Reflection from the ‘Soul Institute’ Jan 21 feast of saint Agnes

St Paul tells us, “For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble;but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are.”

Pope Francis said recently, “That spiritual worldliness is a much greater danger to the Church than any moral evil.” Pope Francis says this about spiritual worldliness in ‘Joy of the Gospel’, “Spiritual worldliness, which hides behind the appearance of piety and even love for the Church, consists in seeking not the Lord’s glory but human glory and personal well-being. It is what the Lord reprimanded the Pharisees for: ‘How can you believe, who receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?'(Jn 5:44) It is a subtle way of seeking one’s ‘own interest’ not those of Jesus Christ.'(Phil 2:21) It takes on many forms, depending on the kinds of persons and groups into which it seeps. Since it is based on carefully cultivated appearances, it is not always linked to outward sin. But if it were to seep into the Church ‘it would be infinitely more disastrous than any other worldliness which is simply moral.” (JG 93)

He goes on to say, “This insidious worldliness is evident in a number of attitudes which appear opposed, yet all have the same pretense of ‘taking over the space of the Church.’ In some people we see an ostentatious preoccupation for the liturgy, for doctrines and for the Church’s prestige, but without any concern that the Gospel have a real impact in God’s faithful people and the concrete needs of the present time…It can also lead to a business mentality, caught up with management, statistics, plans and evaluations whose principal beneficiary is not God’s people but the Church as an institution.” (JG 95)

God loves to work through weak instruments to confound the proud. St Ambrose in today’s office of reading says this about Saint Agnes, “Today is the birthday of a virgin; let us imitate her purity. It is a birthday of a martyr; let us offer ourselves in sacrifice. It is the birthday of Saint Agnes, who is said ti have suffered martyrdom at the age of twelve. The cruelty that did not spare her youth shows all the more clearly the power of faith in finding one so young to bear it witness. There was so little room in that small body for a wound. Though she could scarcely receive the blow, she could rise superior to it. Girls of her age cannot bear even their parent’s frowns and, pricked by a needle, weep as for a serious wound. Yet she shows no fear of the bloodstained hands of the executioners. She stands undaunted by heavy, clanking chains. She offers her whole body to be put to the sword by fierce soldiers. She is too young to know of death, yet is ready to face it. Dragged against her will to the altars, she stretches out her hands to the Lord in the midst if the flames, making the triumphant sign of Christ the victor on the altar of sacrilege. She puts her neck and hands in the iron chains, but no chains can hold fast her tiny limbs.”

Thoughts for the day: The world looks at degrees. God looks at faith. God often chooses to give His gifts, charisms to the weakest among us. God does this to confound the proud. In our walk with God do we think and act like the world? Or do we think and act like Christ?

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