Saint Agatha, Virgin and Martyr – Readings

Commentary on 1 Corinthians 1:26-31; Psalm 30; Luke 9:23-26

The Gospel reading comes from Luke’s gospel. It is part of the first prediction of Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection which follows immediately after Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus follows the prediction of what is going to happen to him by calling on his disciples to follow in his footsteps.

These words, of course, apply to all who carry the name ‘Christian’. Anyone who wants to be a follower of Jesus must be prepared to deny themselves and follow the Way of Jesus. The paradox, of course, is that such denial is a personal enrichment of one’s life. It is the setting aside of urges and appetites to be replaced by a life of love and fellowship and the care of one’s brothers and sisters.

For what does it profit them if they gain the whole world but lose or forfeit themselves?

These are words which Agatha clearly took to heart. No doubt if she had agreed to the proposals of her suitor, she could have led a life of great pleasure and luxury, but it would also have been a self-centred life of self-destructive indulgence. Our society today is full of such temptations.

In the First Reading which is taken from the First Letter to the Christians of Corinth, Paul gives them words of encouragement. Most of them are people of little account in their society. But Paul reminds them that:

God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong…

Agatha was a simple, defenceless girl. Her suitor, who was a powerful man in his society, thought she could be easily manipulated and tempted by what he had to offer. But she had an inner strength, based on her commitment to Christ and his Gospel, that he could not overcome either by cajoling or torturing.

The spirit of Agatha is very much needed in our pleasure-seeking society and in our Church today. Let me pray to have that spirit in me as the only way to true joy and peace and fulfilment.

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