Saturday, 21 January 2017 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard about the sacrifice of Christ our Lord, our High Priest, which He had made for our sake. He is the Lamb of God, the Lamb of sacrifice, Who had offered none other than His own Blood, His own Flesh for our sake. In order to understand this fully, the whole significance of it, we need to understand what is the meaning of sacrifice which is offered for the sake of someone’s sins.

In the Sacred Scriptures, ever since the beginning of time, the people of God, mankind had offered sacrifices to God, from the offerings of Abel and Cain, to thw offering of Noah after the Great Flood, to the offering of Abraham our father in faith, to the offering of Melchizedek, the King of Salem, to the offering of the prophets from the days of Moses to the days of the kings of Israel and Judah. All of these sacrifices are meant to honour and glorify the Lord, to offer Him worship and praise, and at the same time also for the forgiveness of one’s sins.

In the days of old, the priests were instructed by the laws which God passed down to Moses, to sprinkle some of the blood of the sacrificial lamb on the people. The blood therefore represents cleansing, the purification of one from his or her sins, and at the same time, also a renewal of the covenant which they had made with the Lord their God. The sacrifice to God is the sign of the formalisation of the covenant between God and His people, as what Abraham had done when God made the covenant with him, and which Moses then renewed as he led the people of Israel out of Egypt.

But as mentioned in the Epistle to the Hebrews, the power of the blood of goats, lambs and heifers, the offering of worldly and earthly sacrifices are limited. Such was the great extent, weight and consequences of our sins, the whole sum of the sins of all mankind, both past, present and the future, that no amount of animal sacrifices and offerings can replace them, save that of the worthy Lamb of God.

Nothing is more perfect than God, and therefore since God Himself had descended into this world as a Man, Jesus Christ, He has Himself become the Lamb of sacrifice and the High Priest at the same time, as the One Who purifies the people of God, not by other blood or sacrifices, but by His very own Blood, the perfect offering of Himself. It was the ultimate and selfless sacrifice, which overcome the sins caused by the selfishness and greed of our ancestors.

It was God’s love that made all of them possible. Otherwise, what God had done would have been incomprehensible to us. But indeed, God’s ways are not like our ways, and while we think that something is impossible for us to do, for God nothing is impossible. All things are possible for Him, including our salvation, our liberation and freedom from our sinfulness.

And yet, despite this great love shown to us by our God, there are still those who have not accepted that love, and even rejected Him, those who refused to open their hearts to welcome the Lord. Even Jesus was rejected by His own disciples and His own relatives, as we witnessed in the Gospel passage today, when His own relatives said that He was out of His mind because of what He was doing with the people.

The same therefore will happen to us, even as Jesus Himself had prophesied on how everything will turn out to be for us, all those who follow Him and walk in His ways. The world will reject that love which God had poured on it, and there will be many people who do not walk in His ways. But how do we then react to this? How do we face the challenges that will come our way? Then we really should look up the example of St. Agnes the Great, the holy martyr of the faith, whose feast we are celebrating today.

St. Agnes lived during the time of great difficulty for the Christian faith, where the Church and the faithful came under constant attacks from the Roman authorities, who were decidedly against the faith, and who persecuted many of those who profess their faith to God. It was during the reign of one of the most hostile Emperors that St. Agnes lived in, during the time of the Emperor Diocletian, infamous for his brutal persecution of Christians.

St. Agnes was born into a Roman noble family, and because of her family’s background, had had many suitors since her very young age. But she would not give in to their pursuits and evaded them, determined to maintain her virginity and purity, which she offered and dedicated to the Lord. But those men who wanted to have her were not happy being rejected, and therefore, they accused her before the authorities and reported that she was a Christian.

Later on she was persecuted, tortured and made to endure many humiliations at the hands of those who hated and rejected her. But St. Agnes did not give up and neither did she fight back, instead putting her complete trust in the Lord through prayer, she gave up her life, knowing that by doing so, she was doing the will of God, and also at the same time showing many others the inspiration and the way forward in their faith towards God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we look upon the examples of St. Agnes the holy martyr, let us all from now on devote ourselves wholeheartedly to the Lord in the same manner as she had done in the past. Let us be genuine in our faith, and be ready to defend it against the opposition and challenges from the world, which will surely come our way in the future, if not already happening at the present.

May the Lord help us all to remain committed to Him, and may He empower each and every one of us to live in faith, and to give ourselves to Him, that in all the things we say, we do and we act, we will always bring glory to Him and be found worthy of Him. Let us appreciate what the Lord had done for us, because He has loved us, and by that love, He has saved us by His own death on the cross. May God bless us all. Amen.

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