Spiritual Thought for Today Archive Week #17


St. Agnes

St. Agnes has often been looked at as the model of purity in the church; indeed preserving her purity seems to have been the chief motivation of her martyrdom.

The seductions began but Agnes was steadfast, she would have no spouse but Jesus Christ.

She suffered terrible tortures but when confronted with a choice to offer incense to the Emperor she moved her hand only to trace the sign of the cross on her forehead.

She was then sent to a house of prostitution where she would be exposed to the most brutal attack on her prized purity. "You may stain your sword with my blood, but you will never be able to profane my body, consecrated to Christ," was her reply.

Several ran for the opportunity to ruin her but most were converted by her except one who tried to violate her and was promptly struck blind. His friends took their blind friend back to her and she healed him, he then went off to the governor and said that her life must be ended. This act of vindictiveness led to her being beheaded.

She was 13 years old at the time of her martyrdom.

I purposely saved the last line for last. Agnes was a little girl when all of this happened. Granted she lived in a time where women were taken at a young age to be wives but still she was a little girl.

There is something of her story that bespeaks of the power of innocence that refuses to be corrupted and perhaps that is the glory of Agnes.

She had an ideal and she refused to be co-opted. It is said, "she went to the executioner more cheerfully than others go to their wedding."

There is a lot that is disturbing about the story of Agnes but certainly not Agnes herself. She stands as a woman who was freed by her relationship with Jesus to stand against the cultural norms of her time.

Fabian the Pope

Today's feast day commemorates one of the stranger moments in Church History. Fabian was a layman (not an ordained priest) who was elected Pope reportedly because a dove landed on his head.

Now I could speculate as to why the dove landed on Fabian's head but I won't and I'm not sure if it matters. What matters is that the people around Fabian felt that it meant that Fabian was God's choice to be Pope.

Its a small thing this dove landing on the future Pope's head but in many ways it is the stuff that life is made up of, unexpected events that lead to unexpected results.

Fabian went from Layman to Pope and ultimately to martyr.

What will today's events bring us to?

#2

Sacred Art of Remembering

"Therefore my advice to you, friends, is to turn aside from troubled and anxious reflection on your own progress, and escape to the easier paths of remembering the good things God has done; in this way, instead of becoming upset by thinking about yourself, you will find relief by turning your attention to God..." St. Bernard of Clairvaux

The celebration of the Mass is essentially is an act of remembering and in that process making present the greatest thing thing that God has done for us. We should imitate that act throughout the day fulfilling the command of Jesus at every momemt to "Remember me."

When we awake, as we drive to work, as we eat, while we talk to friends and as we look to the future: remember Jesus.

#3

When didn't we see you?

"Lord, when did we see you?"

In Matthew 25 Jesus describes the judgment of the nations (the unbelievers) and we are all familiar with the basic ignorance that the judgment entails the people who did not know Jesus are surprised when they find that the way they treated one another was an encounter with the Lord.

Christians can not claim the same ignorance!

We know the teaching of Jesus and we know that we are to love even our enemies. There can be no Samaritans in the Christian's life.

That having been said it is very sad indeed that one still encounters too much racism in converstation with other Christians. Nearly 2000 years have passed since Jesus trod on the earth and taught and yet many of us are still closer to being labeled unbelievers. Many of us will probably be judged with the rest of the unbelievers and will be surprised that the person we labeled as "different" and rejected was non other than Jesus.

It will be a sad day when we who should have known better join those who didn't and ask, "When did we see you Lord?"

A Christian should ask "When didn't we see you Lord?" Pray to Jesus to be released from the slavery of prejudice that keep you from seeing the giftedness of all of God's creation so that you may be free at last!

#4

Behold the Lamb!

"Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!"

I'm sure the Gospel passage of today will merit at least a chuckle or two from some of my seminary friends who remember a presentation that we used to do about this passage.

It was nothing less than an imitation of the great Archbishop Fulton Sheen's treatment of the text starting with the question of Isaac to Abraham, "Father there is the wood for the sacrifice but where is the Lamb." Abraham looking at his son who he even thought was the sacrifice answered wisely "God will provide." Then Sheen would go through Israel's history and the constant slaughter of lambs that sacrificially would take away their sins but really the question still remained, "WHERE IS THE LAMB?" Then with Sheen bravado he would almost in a whisper set up the scene of today's Gospel, a hazy day in the desert and suddenly John the Baptist sees an image emerging from the haze of Israel's history and as he approaches he cries out (and Sheen really did scream at this point as did those of us who imitated him), "There's the Lamb!"

There is something about this Gospel that gets my blood flowing. We all are looking for something...

It might be that which we think would make us complete; it might be something else. We will look many places for it, and perhaps there will be many sacrificial lambs along the way.

Look through the mist of the desert today and see the answer, "THERE IS THE LAMB OF GOD WHO TAKES AWAY THE SIN OF THE WORLD!"

#5

Friend of Sinners

"Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners."

The simple truth of Jesus' remark is that there simply are no righteous people. It is an illusion, a sad one indeed. There are delusional people who think they are above the fray and do no wrong and there are people who think the rules apply to everyone but them. In the end there are no righteous people only sinners.

That may be the bad news but the good news is that Jesus came to save just such people as you and I not the "holier than thou" crowd. So let us be careful never to look down at another human being or to pass judgment on others. If someone is sick they need a doctor not a lecture.

May his healing hand touch you today!

#6

Which is Easier?

"Which is easier to say to the paralytic, `Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, `Rise, take up your pallet and walk?'"

I would contend that an argument for the accuracy of sayings of Jesus is their cryptic nature. Jesus never responds to controversy or a question in a way that is predictable. In fact as someone once noted an encounter with Jesus always leads to a question being asked--a mark of Jesus' Divine nature.

The question that Jesus asked his skeptics jumped out at me this morning. There is a haunting nature about it.

"Which is easier?"

Is it easier to tell someone that his or her sins are forgiven or is it easier to tell someone who is paralyzed to get up and walk?

The obvious answer would seem to be that it is easier to say "your sins are forgiven" but most of us realize the irony of the question when we put it to the test. If there is someone who has committed a sin against us can we forgive him or her easily or is it not true that we find we are paralyzed that there is something blocking us from uttering those words?

We all need someone to save us from our sins and someone to free us from our paralysis. Jesus is that someone.

#7

What Jesus Wills

"If You will, You can make me clean." Moved with pity, He stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, "I will; be clean."

The leper stepped out in faith and was answered very simply but effectively, "I will; be clean."

Sometime I think we are all like the leper. We sit and wait for something that is for our good but in the back of our mind we worry that God doesn't care about our personal plan for happiness.

Nothing could be further from the truth if we in fact our seeking God first, because only God knows what will make us truly happy. God is the source of all happiness and then everything else falls into place.

Our problem is that too often we go from one idol to another and then we are mad at God for not wanting us to be happy. How can we tell if we are guilty of this?

Who's will are we seeking?

The leper realizes that his health depends on the will of God. He cries out, "If you will..."

Jesus in the garden in the throes of human agony cries out, "Not my will but your will..."

Today let go of all the control and machination of you life for a second and pray "thy will be done."