Deacon Steven Johnson’s Homily 1-21-21

Homily for Thursday Ordinary Time, 1-21-21, Year B
Memorial of St. Agnes – Virgin and Martyr
READINGS: 1st Reading Heb, 7:25, 8:6; Gospel Mk 3:7-12
Theme: Love for Christ

St. Agnes was born around 291 in Rome, Italy. She was from a wealthy family.

From an early age she consecrated herself to God and gave herself to Him fully.

Since she was very beautiful, many men of wealth and power tried to make her their wife. She refused, saying God chose her first and that all she is belongs to Him.

At a young age and because of her Christian faith and her refusal of suiters, she was persecuted during the reign of Diocletian in Rome. There are several accounts of how she was martyred.

One had the Governor’s son, Procop, who after being spurned by Agnes, had her put in chains. He then sent her to a place of sin to live in disrepute. Finally, she was beheaded by the sword after refusing to denounce Christ.

Another account has the Prefect of Rome, Sempronious, at Diocletian’s command, responsible for her martyrdom. They say he had her tied up naked in the street for all to see before putting her on trial. It is said her hair grew instantly to cover her body and that any man looking at her would be struck blind. After her trial, in which she refused to renounce Christ, she was tied to a stake for burning but no flames touched her. While still tied to the stake she asked for the sword and, lowering her head for the swordman, was dispatched with a single stroke.

St. Agnes died for her faith and her love for God at the age of 12 or 13 in 304 AD.

She is the patron Saint of young girls, chastity, rape survivors, Children of Mary and the Girl Scouts.

Agnes’s name (similar to the Latin word Agnus) means lamb, which represents purity, chastity and sacredness.

Her remains are preserved in the Church of Sant’ Agnes Fuore le Mura (St. Agnes Outside The Walls) in the city of Rome.

Every year on the anniversary of St. Agnes’ death, the Pope celebrates Mass at the church where she is buried and then blesses two lambs. The lambs are then cared for by nuns until Holy Thursday when they are sheered. Their wool is then used to make Palium (pallia) which is a collar like vestment with six crosses and is worn over a chasuble. The Pope then blesses them on June 29th. These are then given by the Pope to new Archbishops as a sign of their office and solidarity with the Pope.

St. Agnes dedicated her life to Christ in such a profound way and at such a young age we can only surmise that she knew Christ intimately. She knew what kind of High Priest Jesus was and that because of the gift of His presence to her, there was nothing else left in this world to love more.

In the first reading today from Hebrews we find out the difference between priests on earth and Jesus as High Priest in Heaven. He can do so much more for us from His throne than anything else we could imagine He would do here on earth. St. Agnes knew this.

St. Agnes also knew that her joy was in the giving of herself to Christ. In this way she gained the consolation and contentment of certainty in whom she loved. This giving is sharply contrasted with the people of the Gospel today in that they all wanted to get something from Jesus. St. Agnes chose the better path and gave herself back to Christ.

We all need to remember to give something back to Jesus. He can do so much for us from Heaven, yet at times it seems all He ever does is give to us. Maybe it’s time, as with St. Agnes, to give something back to Him. Our love and devotion would be a good place to start.

Published by St. James, Belvidere

Saint James Catholic Church, Belvidere, IL