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Jesus, Our Mad Lover

Memorial of Saint Agnes, Virgin and Martyr

First Reading: Hebrews 9:2-3, 11-14

A tabernacle was constructed, the outer one,
in which were the lampstand, the table, and the bread of offering;
this is called the Holy Place.
Behind the second veil was the tabernacle called the Holy of Holies.

But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that have come to be,
passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made by hands,
that is, not belonging to this creation,
he entered once for all into the sanctuary,
not with the blood of goats and calves but with his own Blood,
thus obtaining eternal redemption.
For if the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkling of a heifer’s ashes
can sanctify those who are defiled
so that their flesh is cleansed,
how much more will the Blood of Christ,
who through the eternal spirit offered himself unblemished to God,
cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9

R. (6) God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.
All you peoples, clap your hands,
shout to God with cries of gladness,
For the LORD, the Most High, the awesome,
is the great king over all the earth.
R. God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.
God mounts his throne amid shouts of joy;
the LORD, amid trumpet blasts.
Sing praise to God, sing praise;
sing praise to our king, sing praise.
R. God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.
For king of all the earth is God:
sing hymns of praise.
God reigns over the nations,
God sits upon his holy throne.
R. God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.

Gospel: Mark 3:20-21

Jesus came with his disciples into the house.
Again the crowd gathered,
making it impossible for them even to eat.
When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him,
for they said, “He is out of his mind.”

NAB

When I first read the words of today’s Gospel, I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. In Saint Mark’s Gospel, Jesus has just appointed the twelve Apostles and quickly gained a following. He’s so popular that hoards of people are cramming themselves into a tiny house just to be close to Him. But outside there is a commotion, caused by, of all people, His family. The Lover of all mankind and the Savior of the world was accused of being crazy.

There is a real pain in being misunderstood. Saint Agnes, who’s feast day we celebrate, surely felt this when various suitors tried to persuade her to marry them. Saint Agnes was a virtuous and beautiful girl who had been raised in a Christian home and decided at a young age that Jesus was to be her only spouse. When she rejected the proposals of men for the love of Jesus, they became enraged, confining her to a brothel and employing many cruel methods of torture to convince her to abandon her promise.

Legend attributes many miracles to Saint Agnes’ life being spared, including her potential abusers being struck blind when they tried to assault her and flames parting to keep from burning her at the stake. Eventually, though, they succeeded and Saint Agnes was martyred in 304 at tender age of twelve or thirteen.

Why would this precious girl endure such horrors? Why not marry and continue to live a quiet life of love and service to Jesus Christ? I can’t help but wonder if she was a little out of her mind, too. But Saint Agnes had fallen in love with the Mad Lover, as Saint Catherine of Siena called Him. Just as Jesus didn’t shy away from the terrible pain of the cross for love of us, Saint Agnes wasn’t afraid to suffer for love of Him.

And that kind of love? It is crazy. So I don’t hurt for Jesus being misunderstood or Saint Agnes being tortured. Instead I am desperate to know the kind of crazy love that doesn’t fear death, that keeps on loving despite rejection. I want to know the Mad Lover. And I’m asking Saint Agnes to pray that I might love Jesus with that same unrelenting love.

Through the intercession of Saint Agnes, meditate on the reality that you are already deeply loved by Jesus.

Beth Davis is a lover of Jesus, an aunt to five beautiful humans, and a full time youth minister in Flagstaff, Arizona. She is passionate about winning the hearts of young people for Jesus through discipleship. You can find out more about her here.

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