Wednesday, 5 February 2020 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agatha, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are told first of all, of another occurrence when king David of Israel sinned against God besides his adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of his captain Uriah. King David wanted to know the might of his power and the glory of his kingdom and thus, he asked Joab his commander to conduct a great census over all of Israel and Judah, which was abhorred by God because it implied that David had fallen into pride.

And David only realised his folly later on, when the Lord rebuked and reminded him of how futile his pursuits had been. For even if God were to grant him more people to rule over and even a greater kingdom to rule over, it was by the grace of God that David has enjoyed all the wonders and glory, and not by his own strength and power. At that moment, David gave in to his momentary weakness and allowed the devil to tempt him with the temptation of grandeur and worldly glory.

How is this then related to what we heard in our Gospel passage today? In that Gospel passage today we heard of how the Lord Jesus went to His own hometown, that is Nazareth, and began teaching and performing His works among His own townspeople, many of whom had known Him since He was still very young. Almost immediately they doubted and judged Him, wondering how the Son of a simple village carpenter could have spoken so well and performed so many wonders and miracles.

They questioned the Lord in that manner, and because of their lack of faith, the Lord could not do much work and progress in that area, a fact that He Himself lamented and He also mentioned how the prophets of old also devoted their time and efforts to bring God’s truth and guide the people into the right paths, and yet it was the same people who rejected the prophets and persecuted them. The people of Israel and Judah to whom the prophets belonged to refused to listen to them, although those prophets were known to them.

It was the people considered as pagans and idolaters that listened to the prophets, like the widow of Zarephath in Sidon who gave the prophet Elijah a lodging and food during his time away from the land of Israel. It was also Rahab the prostitute in Jericho who helped the scouts of the Israelites to hide from those who wanted to look for them. It was the Samaritans who welcomed the Lord Jesus when He was rejected by His own countrymen and even those from His own village.

All of these show us that when we mankind become proud and allow ourselves to be swayed by the temptations of the devil, we will end up falling into his trap and we may be like those Israelites who failed to welcome and accept the truth of God through the prophets because they were too engrossed with themselves and their pursuits for worldly happiness and glory. The devil knows this very well and he will do whatever he can to prevent us from opening ourselves to God and allowing Him to touch our lives.

Are we willing and able to welcome the Lord into our hearts and open them for Him to enter? His own townspeople and countrymen rejected Him out of their pride and existing prejudices, their reluctance to listen and change according to what the Lord has revealed to them. But we can be better than them, and we are called to follow the Lord and be attuned to His truth and love. Today, we have a great example in St. Agatha, a great holy woman and martyr of the faith, who can inspire us through her life and faith how we should live our lives with faith.

St. Agatha, also known as St. Agatha of Sicily was one of the most highly venerated and famous saint of the early Church for her great courage in defending her faith. She was born into a noble family and encountered great trouble when a Roman prefect made advances on her and she rejected it because she dedicated herself in a holy vow of virginity to God. The Roman prefect, angered by her rejection, brought St. Agatha to be arrested and persecuted under the then vicious persecution of Christians by the Roman Emperor Decius.

Despite all the persecution and suffering that she had to face, St. Agatha refused to renounce her faith in God and she also was remembered for her prayer for courage before Lord, asking Him to guide and protect her as she was led like a lamb into the midst of wolves. She suffered all sorts of terrible torture and assault, humiliation and actions that would have made any other people to give up, but St. Agatha remained firm in her faith until she died in martyrdom eventually in prison. She remained true to her faith in God till the very end, and her example inspired many others through the centuries and more afterwards.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. Agatha has shown us what it means to truly have faith in God and to be faithful to Him, with a living and genuine faith that allow God to enter into our lives so that our lives and actions may be transformed by His grace and love. Are we able to devote ourselves to God in this manner? Are we able to spend our time and commit ourselves to God as St. Agatha and many other of our holy predecessors had done? Let us not allow the devil from penetrating into our hearts and minds, and definitely we must not allow him to tempt us into sin.

Let us all discern carefully the path that we will take in life so that we may truly serve God with all of our hearts and minds from now on with faith, as St. Agatha and innumerable other saints and holy men and women of God had done. May the Lord help and guide us through this journey, and help us to resist the temptations of pride and desire, and love Him with ever greater devotion and sincerity from now on. Amen.