sons of thunder;
Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew,
Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus;
Thaddeus, Simon the Cananean,
and Judas Iscariot who betrayed him.
St. Agnes
(d. 258?)

Almost nothing is known of this saint except that she was very young — 12 or 13 — when she was martyred in the last half of the third century. Various modes of death have been suggested — beheading, burning, strangling.

Legend has it she was a beautiful girl whom many young men wanted to marry. Among those she refused, one reported her to the authorities for being a Christian. She was arrested and confined to a house of prostitution. The legend continues that a man who looked upon her lustfully lost his sight and had it restored by her prayer. She was condemned, executed and buried near Rome in a catacomb that eventually was named after her. The daughter of Constantine built a basilica in her honor.

Like that of modern Maria Goretti, the martyrdom of a virginal young girl made a deep impression on a society enslaved to a materialistic outlook. Like Agatha, who died in similar circumstances, Agnes is a symbol that holiness does not depend on length of years, experience or human effort. It is a gift God offers to all.

Patron Saint of:

Saint of the Day

1 comment:

Sarah in the tent said...

Apparently, the name of this child was not known. She was given the name 'Agnes' because she reminded Christians of the sacrificial lamb. I like the way the ancient Church gave names to people who would otherwise be ignored, even if it was just a generic Christian name like 'René', which means 'reborn'. I also like the way someone who barely lived in the 'Church militant' seems to make up for it in the 'Church triumphant', becoming a great saint through inspiration. I think another example of this is St James. He barely had any time to evangelize, being martyred shortly after St Stephen, but has been hugely influential by inspiration. In fact, until I realized what St James achieved AFTER his martyrdom, it was hard to see why Our Lord bothered to include him in major events like the Transfiguration.

According to the 'nominis' website, today - St Agnes' day - is the traditional day for the Pope to bless lambs whose wool will be used in the palliums of future archbishops,(a reminder of the Good Shepherd with the lamb on his shoulder). The animals come from the Roman abbey of the Three Fountains and their wool will be prepared by the nuns of St Cecilia of Trastavere.

I used to find stories like this one of St Agnes hard to believe: human beings just didn't behave like that. Sadly, I now know that in countries like Pakistan and Egypt there are many children like St Agnes.