January 20, 1998

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vol. 9
no. 14

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GOSPEL Reading and Reflections for the Mass of the day

TUESDAY, January 20, 1998

Tuesday, January 20: Weekday in the Second Week of Ordinary Time and
The Feast of Pope Saint Fabian and Saint Sebastion, Martyrs

      First Reading: I Samuel 16: 1-13
      Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 89: 20-22, 27-28
      Gospel Reading: Mark 2: 23-28

Saint Fabian, Pope and Martyr
Both Pope Saint Fabian and Saint Sebastian lived in the 3rd Century and both were martyred for their faith. We will first cover St. Fabian who was the 20th pope in the succession of Saint Peter, reigning from 236 to 253. He lived during the same time as Saint Antony of Egypt. Legend has it that Fabian was selected as pontiff because a dove, representative of the Holy Spirit was seen resting above his head during the conclave to elect a successor to Pope Saint Anterus. None of his fellow electors had even considered Fabian until this phenomenon. Fabian was born in Rome and elected Pope on January 10, 236. Though the times were wrought with persecutions under the Emperior Maximinus at Fabian's election and later at his death under the ruthless reign of Roman Emperor Decius the time between was an unprecedented time of peace, prosperity and growth for Holy Mother Church in the early years. Under Maximinus' successor Emperor Gordian III and his predecessor Emperor Philip the Arab Roman persecution of the Christians was disallowed. This enabled Fabian and other Christians to recover the slain bodies of previous popes to give them proper respect and burials, as well as reorganizing the local clergy in Rome by diving the city into seven ecclesiastical districts with a deacon, subdeacon and six junior assistants in charge of each district or deaneries which allowed for the Church to become more closely knit as Holy Mother Church experienced great growth. Fabian openly appointed bishops throughout Rome and was ready to expand when Decius succeeded Philip. Seeing the growth of Christianity and fearing his power would be diminished, he reinstituted persecution of the Christians with a vengeance. His decree forced many out of Rome and led to the rise of hermetical life in Egypt and elsewhere with the emergence of the anchorites, led by the founder St. Anthony of Egypt. On January 20, 250 Fabian was arrested and and became the first to die as an example to all Christians. How he died is not known but he was brutally beaten in prison and it is presumed he died there. He was later buried in the papal crypt in the cemetary of Callistus. Today his remains lie in the church of San Sebastiano in Rome, whose feast he shares with Saint Sebastian.

Saint Sebastian, Martyr

Born shortly after Pope Fabian's death, Saint Sebastian became a Roman army officer and converted to Christianity, rescuing Christians who had been unjustly accused. He discovered that Christian twin brothers Marcus and Marcellinus, who had been imprisoned and tortured, were close to succumbing to the enticing offers of pagan relatives to give up their faith. Sebastian encouraged them to stand by Christ and die for Him if necessary. This was confirmed by a miraculous light shining about him as he spoke. Sebastian cured countless sick through prayer and, by his example, led many pagans to the true faith. He encouraged all to not be afraid to die for the faith for Heaven would be their reward for their loyalty to the Son of God. Sebastian even experienced a visit from one of his disciples who had been martyred. This disciple came back to tell him about Heaven and that his own time to die was at hand. Betrayed by a false disciple, he was condemned to death by the Emperor Diocletian and shot with arrows. Left for dead, he miraculously was healed by Divine intervention and proceeded to go right back into the teeth of the enemy, pleading for Diocletian to stop the senseless slaughter of Christians. But the emperor's soul was already satan's and he sentenced Sebastian to be beaten to death by brutal clubbing. This saint holds the honor of a double martyrdom. He is the patron saint of archers and athletes.

WEDNESDAY, January 21, 1998

Wednesday, January 21: Feast of Saint Agnes, Martyr

      First Reading: 1 Samuel 17: 32-33, 37-40
      Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 114: 1-2, 9-10
      Gospel Reading: Mark 3: 1-6

Saint Agnes, Virgin and Martyr
Martyred for her faith at the early age of twelve, Saint Agnes was one of the youngest-known named martyrs in the Communion of Saints. She was born into a wealthy Roman aristocratic family and was remarkable for her beauty as a child. But the true beauty was interior and as a youth she vowed to live a life of purity and chastity, consecrating herself as a virgin. Even though she was not yet a teen, Roman suitors courted her trying to seduce her but she refused all advances. Word reached the Roman Emperor Diocletian who was relentless in his persecution of Christians. Rather than killing her right away, Diocletian's men sought to discredit her by making her a prostitute and that would further discredit Christianity and dissuade others from becoming Christians. Naturally Agnes rejected all advances and refused to give in to the sins of the flesh. This further infuriated Diocletian and his cohorts who dragged her before the governor. He ordered that she be thrown into the fire. God preserved her beauty inside and out by allowing her to emerge unscathed. The governor then ordered that she be beheaded in a public display but even this the executioner botched, stabbing her in the throat where she died professing her undying loyalty to her One, True God in 304. She was buried on the Via Nomentana where a cemetary stands in her name. Over the centuries Agnes, which means "chaste" in Greek, has become the standard for chastity, purity and virginal innocence and she is always depicted with a lamb - the Lamb of God - Agnus Dei.

    January 20, 1998 volume 9, no. 14     LITURGY

January 1998