February 5, 2016

Agatha

February 5, 2016:  St. Agatha, Virgin and Martyr

  • Red and white shirt:  John and Agatha's martyrdom, Agatha's virginity
  • 'Trophies' tie:  David's legacy (1st reading)
  • 'Lion' pin, 'bear' tie bar:  David made sport of lions and bears (1st reading)
  • 'Stone/rock' tie pin:  David shot the slingstone that shattered Goliath's pride (1st reading); the Lord my Rock (psalm)
  • 'Silverware' tie bar: Herod's birthday banquet (gospel)
  • '?' tie pin: Herod was perplexed when he heard John; "What shall I ask for?" (gospel)
  • 'Headless skeleton' tie pin:  Herod had John the Baptist beheaded (gospel)
  • 'Blood drop' pin:  martyrdom of John the Baptist (gospel) and Agatha
We see God’s style in John the Baptist's death.  This great holy man who prepared the people for the Messiah's coming was beheaded in the darkness of his cell, alone, condemned by a queen's hatred and a king's cowardice, but that's how God triumphs.  No pope, not even Jesus, only John, was called "the greatest man born of a woman," but he ended his life in jail, beheaded.
Enter John’s cell and look into the soul of the Baptizer, who cried out, now weighed down by iron chains and the shackles of doubt.  He suffered the interior torture of doubt:  "Maybe I made a mistake?  This Messiah is not how I imagined he'd be."  He invited his disciples to ask Jesus, "Are you the one to come?’  Because doubt made him suffer.  "Did I proclaim someone who isn’t?"
John's life was to diminish.  He sought God's glory, not his own, and died in anonymity.  With this attitude, he prepared the way for Jesus, who also died in agony, alone, without the disciples.  God's style is not ours.  Ask the Lord for the grace of humility John had, not to lean on our own merits or others' glory, and that in us Christ might grow greater, and we might come down, even to the end.  More
  • Sir 47:2-11  David made sport of lions and bears.  He slew the giant and wiped out people's disgrace by calling on God.  As king he subdued the enemy, offering thanks to God whom he loved and praised.  The Lord forgave him, exalted his strength, and established his throne.
  • Ps 18:31, 47, 50-51  "Blessed be God my salvation!"  God is a shield to all who take refuge in him who showed kindness to David and his posterity.
  • Mk 6:14-29  Herod heard about Jesus; people were saying John the Baptist has been raised or that he's Elijah or another prophet, but Herod thought John had been raised up.   [Flashback to Herod's birthday banquet:]  Herodias had an opportunity to have John killed:  Salome danced; Herod promised her up to half his kingdom.  She asked for John's head; Herod was distressed but had him beheaded.
    Music
    • Dance of the Seven Veils, from Salome/ Strauss (gospel):  no YouTube link because I marked this site as free of adult content, but if you understand and tolerate the risk, you can do a search
    Reflect
      • Creighton:  Herod was weak man; his interaction with John was a disaster for him, and his interaction with Jesus wasn't much better.   But he “feared John, knowing him to be an upright and holy man....  When he heard him speak, he was disturbed but felt the attraction of his words,” yet in his lust for Herodias and his need for the good opinion of others, he murders John.   We too have been torn in two between God and sin, or between a greater and lesser good.  May we learn discernment....
        The beheading of St. John the Baptist/ Caravaggio
      • One Bread, One Body:  "Time warp?"  Herodias hated John the Baptist for pointing out she was an adulteress.  Herod granted her request for John's head.  Herod was warped in and by adultery, then murder. When he later heard of Jesus, he misidentified Jesus as John raised up.  Today many are being blinded, numbed, and warped by sin....
      • Passionist:  Today's 1st reading is a grand summation of David's kingship; he was a mighty warrior, a wise judge, a fine artist, and his people praised him.  But the gospel shows Herod as weak and hedonistic; he imprisoned John because John spoke the truth.  Many of us find ourselves in positions of leadership, but we make mistakes.  Sirach says the Lord forgave David.  David repents; he doesn't hide it or wait to see whether he'll be punished.  But when Herod sees his error, he continues down his path rather than admitting his mistake.  Humility is a powerful trait in a leader, though many aren't willing to be seen as less than perfect.  May I have the strength to admit my shortcoming, both to God and others, so I may serve them better.
      • DailyScripture.net:  "Herod's guilty conscience":  Jesus came to set us free from sin and guilt.  Herod, the most powerful and wealthy man in Judea, had everything but a clear conscience and peace with God. John, who rebuked him for his relationship with his brother's wife, was imprisoned because of her jealousy.  Herod had John beheaded, but his conscience was pricked when he heard John might have risen.  He couldn't rid himself of sin by killing the one who confronted him.  Herod was a weak man taking a strong stand on wrong when he knew the right.  God's grace and pardon frees us from a guilty conscience and enables us to pursue holiness, to fight fear with faith, and to overcome temptation.
      "How was [John] harmed by his imprisonment and violent death?  Who are those he didn't set back on their feet... because of what he spoke, suffered, and still proclaims, the message he preached while he was living?  So don't ask why John was allowed to die.  What occurred wasn't death but a crown, not an end but the beginning of a greater life.  Think and live like a Christian; you'll reap the greatest benefits."  (John Chrysostom, On the Providence of God 22.10, paraphrased)

      Blessings to and prayers for the community at St. Agatha parish, Los Angeles!