The Readings today warns against misplaced priorities. The first one is about infidelity in marriage. The author reminds his readers to keep the marriage bed undefiled and he gives a reason: God will judge fornicators and adulterers. The Gospel shows us what happens when one’s heart has hardened against the commandment of God to keep away from adultery. Herod was king, yet he could not break from his adulterous relation with his sister-in-law. And even as Herod feared John the Baptist, he had John arrested and put in prison, because John rebuked Herod for his adultery.
The First Reading also warns Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have. We are not to let our desire for riches (and with it, power, authority) rule our lives. Herod showed what happens when he let his desire for approval and power forced him to have John the Baptist beheaded.
The warnings in the First Reading on adultery and desire for money help us keep the ninth and tenth commandments: You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife; You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods. When we covet, that tells us there is an emptiness in our lives. This emptiness is filled only by Jesus Christ. Which is why the First Reading tells us: God has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper: I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me.” Yes, God satisfies all our needs and we will not lack.
This pandemic may have disrupted our lives. We may be in want. But when we turn to the Lord, he promises, he will never leave us. He promises he will be our helper. Whatever comes, we will not be afraid.
St Agatha lived in the 3rd century. She was a Christian who made a vow of virginity, so that she rejected the proposal of the Roman governor. Hoping to force her to reject her faith, the governor threatened her with torture and death. Agatha stood fast in her faith saying: Jesus Christ, Lord of all, you see my heart, you know my desires. Possess all that I am. I am your sheep: make me worthy to overcome the devil. The governor imprisoned Agatha in a brothel but later took her out hoping she would lose her faith. Despite threats and actual torture, she remained steadfast in her faith. Her body was torn by iron hooks, burned and whipped. Her breasts were cut off and sentenced to be burned on the stake. There was an earthquake that prevented her execution and she was put back in prison where St Peter appeared to her and healed her wounds. St Agatha died in prison. Her name is in the Eucharistic prayer recited by the priest at mass. St Agatha shows us that our desire should be Jesus Christ and we should ask Jesus to posses us fully. She admitted her nothingness before Jesus which is why she was able to endure all the torture done on her.
Jesus Christ, Lord of all, you see my heart, you know my desires. Possess all that I am. I am your sheep: make me worthy to overcome the devil. St Agatha, pray that I may submit myself to Jesus.