Saturday, January 21, 2017
Genesis, Chapter 46, Verse 3
Then he said: I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you a great nation.
At times God asks us to go down into our personal Egypt’s; so he can make us more by raising us up.
- I will observe your statutes; do not utterly forsake me. – Psalm 119:8
- Blessed is anyone who endures temptation. Such a one has stood the test and will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. – James 1:12
What is your “Egypt”? What is your temptation, your land of (empty) promise? What has placed you under bondage? For some it could be that “dream” job across the country. For others it could be that big house, or luxury car. Chances are, if you find yourself saying something like, “Things would better if I could only…”, then you have an “Egypt” of your own. In most cases your “Egypt” is really just another heap of steaming trouble, bundled in empty hope and wrapped with false promise. God knows that humility, and a sense of self-worth centered in God’s grace and not in “things” and “stuff” is what leads to a heart that is not been made cynical by the disappointments of materialism. A humble and compassionate heart is softer, fertile ground made ready and willing to love. We must find contentment in the immutable, in the unwavering God. Only then will the distractions, the idols, and the daily lies we tell ourselves to feel okay… only then will they start to fall away and we can be fully Present. Being Present means to exist fully in the now, in this moment. Not regretting the past, not worrying about the future, but fully mindful and present in the moment at hand. Then you would be able to give this text your full attention, and not simply a cursory scan. You would find yourself really listening to someone speaking, and not simply waiting for a chance to talk. And most importantly, your find yourself fully enjoying the presence of someone close to you, fully mindful that in an instant they could be gone. Our personal “Egypt” is a always a source of bondage and domination. We find ourselves broken through our pursuit of it, and God forbid, we attain it! Then we realize that its promise and hope were dust and dreams and there is nothing of substance to sustain us. Where do we turn to now? We’ve already spent ourselves trying to attain our own personal “Egypt”? We turn back to God. He is always ready and willing to perform the next personal Exodus out of another personal Egypt. And you will need God’s help, for the wisdom of the world and it’s Pharaohs will rise up to stop you the very moment you start to trust God’s immutable providence for your life: Wake up. Spread the blood of lamb on the lintels of your soul. Ask God for salvation from bondage to your own personal Egypt, and God will act in your life.
Today we honor the martyrdom of Saint Agnes, a God-fearing child of 12, when she faced her death. Here is St. Ambrose’s account of her demise.
This treatise has a favorable beginning, since it is the birthday of the holy Virgin Agnes, of whose name, modesty, and martyrdom St. Ambrose speaks in commendation, but more especially of her age, seeing that she, being but twelve years old, was superior to terrors, promises, tortures, and death itself, with a courage wholly worthy of a man.
And my task begins favorably, that since today is the birthday of a virgin, I have to speak of virgins, and the treatise has its beginning from this discourse. It is the birthday of a martyr, let us offer the victim. It is the birthday of St. Agnes, let men admire, let children take courage, let the married be astounded, let the unmarried take an example. But what can I say worthy of her whose very name was not devoid of bright praise? In devotion beyond her age, in virtue above nature, she seems to me to have borne not so much a human name, as a token of martyrdom, whereby she showed what she was to be.
But I have that which may assist me. The name of virgin is a title of modesty. I will call upon the martyr, I will proclaim the virgin. That panegyric is long enough which needs no elaboration, but is within our grasp. Let then labour cease, eloquence be silent. One word is praise enough. This word old men and young and boys chant. No one is more praiseworthy than he who can be praised by all. There are as many heralds as there are men, who when they speak proclaim the martyr.
She is said to have suffered martyrdom when twelve years old. The more hateful was the cruelty, which spared not so tender an age, the greater in truth was the power of faith which found evidence even in that age. Was there room for a wound in that small body? And she who had no room for the blow of the steel had that wherewith to conquer the steel. But maidens of that age are unable to bear even the angry looks of parents, and are wont to cry at the pricks of a needle as though they were wounds. She was fearless under the cruel hands of the executioners, she was unmoved by the heavy weight of the creaking chains, offering her whole body to the sword of the raging soldier, as yet ignorant of death, but ready for it. Or if she were unwillingly hurried to the altars, she was ready to stretch forth her hands to Christ at the sacrificial fires, and at the sacrilegious altars themselves, to make the sign of the Lord the Conqueror, or again to place her neck and both her hands in the iron bands, but no band could enclose such slender limbs.
A new kind of martyrdom! Not yet of fit age for punishment but already ripe for victory, difficult to contend with but easy to be crowned, she filled the office of teaching valour while having the disadvantage of youth. She would not as a bride so hasten to the couch, as being a virgin she joyfully went to the place of punishment with hurrying step, her head not adorned with plaited hair, but with Christ. All wept, she alone was without a tear. All wondered that she was so readily prodigal of her life, which she had not yet enjoyed, and now gave up as though she had gone through it. Everyone was astounded that there was now one to bear witness to the Godhead, who as yet could not, because of her age, dispose of herself. And she brought it to pass that she should be believed concerning God, whose evidence concerning man would not be accepted. For that which is beyond nature is from the Author of nature.
What threats the executioner used to make her fear him, what allurements to persuade her, how many desired that she would come to them in marriage! But she answered: It would be an injury to my spouse to look on any one as likely to please me. He who chose me first for Himself shall receive me. Why are you delaying, executioner? Let this body perish which can be loved by eyes which I would not. She stood, she prayed, she bent down her neck. You could see the executioner tremble, as though he himself had been condemned, and his right hand shake, his face grow pale, as he feared the peril of another, while the maiden feared not for her own. You have then in one victim a twofold martyrdom, of modesty and of religion. She both remained a virgin and she obtained martyrdom.
Pray that we may emulate Agnes who was martyred rather than forsake her betrothal to Christ and exhibited the traits of a true marriage.
9 Days for Life is an annual period of prayer and action focused on cherishing the gift of every person's life.
Surrounding the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children*, the overarching intention of the centerpiece novena is the end to abortion.
However, the novena also highlights many other facets of respecting each other's God-given dignity, especially by respecting human life at every stage and in every circumstance.
9 Days for Life is an opportunity to:
- PRAY for the respect and protection of each person's life;
- GATHER together in prayer, action, and fellowship with others;
- SHARE your stories online!
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