Memorial of St. Agnes, virgin and martyr

Today's Mass Readings


We commemorate today the early Christian martyr, Saint Agnes of Rome. The entrance antiphon for this day is a profound statement about the meaning of her martyrdom: “Blessed is the virgin who by denying herself and taking up her cross imitated the Lord, the spouse of virgins and prince of martyrs.” Agnes yielded to the sword of the king rather than worship his gods or to forsake her life of virginity. In the first reading from 1 Sm 4:3-21, we hear of another sword, another king, and yet another type of self-sacrifice. David restrained himself from wielding the sword in revenge against the king and in reverence of God’s anointed one. The fact that David spared Saul’s life caused the king to repent of his evil intent: “You are in the right rather than I; you have treated me generously, while I have done you harm.” The responsorial refrain is Saul’s contrite prayer: “Have mercy on me, God, have mercy” (Ps 57:2a).

In the Gospel account from St. Mark (3:13-19), Jesus summoned his twelve Apostles and appointed them to go “forth to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.” These disciples will one day know the full meaning and cost of denying themselves and taking up the cross to follow in the footsteps of their Master. The communion refrain is a play upon the name “Agnes,” derived from the Latin word “agnus” and translated as “Lamb”: “The Lamb who is at the center of the throne will lead them to the springs of the waters of life” (Rv 7:17). It was indeed Christ the Lamb who was slain for our redemption who gave power and strength to the Apostles and to St. Agnes and brought them to drink from the waters of eternal life.

Prayer for Today: O Christ, Lamb of God, you sacrificed your life for our salvation. Help me to deny my own will and to follow you unreservedly that I may one day drink of the waters of life.

Reflection by Br. Michael Marcotte, OSB

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