St. Agnes, virgin martyr
Hebrews 5:1-10 + Psalm 110 + Mark 2:18-22
January 21, 2013
“ ‘Rather, new wine is poured into fresh wineskins.’ ” [Mark 2:22]
One possible entrance antiphon for the memorial of Saint Agnes begins, “Behold, now she follows the Lamb who was crucified for us…” [Common of Martyrs]. This antiphon plays on the similarity of Agnes’ name to the Latin word for “lamb”, “agnus”. Iconography of St. Agnes often portrays her embracing a tiny lamb, and on her feast day at the Vatican sheep are shorn for the wool from which pallia are made for archbishops who will be appointed in the new year.
But unlike the nursery rhyme Mary whose little lamb was sure to go everywhere she went, Agnes followed the Lamb of God even to Calvary. In the lives of the martyrs we see living examples of a verse from Saint Paul that sometimes confuses Christians: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church…” [Colossians 1:24]. How can anything be lacking in Christ’s afflictions? Wasn’t His self-sacrifice on Calvary perfect? This line of questioning parallels an argument against Catholic teaching that the Mass “re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross…” (CCC 1366).
The only thing lacking in Christ’s afflictions is that becoming incarnate, Jesus entered into time, and in his historical body could live only at one point in history. But by entering into the Church, which is the Mystical Body of Christ, the baptized (including the martyrs, and you and I) make Christ present in every century and every place where Christians live out the Gospel. Through the members of His Mystical Body, Christ is present throughout the ages. The faithful are nourished to follow the Lamb where He leads through the Sacrifice of the Mass, the source and summit of our Christian life.