Wednesday, January 20, 2010


“St. Agnes”
by Domenichino, c. 1620 


Biographical Information about St. Agnes[1]

Readings for the Memorial of St. Agnes

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 23:1b-3a, 4, 5, 6

R. (1) The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
Beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.

R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
With your rod and your staff
that give me courage.

R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want,

Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
And I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.

R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Commentary on
Ps 23:1b-3a, 4, 5, 6

Psalm 23 is one of the most familiar songs in the entire psalter. “God's loving care for the psalmist is portrayed under the figures of a shepherd for the flock (Psalm 23:1-4) and a host's generosity toward a guest (Psalm 23:5-6). The imagery of both sections is drawn from traditions of the exodus (Isaiah 40:1149:10Jeremiah 31:10).” [3] While the theme of Shepherd is mentioned in the first strophe, the psalm really speaks to the peace given to those who follow the Lord and place their trust in Him, even into the “dark valley.”

The reference in the third strophe above: “'You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes' occurs in an exodus context in Psalm 78:19. As my enemies watch: my enemies see that I am God's friend and guest. Oil: a perfumed ointment made from olive oil, used especially at banquets (Psalm 104:15Matthew 26:7Luke 7:3746John 12:2).”[3]

CCC: Ps 23:5 1293
Matthew 13:44-46

Jesus said to his disciples:
"The Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field,
which a person finds and hides again,
and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Again, the Kingdom of heaven is tike a merchant
searching for fine pearls.
When he finds a pearl of great price,
he goes and sells all that he has and buys it."

Commentary on
Mt 13:44-46

The parable of the buried treasure and the parable of the pearl have the same point. One who understands the Kingdom of Heaven and sees its worth joyfully places obtaining that promise before all else. It is the primacy of Christ’s teaching that guides the disciple in all things. While these two parables have generally the same meaning, it is interesting to note they have some subtle differences. The parable of the hidden treasure which is found by accident refers to an abundance of gifts.  The parable of the pearl sought out through diligence refers to the beauty of the Kingdom of God.

“Anyone who understands the Kingdom which Christ proposes realizes that it is worth staking everything to obtain it […]. The Kingdom of heaven is difficult to win.  No one can be sure of achieving it, but the humble cry of the repentant man can open wide its doors” (St. Josemaria Escriva, Christ Is Passing By, 180). [4]

CCC: Mt 13:44-45 546

The example of St. Agnes is one of fidelity to the faith in the face of ultimate opposition. St. Agnes was ordered to sacrifice to pagan gods and when she did not, she was condemned. According to tradition, marriage was offered as a means by which she could avoid this fate. However, she was adamant in her refusal, stating that she was married to Christ and would meet him with her virginity intact.

We pray that we are never put to such a test. We also pray that even in smaller challenges to our faith, we might remember the words of the Gospel and cherish the great gift God has given us with the fervor we would show for any possession of great value. Too often we take for granted that Christ will always be there for us without any effort on our parts. Indeed, Jesus is always there and we may reach out to him. But, if we have drifted too far away from him, our reach may not be long enough to grasp his outstretched hand.

St. Agnes accepted Christ as her spouse and as consequence of her love for him, the Holy Spirit sustained her as she was tortured and killed. We ask for her prayers today. May we be given the strength of faith to stand fast in the face of adversity and show our love of Christ in all we do.


[1] The Picture is “St. Agnes” by Domenichino, c. 1620 
[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. 
[3] See NAB Footnote on Psalm 23
[4] The Navarre Bible, “Gospels and Acts”, Scepter Publishers, Princeton, NJ, © 2002, pp. 136

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