MEMORIAL OF SAINT AGNES, VIRGIN AND MARTYR, JANUARY 21, 2021


MASS READINGS


A Gospel according to Mk 3:7-12


Jesus withdrew toward the sea with his disciples.

A large number of people followed from Galilee and from Judea.

Hearing what he was doing,

a large number of people came to him also from Jerusalem,

from Idumea, from beyond the Jordan,

and from the neighborhood of Tyre and Sidon.

He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd,

so that they would not crush him.

He had cured many and, as a result, those who had diseases

were pressing upon him to touch him.

And whenever unclean spirits saw him they would fall down before him

and shout, “You are the Son of God.”

He warned them sternly not to make him known.


REFLECTION: "And whenever unclean spirits saw him they would fall down before him

and shout, “You are the Son of God.”"


Today we celebrate the Memorial of St. Agnes of Rome.


St. Agnes, patron saint of chastity, is one of the early Martyrs of the Church. She was killed for refusing to marry the son of a high ranking official because she had vowed to only have Jesus as her spouse.


In today's society she would probably be considered insane, or simply dimwitted. Why lose one's life over such a "simple act"?


Chastity, Purity, Modesty. These are virtues that most people would consider part of the remote past. In a society where virginity, chastity, and fidelity are mocked, have we ever spent time talking to our children about them? Do they know what they mean?


There is also the matter of something called the "near occasion of sin".


One might think that we are vey strong, and can stand all kinds of temptation, thus, it is okay to stream certain movies, or read books that range from raunchy into total porn. But thinking ourselves a "mature" audience might just be a way to fool ourselves, and erode our soul. Also, many people watch porn thinking that it is okay "because it is fake", "or just acting". Porn is not a victimless act: it hurts the people performing it, as well as those watching. And possibly others, since the people watching might want to "act" what they read, or see.


Another old fashioned term is called "custody of the eyes". This is, if you know your favorite show has sex scenes, one after another, or extremely sexual dialogue, you might want to find another show to watch. This way you might avoid the near occasion of sin. Also, it will help us teach our children by example, so they learn not to put themselves in moral danger.


Both secular and catholic philosophers have understood the importance of stimuli to make us fail in chastity. St. Thomas Aquinas said: "There is not much sinning because of natural desires . . . But the stimuli of desire which man’s cunning has devised are something else, and for the sake of these sins one sins very much."


We need to ask God for the strength to help us persevere in this virtue. We need to pray for a cultural change of attitude towards it, so other virtues will follow: honesty, faith, trustfulness, charity, peace, love of God...


I'd like to conclude with a story told by St. Augustine in his "Confessions". Here he tells us about his friend Alypius, who thought he was strong and could persevere by his own accord, and at the end, was worst than the rest. (Don't worry, eventually Alypius converted and even became a Bishop in Africa).


"He had gone on to Rome before me to study law - which was the worldly way which his parents were forever urging him to pursue - and there he was carried away again with an incredible passion for the gladiatorial shows. For, although he had been utterly opposed to such spectacles and detested them, one day he met by chance a company of his acquaintances and fellow students returning from dinner; and, with a friendly violence, they drew him, resisting and objecting vehemently, into the amphitheater, on a day of those cruel and murderous shows. He protested to them: 'Though you drag my body to that place and set me down there, you cannot force me to give my mind or lend my eyes to these shows. Thus I will be absent while present, and so overcome both you and them.' 

When they heard this, they dragged him on in, probably interested to see whether he could do as he said. When they got into the arena, and had taken what seats they could get, the whole place became a tumult of inhuman frenzy. But Alypus kept his eyes closed and forbade his mind to roam abroad after such wickedness. Would that he had shut his ears also! For when one of the combatants fell in the fight, a mighty cry from the whole audience stirred him so strongly that, overcome by curiosity and still prepared (as he thought) to despise and rise superior to it no matter what it was, he opened his eyes and was struck with a deeper wound in his soul than the victim whom he desired to see had been in his body. 

Thus he fell more miserably than the one whose fall had raised that mighty clamor which had entered through his ears and unlocked his eyes to make way for the wounding and beating down of his soul, which was more audacious than truly valiant - also it was weaker because it presumed on its own strength when it ought to have depended on Thee. For, as soon as he saw the blood, he drank in with it a savage temper, and he did not turn away, but fixed his eyes on the bloody pastime, unwittingly drinking in the madness - delighted with the wicked contest and drunk with blood lust. He was now no longer the same man who came in, but was one of the mob he came into, a true companion of those who had brought him thither. 

Why need I say more? He looked, he shouted, he was excited, and he took away with him the madness that would stimulate him to come again: not only with those who first enticed him, but even without them; indeed, dragging in others besides. And yet from all this, with a most powerful and most merciful hand, Thou didst pluck him and taught him not to rest his confidence in himself but in Thee - but not till long after."

Jesus Christ, Son of God, help me persevere in the virtue of chastity.

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