21st January. Tuesday in the Second Week
Saint Agnes, virgin and martyr.
Agnes (291-304) was born noble parents in Rome and raised in a Christian family. She suffered martyrdom in her thirteenth year, in defence of her virginity, January 304, in the reign of Emperor Diocletian.
1st Reading: 1 Samuel 16:1-13
(Samuel goes to Bethlehem and anoints Jesse’s youngest son, David, as king.)
The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.” And the Lord said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.” Samuel did what the Lord commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, “Do you come peaceably?” He said, “Peaceably! I have come to sacrifice to the Lord; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.
When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.” But the Lord sid to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.” Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.” He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.” Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.
Gospel: Mark 2:23-28
(Jesus defends them for eating on the Sabbath, for the Sabbath was made for us, not we for the Sabbath.)
One Sabbath he was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the Bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.” Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for human beings, and not humans for the Sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”
Are we ministering life?
The Scriptures alert us to possibilities that lie hidden within the most ordinary events. Routine encounters with the family and friends we regularly meet, may seem humdrum to us. Yet they can hold the key to our peace and holiness in God’s sight. It was not David’s older, stronger brothers that God chose; it was the young lad himself, because of what God saw in him. For “the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
Some questions about life-enhancement are raised by today’s readings – questions which are echoed in some of pope Francis’ recent homilies: Do I put my life actively at the service of others, seeking to serve them in the ways that modern people need, if they are to hear the Gospel? Am I appreciative of the potential in other people, and of my own, despite my limitations? Am I minister of life, delighted in all of its expressions, dedicated to its preservation and extension? How well do I incarnate the positive principle state by Jesus, when interpreting tradition: “The Sabbath was made for human beings, and not humans for the Sabbath.”? Such questions were raised by pope Francis in his message about a Gospel of Joy, and they invite us (priests especially) to ponder, are we ministering life?