Feast of Saint Agnes. This extraordinary young lady lived a life that would put most of us to shame. She is lauded for her purity and chastity, and her story is one that should make each of us question our own dedication to Christ. At a young age she dedicated her virginity to God. She felt such a personal relationship with Christ that she desired not to be married, but rather to go through life with God as her only spouse. So strong was her desire that she turned down the advances of many men. It was a dangerous time to be a Christian though. Diocletian was emperor and he was very much known for his persecution and killing of Christians.
Eventually she angered the wrong people and she was turned in. The emperor had her paraded before statues of the roman God's and demanded that she worship them. She refused. So he had her stripped naked and thrown into a brothel. Imagine that. She was only thirteen years old. Being stripped, standing in this place where people were doing unimaginable things. Legend has it that when they took her clothes off and stood her up for everyone to see her hair instantly grew longer to cover her entire body. Then someone tried to rape her and was struck blind. Another tried to rape her and was struck dead, and then at the prayer of this young Saint came back to life.
They continued to try and torture her and kill her. Even at one point trying to burn her alive and she was unharmed. Tiring of all of this, someone killed her by the sword. All the while she refused to give up her relationship with Christ. She refused to give in and be like everyone else. She kept her purity. Her virginity. Her chastity.
We have lost that notion in our society these days. So much so that it's even unpopular to even talk about it. Our television shows are filled with casual sex, couples who are not married but live together, friends with benefits. So much so that a happily married couple is very rarely portrayed in today's modern cinema. Even our fairy tales have been remade into something of a soap opera where Snow White and Prince Charming are sneaking about behind Charming's wife. It's funny how we have this notion that we are more civilized today. We would blanch and cry fowl if someone where to suggest that a thirteen year old be married today. Oh but they are children! I agree. Agnes' time was a different time for sure. Yet, in today's society more and more thirteen year olds are sexually active and more often than not are on some form of artificial birth control.
Our readings show us two things that we can bring into this conversation. In the first reading, Johnathan goes to David to warn him that his father, King Saul, wants to kill him. Then Johnathan goes to Saul while David is in hiding and pleads his case. This is one of the major things we should be doing. Scripture records Johnathan and David as being best of friends. When Johnathan saw his friend in trouble he did not stand idly by, he interceded for him. He warned David of the danger. He then went to the King to beg for reason, to beg for mercy. We should be doing this for our children, for our nation. We have a King who is much more reasonable, infinitely more merciful. It is up to us to stand in the gap and pray for them. We also must speak to them. Warn them of the danger. If we don't, who will? We are the hands and feet, the body of Christ. We must continue to act to change the world to where His will, will be done.
Then we see in the Gospel the answer to all of societies demons. People were pressing on him. A huge crowd had approached to find healing, relief from their physical sorrows. Immediately upon seeing him unclean spirits would fall down and cry out the truth of who he was. Too often we only want that physical healing. The truth is though that if we come to Jesus, he will heal us all. What we need to do though is to have an intimate and personal relationship with God. We need to know him. We need to be completely aware of who he is. Then to share that with others. Jesus healing ministry was second to the work he came to do. Physical miracles are awesome, do not get me wrong... what would be more awesome is a spiritual revival throughout the world. The only way to bring that about is to get down on our knees and cry out "You are the Son of God!" Only when we get to know Jesus, when we have a relationship with him so powerful that others can see it in our walk and in our talk.. only then will they be drawn to him as well.
There in the tabernacle is the key to every ill that society has. It is the cure to our sexual epidemic. It is the cure to our slothfulness. It is the cure to our perversions and sins. In the Eucharist, in the Sacraments, we come face to face with the living God and his mercy pours out upon us. The Holy Spirit, through the power and grace of God, has transformed simple bread and wine into the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Even the demons recognize him, how can we fail to? At times I think we all do. That's why it is so important to make frequent reception of the Sacraments a part of our lives. If even the demons fall to their knees crying out that he is the Son of God, how much more so you and I who believe? It is time for us to be witnesses to the truth. It is time for us to spread the Gospel. The good news. It is time for us to restore chastity to our society, to live as examples of purity. Not out of egotism and false piety, but out of love for Christ and respect for our respective vocations. Are you with me? Shall we let down our hair?
His servant and yours,
"He must increase, I must decrease."