Today we honour the memory of Saint Agatha. The only facts we have about her is that she was born in Sicily and died there a martyr. The rest is legend. And legend tells us that Saint Agatha suffered dreadfully for her faith and kept firm to the end. She is the heavenly patron of women who suffer sexual assault and indignity, and we ask her protection for all women in danger, especially from their own husbands.
One line that stands out for me today in the gospel is: ‘They anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.’ (Mark 6:13) Now, this verse makes it sound as if the Apostles had nothing but success in their ministry, that every person they prayed for was healed. But we know that isn’t the case. Remember how they couldn’t cast out a demon from a young man while Jesus was on the Mount of Transfiguration (Mark 9:14-29).
The Apostles were just like us, limited human beings whose prayers aren’t always answered and who don’t always get it right. We may think that we will never be able to do what they did, but even they didn’t do it all the time. And it’s not just about performing miracles. Peter, the anointed leader of the Apostles denied even knowing Jesus, and Thomas doubted that Our Lord had risen from the dead.
The Apostles’ successes and mistakes show that they are no different from us. Sometimes they prayed for someone to be healed, and nothing happened. Like them, we can pray for healing and not detect any change at all, not even over a period of time. Sometimes, the Apostles got into selfish arguments with each other. And like them, we may be having a hard time forgiving someone who has hurt us. Even Our Lord’s hand-picked Apostles had the same struggles.
But despite all this, God wants us to keep praying. Remember how Saint Paul asked Our Lord three times to remove a spiritual thorn from his side, but Our Lord told him: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Whatever our situation, Our Lord will give us the grace to keep following him. And often without our knowing how, we’ll find his grace at work in our lives.
And so, it’s up to us to persevere and to be faithful. We need to learn from our mistakes and believe that we have been chosen to assist Our Lord in building up his Kingdom here on earth. We just need to focus on what comes next, one step at a time, and we will surely see progress. This is what the Apostles did, and look what happened to them.