Thursday, February 5, 2009


“Portrait of a Young Woman as Saint Agatha”
by Cariani (Giovanni Busi), 1516 - 1517 


Biographical Information about St. Agatha[1]

Readings for the Memorial of St. Agatha

Readings and Commentary:

1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Consider your own calling, brothers and sisters.
Not many of you were wise by human standards,
not many were powerful,
not many were of noble birth.
Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise,
and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong,
and God chose the lowly and despised of the world,
those who count for nothing,
to reduce to nothing those who are something,
so that no human being might boast before God.
It is due to him that you are in Christ Jesus,
who became for us wisdom from God,
as well as righteousness, sanctification, and redemption,
so that, as it is written,
Whoever boasts, should boast in the Lord.

Commentary on
1 Cor 1:26-31

St. Paul continues his attack onworldly wisdomby reminding the members of the church at Corinth that the community is comprised of all strata of society. He points out that all are called to the same Lord, and that the wisdom that is Jesus (“…who became for us wisdom from God”) makes them righteous, sanctified, and redeemed in him. It is for this reason that the only boast a Christian should make is in God. The evangelist does so, paraphrasing Jeremiah 9:23.
CCC: 1 Cor 1:27 489; 1 Cor 1:30 2813
Psalm 31:3cd-4, 6 and 8ab, 16bc and 17

R. (6) Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.

Be my rock of refuge,
a stronghold to give me safety.
You are my rock and my fortress;
for your name's sake you will lead and guide me.

R. Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
Into your hands I commend my spirit;
you will redeem me, O LORD, O faithful God.
I will rejoice and be glad because of your mercy.

R. Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
Rescue me from the clutches of my enemies and my persecutors,
Let your face shine upon your servant;
save me in your kindness.

R. Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
Commentary on
Ps 31:3cd-4, 6 and 8ab, 16bc and 17

This is an individual lament. The section links nicely to the death of martyrs with “Into your hands I commend my spirit” and “You hide them in the shelter of your presence from the plottings of men.” The psalmist gives us a song of faith very appropriate for the one who is put to the test for their faith. It is a prayer for rescue and a submission of will to God's saving power.

Luke 9:23-26

Jesus said to all,
“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself
and take up his cross daily and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
What profit is there for one to gain the whole world
yet lose or forfeit himself?
Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words,
the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his glory
and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels."

Commentary on
Lk 9:23-26

The Gospel takes up the theme of life and death, as Jesus first informs his disciples that he will undergo the “Passion” at the hands of the Jewish hierarchy (v.22) and be raised. He then provides this invitation to life, by contrasting, as Moses did in Deuteronomy 30:15-20, the (spiritual) salvation brought about through faith and the (eternal) death that awaits the faithless.

CCC: Lk 9:23 1435

St. Agatha is one of the Church’s early witnesses of heroic virtue. She was, according to tradition, martyred in Sicily during the persecution of Decius (250-253). Again according to tradition, she was young and beautiful. She dedicated herself to Christ at a young age and was the object of desire for the magistrate, Quinctianus, and when the ban on Christianity was published by Decius, he attempted to blackmail her into a sexual relationship. She refused and was handed over to the torturers where she steadfastly held to the faith in spite of excruciating tortures which will not be recounted here.

Her actions demonstrate the epitome of a lived expression of the Gospel passage we hear on her feast day. Truly she took up her cross and did not waiver in her love of Christ, forfeiting her earthly life for a place with the angels surrounding the throne of Heaven.

Her trust and faith in God, even in the face of certain death, is an example to us all of the unswerving commitment God expects from us. Imagine, we who feel threats through peer pressure, or social rejection because of the faith, complaining to the Father with St. Agatha at his side. It would be like standing in line at the heavenly gates behind Mother Theresa and hearing her tell St. Peter she is unworthy to enter heaven because of her lack of faith.

Today scripture enjoins us to live our faith in the world in spite of whatever hardships we face. Holy Mother Church holds up St. Agatha as our example, who held beauty, youth, and even life itself as a small price to pay for the love of Christ. Let us rededicate ourselves to this great undertaking and pray to her for intercession, that we might be given some small part of her holy strength.


[1] The picture used is “Portrait of a Young Woman as Saint Agatha” by Cariani (Giovanni Busi), 1516 - 1517 
[2] Text of Readings is taken from the New American Bible, Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 1973, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.

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