Sermons

Summary: The slavery to sin that we all labor under for some part of our lives is destroyed by the infinite loving power of Christ.

Tuesday of 23rd week in course 2019

St. Agnes Tsao-Kou Ying

We don’t become disciples of Jesus Christ on our own volition. We must be called to follow Christ. Some teachers have misunderstood this to mean that some are called and others are not called, and therefore are damned to perdition by God’s not choosing them. But the mercy of God is without limit, and so we believe that in some sense, God calls everyone to follow Christ, and gives the grace of salvation to all who will cooperate with that call. But there is a special call to ordination-service for deacons, priests and bishops. Not all are called to that level of service, or to consecrated life as a religious brother or sister. It is for the rest of us to offer daily prayers for more men and women to respond to the call to wholehearted full-time service to the people of God.

The Word of God from St. Paul today, written originally to the church at Colossae, is really a summary of the whole Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let me rephrase it, hopefully without losing some of its awesome meaning. God’s fullness dwells in the body of Jesus Christ. He is a divine person no less than the Father. If we believe in Him, are baptized and live the life He commands of daily love of God and neighbor, we shall know the fulness of life, both now and after we die. To attain that status we first were baptized, which is the Christian circumcision. But instead of taking off some small body tissue, in our baptism we put off the old habits of sin and rebellion that we inherited from Adam and Eve, and practiced before we believed. Our baptism is a kind of death and burial, and our rising from the baptismal font is a type of resurrection to the new life first manifest in Jesus and His Mother, Mary. In the process, God forgave all our sins and is willing to forgive any other actual sins we may commit after baptism–provided we repent of those sins and purpose to do them no more. The slavery to sin that we all labor under for some part of our lives is destroyed by the infinite loving power of Christ.

Our saint today is Agnes Tsao-Kou Ying, who was canonized a martyr-saint by St. John Paul in the first year of this century. If one dies under persecution for belief in Christ and His Church, God takes that person to heaven. In fact, if that person dies that way before baptism, we even have a term for the process–baptism of blood. Saint Agnes was a baptized Catholic when she died, but her story is fairly pedestrian. If she hadn’t been murdered for the Faith, she would have been an uncanonized saint, like most of us are destined to be. But her testimony was so powerful that the Church holds her up for our admiration and emulation.

“Her family was a traditional Catholic family originally from Sichuan Province. She later left her hometown to work in the city of Xingyi after her parents died. There she met a Catholic woman who let her live with her. Soon, Bishop Bai came to visit Xingyi and found out that she was without family so he took her to the local parish to learn more about Christianity.”

In her late teens, she was married into a non-Christian family. Then her husband died and she was thrown out of that family. Fortunately, she was taken in by a pious Catholic widow. In that supportive environment, her faith matured. “One day, when Fr. Auguste Chapdelaine was in town, he discovered how well Agnes knew the faith and asked her to move to Guangxi Province for some missionary work, especially for teaching the Catholic faith to some 30-40 Catholic families living there (Catholics were very few in those days). In 1852, she went out to the town of Baijiazhai in Xilan County and made it her preaching headquarters, teaching the Catholic faith throughout Guangxi.”

“In 1856, when she was helping out in Yaoshan, Guangxi . . .the local government decided to take some measures against the Christians living in that area. Agnes was taken into custody along with many other Catholics who were soon released; only Agnes and Chapdelaine had to stay in prison. Chapdelaine later died in prison. The county magistrate tried to persuade Agnes to deny her faith under the promise that if she did, she would be released.” She refused, and was locked into a tiny cage as punishment, one so small she could not even sit down. She died after three days of this torture.

Today, the situation of the Church in China is not very clear. But faithful souls need encouragement and the sacraments. So let’s pray for them as often as we can, and invoke St Agnes’s help: St. Agnes Tsao-Kou Ying, pray for us.

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