Thursday, November 19, 2009

St. Agnes of Assisi 1197-1253

Agnes was the sister of St. Clare and her first follower. When Agnes left home two weeks after Clare’s departure, their family attempted to bring Agnes back by force. They tried to drag her out of the monastery, but all of a sudden her body became so heavy that several knights could not budge it. Her uncle Monaldo tried to strike her but was temporarily paralyzed. The knights then left Agnes and Clare in peace. Agnes matched her sister in devotion to prayer and in willingness to endure the strict penances which characterized their lives at San Damiano. In 1221 a group of Benedictine nuns in Monticelli (near Florence) asked to become Poor Clares. St. Clare sent Agnes to become abbess of that monastery. Agnes soon wrote a rather sad letter about how much she missed Clare and the other nuns at San Damiano. After establishing other Poor Clare monasteries in northern Italy, Agnes was recalled to San Damiano in 1253 when Clare was dying. Agnes followed Clare in death three months later. Agnes was canonized in 1753.

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke (19.41-44)

As Jesus approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace— but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognise the time of God's coming to you.

The Heart of Christ
(Homily by Fr. E.J.Tyler)

Consider the mythical gods of Babylonian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman and, say, Nordic religions. Religious myth is an important part of the life of man, and its meaning is the object of unending research. Consider the mythical figure of Baiame (or Daramulan) of the traditional Aboriginal religion of South East Australia, as reported by Howitt in the nineteenth century. Baiame is impressive. But of course, philosophy at its best - for example, the thought of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and the best systems that built on their foundations - attained far more to the truth of God than did religious myth. St Augustine considered Christianity as the successor, not of the religions of the ancient world, but of its philosophy. But for all its achievements, philosophy, of itself, also has serious limitations - especially, say, in envisaging God as a living person. Consider the conclusion of philosophy that the ultimate Foundation of this ever-changing world is pure Act, a simple actuality that excludes all potential. This provides an ultimate Principle accounting for a transient and changing world, but how is man to imagine or even conceive of this Principle as a living Person, with whom he can enter into some form of communion? Of course, this could be discussed in philosophical fashion at great length. My point here is that man longs for communion, and for all his best efforts, he could not apprehend God adequately as a living Person without the decisive help of God himself. Somehow he needs to encounter God, and not just reason to him. Enter the living God on this difficult scene. He takes his place on the very stage of human history, and does so as a concrete, living man. He can be heard, seen and touched. He can be imagined. This is the living God of all creation, pure Being, and the abiding Cause of all limited being. He takes on a shape, and he has a face. He can be approached with the utmost ease and befriended, and he means to befriend man. He appears as every bit a man, indeed he is fully and completely human in a way we are not - in the sense that there is no sin to spoil and warp his humanity. Just as he is utterly divine, so he is utterly human. In our Gospel today, he beholds the city of his love and considers its moral and spiritual state. Contemplating it, he breaks down in tears.

It is well to consider the implications of our scene in which the Son of God weeps. It is now no longer difficult for man to apprehend the living God as a real person. We are speaking here of a man whose spirit has depths beyond our imagining. The power, the resources and the life of the heart of Jesus Christ far exceed anything of our experience. In his spirit, Jesus Christ had strength and love that towered beyond compare. Here we see the sensitivity and feeling that marked this unique man of the ages. He beholds Jerusalem which he is soon to enter, and he weeps over its sin and hardness of heart. If Christ wept over Jerusalem, how he must have wept over Judas, a disciple of his special choice! We read that on an earlier occasion Christ was in confrontation with the leaders of the Jews, this time over his imminent action of healing on the Sabbath. Christ asked them to answer his question. They refused, because they knew they would be forthwith defeated in debate. They would not engage, so as not to be exposed to the light of his words. We read that Christ looked around on them in anger, and proceeded to cure the person on the Sabbath. Christ, full of holy love, was angry. We have here a living Person, one who was truly human, and one who has made it easy to imagine God as a living person. At the time of our Gospel scene today, which is to say just before his final entry into Jerusalem - but reported in a different Gospel - Christ goes to the tomb of Lazarus his friend. We read that before he raised him from the tomb, he wept. This is the living God who invites us to be his friend. Let us often think of Christ in tears over fallen, wayward, stubborn, sinful man. Christ weeps for each one of us, and with his tears rolling down his strong face he calls us to him. He said of Jerusalem that he had wished to gather its children to him as a hen gathers its chicks under its wings, but they refused. What we are speaking of here is the living heart of God. Jesus Christ reveals to us that God has a heart. He is not just the Principle behind all things, but the Person we have been made to relate to.

Let us place ourselves in the Gospel scene of today (Luke 19: 41-44), and near to Jesus Christ as he beholds the city of his love. That city had been the love of God’s heart for centuries - and his Temple, his abode among his chosen people, was there. Jesus Christ gazes on the city and he weeps. He has a great heart and that same heart loves you and me. Let us be devoted to the heart of Christ and let us, by the power of grace, strive to model our hearts on his. Learn from me, he said, for I am gentle and humble of heart. That is what grace can do - it can transform us into his likeness.

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