MILE-A-DAY COMMUNITY CHALLENGE STARTING MAY 1, 2021

When Following Jesus is No Walk in the Park

January 21, 2021   Memorial of Saint Agnes, Virgin and Martyr (Lectionary: 314)

Reading I   Heb 7:25—8:6
Jesus is always able to save those who approach God through him,
since he lives forever to make intercession for them.

It was fitting that we should have such a high priest:
holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners,
higher than the heavens.
He has no need, as did the high priests,
to offer sacrifice day after day,
first for his own sins and then for those of the people;
he did that once for all when he offered himself.
For the law appoints men subject to weakness to be high priests,
but the word of the oath, which was taken after the law,
appoints a son, who has been made perfect forever.

The main point of what has been said is this:
we have such a high priest,
who has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne
of the Majesty in heaven, a minister of the sanctuary
and of the true tabernacle that the Lord, not man, set up.
Now every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices;
thus the necessity for this one also to have something to offer.
If then he were on earth, he would not be a priest,
since there are those who offer gifts according to the law.
They worship in a copy and shadow of the heavenly sanctuary,
as Moses was warned when he was about to erect the tabernacle.
For God says, “See that you make everything
according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”
Now he has obtained so much more excellent a ministry
as he is mediator of a better covenant,
enacted on better promises.

Responsorial Psalm   40:7-8a, 8b-9, 10, 17
R. (8a and 9a) Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
Sacrifice or oblation you wished not,
but ears open to obedience you gave me.
Burnt offerings or sin-offerings you sought not;
then said I, “Behold I come.”
R. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
“In the written scroll it is prescribed for me,
To do your will, O my God, is my delight,
and your law is within my heart!”
R. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
I announced your justice in the vast assembly;
I did not restrain my lips, as you, O LORD, know.
R. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
May all who seek you
exult and be glad in you,
And may those who love your salvation
say ever, “The LORD be glorified.”
R. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.

Alleluia   See 2 Tm 1:10
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Our Savior Jesus Christ has destroyed death
and brought life to light through the Gospel.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel   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.

By Jenna McAndrew 

There have been very few times that I have been able to clearly perceive the voice of God at a specific moment in prayer.  But I can clearly remember one instance from several years ago.  I was in college, and I was praying for clarity about my relationship, which I knew deep down was unchaste and unholy. 

As I was praying, I perceived two words, clear as day, that I knew for certain were from the Lord.

“Saint Agnes.”

That’s all.  I remember thinking, “Umm…okay?  I don’t know anything about her.  But okay, God.”  I went home and Googled Saint Agnes.  Turns out, she’s the patron saint of chastity.  And I had been praying about my unchaste relationship.  Go figure.

Today is the Memorial of Saint Agnes, Virgin and Martyr.  She was an early saint who was martyred for being a Christian who dismissed the pursuits of men because of her faith.  They attempted to burn her at the stake, but her body remained unburned, so they eventually beheaded her.  She was a teenager.  As I read today’s psalm (Psalm 40), I can almost hear these words coming out of Saint Agnes’s mouth as she is being put to death:

“Here am I Lord; I come to do your will.”

In the Gospel today, we read of Jesus performing healing miracles.  He had so many people approaching him for healings that he had to withdraw toward the sea, and the people still pursued him even there, from all over the region of Israel.  Scripture even tells us that Jesus was fearful of being crushed; that’s how many people we’re talking about! 

Just to give you an idea, it would take 6 hours to walk from Nazareth to the edge of the Sea of Galilee.  It would take 31 hours to walk from Jerusalem in Judea to the Sea of Galilee. 

Clearly, we’re not talking about taking a leisurely stroll to follow Jesus. 

Jesus intentionally drew far away from the crowds, and they pursued him nonetheless because they knew He could heal them.  They may not have known anything else about Him.  They just knew they could be healed.  And if you’re dealing with chronic pain or you’re possessed by a demon, that healing is probably worth the 31-hour walk. 

The last few verses of this Gospel passage can be confusing.  It says that after Jesus would remove an unclean spirit from a person, it would shout “You are the Son of God,” and Jesus would tell the spirit “not to make him known.”  This is what Theology calls the Messianic secret.  Jesus doesn’t want people to know that He is the Messiah.  And yet He has no problem performing miraculous healings in front of them. 

Why? 

I think it’s the same reason he whispered to me the name of Saint Agnes instead of some mystical word.   Because He wants me to get to know Him, not as a “Santa Claus” God who dispenses blessings on me like candy.  He wants me to come to know and love Him for who He is as the lover of my soul, not what He can do for me.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

Jenna McAndrew is the Director of Parish Services at a parish outside of Philadelphia and the host of A Shower of Roses, a weekly podcast which provides an explanation of the upcoming Sunday’s Mass readings. She has her Master’s degree in Religious and Pastoral Studies.  Jenna lives in the suburbs of Philadelphia with her wonderful, saintly husband, Paul.  She loves corgis, coffee, guitar, and writing music.  Follow her here or listen here.

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