St Agatha (5 February)

Hebrews 13:15-17,20-21; Psalm 22:1-6(LXX); Mark 6:30-34

The apostles rejoined Jesus and told him all they had done and taught. Then he said to them, ‘You must come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while’; for there were so many coming and going that the apostles had no time even to eat. So they went off in a boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves. But people saw them going, and many could guess where; and from every town they all hurried to the place on foot and reached it before them. So as he stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he set himself to teach them at some length.  (Mk 6.30-34)

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I know what I should hear in these passages (all of which refer to the Lord as a shepherd), taken together: I should remember that the Lord is indeed my shepherd, and rest in him. Instead, my first thought is, Jesus knew exactly what motherhood is like: just when you think you’ll have a moment’s rest and peace, the needs of the ‘flock’ insist on being met. And your heart goes out to them, and you set yourself to doing what needs to be done.

This, I tell my husband, is why I like to go to daily Mass. If it is at all possible, I go: there I get to be the sheep. There the Lord restores my soul, feeds me and gives me rest. The Lord is indeed my shepherd: he gives me everything I need, and I am glad.

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The Office of Readings (http://www.universalis.com/0/i-readings.htm) for St Agatha’s feast day includes the following:

From a homily on Saint Agatha by Saint Methodius of Sicily, bishop
The gift of God, the source of all goodness

My fellow Christians, our annual celebration of a martyr’s feast has brought us together. She achieved renown in the early Church for her noble victory; she is well known now as well, for she continues to triumph through her divine miracles, which occur daily and continue to bring glory to her name.
  She is indeed a virgin, for she was born of the divine Word, God’s only Son, who also experienced death for our sake. John, a master of God’s word, speaks of this: He gave the power to become children of God to everyone who received him.
  The woman who invites us to this banquet is both a wife and virgin. To use the analogy of Paul, she is the bride who has been betrothed to one husband, Christ. A true virgin, she wore the glow of pure conscience and the crimson of the Lamb’s blood for her cosmetics. Again and again she meditated on the death of her eager lover. For her, Christ’s death was recent, his blood was still moist. Her robe is the mark of her faithful witness to Christ. It bears the indelible marks of his crimson blood and the shining threads of her eloquence. She offers to all who come after her these treasures of her eloquent confession.
  Agatha, the name of our saint, means “good.” She was truly good, for she lived as a child of God. She was also given as the gift of God, the source of all goodness to her bridegroom, Christ, and to us. For she grants us a share in her goodness.
  What can give greater good than the Sovereign Good? Whom could anyone find more worthy of celebration with hymns of praise than Agatha?
  Agatha, her goodness coincides with her name and way of life. She won a good name by her noble deeds, and by her name she points to the nobility of those deeds. Agatha, her mere name wins all men over to her company. She teaches them by her example to hasten with her to the true Good. God alone.
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