Summary: Our devotion is not to a book, not even to a church building, and not even to our fellow parishioners. We derive our identity as Catholics from our devotion to the lord of the Sabbath, the lord of our lives, Our Lord, Jesus the Christ.

Feast of St. Agnes 2020

Tuesday of 2nd week in Course

For generations after the Hebrews settled in the Holy Land, they acknowledged only God, the Lord, as their leader. But in the time of the prophet-priest Samuel, these tribes began to worry him about a king. The whole point of the covenant God made with Moses and the Israelites at Sinai was that Israel would become a nation unlike any other nation. They would worship the Lord alone, and do so with such devotion and single-mindedness that other nations would envy them and come to the same worship of the same God. If God was their leader and their defense, then why would they need a king.

But the sinful nature inherited from our first parents kept rearing its ugly head. As the Israelites settled, they saw successful pagans around them with great businesses and fertile lands, and they of course asked how they could become successful. The pagans attributed their good times to their worship of gods like Baal and Astarte–fertility gods and goddesses that were worshiped with what we can only call obscene and blasphemous rites. So the people of God began to worship other gods, and the Lord let them be oppressed by the surrounding nations. Time after time He sent the judges to rally them and defeat their enemies, once they abandoned false worship and returned to their true God. But then they fell into the same old patterns. Finally they thought the solution would be a secular one. If they had a human king, instead of a divine one, they could prosper and not worry about anything, including their fidelity to the true God and Lord.

God finally granted their success, in a move we might title “better call Saul.” But King Saul was a disappointment of the first water. Samuel would tell him what the Lord wanted him to do, and then he went off and did things his own way. It became a habit, so God rejected this first king of Israel, and here he sends Samuel off to anoint a new king, one who made decisions and lived as the Lord wanted. It was David, whom the Scriptures call “a man after God’s own heart.”

Thus we see in the Gospel that for centuries after David died, the Israelites remembered his years as “the good old days,” and the tales of David’s life and work became like a second Torah, a rule of how to live with God’s favor. So when Jesus’s hungry disciples, moving from town to town, appropriated heads of grain–probably barley–on the Sabbath, they offended the Pharisees by doing work on the Lord’s day. You can read David’s story in the Books of Samuel. He was running from Saul with his band of warriors, and came to the sanctuary of the Lord at Shiloh. The high priest gave him what amounted to day-old bread that would ordinarily be eaten only by priests, sanctified bread. He and his band of followers ate it and went on, after David took the old sword of the giant Goliath. So Jesus cited that precedent to the Pharisees, but He also established Himself as a Lawgiver superior to Moses, saying “the Son of man [himself] is lord even of the Sabbath.” Jesus is both Messiah and law-giver.

Our devotion is not to a book, not even to a church building, and not even to our fellow parishioners. We derive our identity as Catholics from our devotion to the lord of the Sabbath, the lord of our lives, Our Lord, Jesus the Christ. Let’s look at one little girl and her devotion to Christ as her Lord and her Spouse. She was twelve or thirteen during the reign of the nasty emperor Diocletian, whose toadies put together the worst persecution of Christians in Roman history.

“According to tradition, Agnes was a member of the Roman nobility, born in AD 291 and raised in an early Christian family. She suffered martyrdom . . .on 21 January 304. A beautiful young girl from a wealthy family, Agnes had many suitors of high rank, and the young men, slighted by her resolute devotion to religious purity, submitted her name to the authorities as a follower of Christianity.”

You can read on the Internet of her heroism, the miracles that God wrought to keep her chaste and pure during her martyrdom, and the miracles attributed to her intercession. If you hear the Roman Canon, the first Eucharistic prayer, at Mass, you find her one of seven women honored every day in our most sacred prayer, along with the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is the patron saint of teenage girls, and one to be emulated by all who wish to follow Our Lord. St. Agnes, pray for us.

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