MEMORIAL OF ST. AGATHA, VIRGIN AND MARTYR

February 5, 2019

Hebrews 12: 1-4

 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

 

Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

 

Psalm 22: 26-28, 30-32

 

From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
    my vows I will pay before those who fear him.
The poor shall eat and be satisfied;
    those who seek him shall praise the Lord.
    May your hearts live forever!

All the ends of the earth shall remember
    and turn to the Lord;
and all the families of the nations
    shall worship before him.

 

To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down;
    before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
    and I shall live for him.
Posterity will serve him;
    future generations will be told about the Lord,
and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn,
    saying that he has done it.

 

Mark 5: 21-43

 

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” So he went with him.

 

And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” He looked all around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

 

While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

 

(NRSVCE)

 

Meditation

 

“Let your faith be stronger than your fear,” reads a placard on a teacher’s desk. This is a strong theme in our Scriptures today. Fear can be such an integral part of our lives that we may not recognize the power it has over us. There is a healthy level of fear, when we talk about using prudence or keeping ourselves safe. God created us to experience fear as a protective measure against those things that can threaten our well-being. But in our human weakness, we can allow ourselves to over-apply fear and to allow it to keep us away from God. This type of fear will actually cause destruction in our lives, or at least stand in the way of God’s will for us.

 

The Gospel today tells us two stories of Jesus’ love and power to heal. Both situations involved people who were experiencing fear but came to Jesus anyway. The woman with the hemorrhage knew that Jesus could heal her, and came to Him for help, but when He called to her after she had been healed, she approached with fear and trembling. Perhaps she was afraid that she was not truly worthy of her healing. She had probably been stigmatized for her condition and felt ashamed to really bring it before Jesus. But Jesus knew her healing would not be complete until she brought it all before Him. His perfect will was for her to know that He desired her wholeness and to live in peace, knowing that He loved her and there was no going back.

 

Likewise, when Jairus received terrible news about his daughter, Jesus gave him orders: “Do not fear; only believe.” He also made sure no one was around who had chosen the fear, knowing that this choice had power. Choosing fear means choosing to keep a door closed where God might want to work. Choosing fear means closing our ears to what God’s will is because we think we already know the answer. But choosing faith means deciding to keep our eyes on the Lord and being open to however He desires to work. We get to choose what we believe and where we will look.

 

The passage from Hebrews encourages us to persevere in our walk of faith, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, no matter what we face or what reasons we might have to experience fear. When we feel powerless over sin, sickness, and death, remember that we have access to the One who has subjected all that under His feet, and we can choose what we believe about who has more power in our lives. Take some time today to bring everything before the Lord, particularly areas of your life where you feel fear, and allow Him to work on your heart, to strengthen your faith and help you keep your eyes on Him. Ask for the intercession of St. Agatha, a woman who held onto her faith in the face of horrific suffering, and other saints who have walked this road before you, and who allowed their faith to be stronger than fear.
 

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