Feb 11-16: Feb 11 Monday (Our Lady of Lourdes): Mk 6:53-56: It was four years after the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception by Blessed Pius IX (1854) that Mary appeared for the first time on February 11, 1858 to St. Bernadette Soubirous in the grotto at Massabielle, in Lourdes, France. Bernadette, a 14-year-old peasant girl was the oldest daughter among the six children of Francois Soubirous and Louise Casterot. One day she went to the rocky area to collect firewood with her sister and a friend. It was when she was left behind by the other two near a big rock that Bernadette heard a loud noise. As she turned to investigate, she caught sight of a very beautiful Lady clothed in white with a rosary hanging on her arm standing in a grotto in the rock. The beautiful Lady smiled at her and summoned her to pray the rosary and they prayed together. Bernadette had 18 apparitions of our Lady starting in February and ending in July 1858.
On the 18th appearance the Holy Virgin gave the young visionary the answer to her pastor’s question, “Who are you?” In the local language she said, ‘I am the Immaculate Conception.” During her previous appearances the Blessed Virgin Mary had instructed Bernadette to tell people to pray and do penance. All must pray especially for the conversion of sinners. Our Lady instructed Bernadette to go and tell her pastor that Mary wished a chapel to be built on the spot and processions to be made to the grotto. But it wasn’t until four years later, in 1862, that the Bishop of the diocese declared the faithful “justified in believing the reality of the apparition”. Pope Pius IX authorized the local bishop to permit the veneration of the Virgin Mary in Lourdes in 1862. A basilica was built upon the rock of Massabielle by the parish priest in 1865. It was consecrated and the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes solemnly crowned. In 1883 the foundation stone of another church was laid, as the first was no longer large enough. It was built at the foot of the basilica and was consecrated in 1901 and called the Church of the Rosary. Pope Leo XIII authorized a special office and a Mass, in commemoration of the apparition, and in 1907 Pius X extended the observance of this feast to the entire Church; it is now observed on 11 February. Since apparitions are private revelation and not public revelation, Catholics are not bound to believe them. However, all recent Popes have visited the Marian shine. Benedict XV, Pius XI and St. John XXIII went there as bishops, Pius XII as papal delegate. He also issued a Lourdes encyclical on the 100th anniversary of the apparitions in 1958. Pope St. John Paul II visited Lourdes three times and Pope Benedict XVI completed a visit there on 15 September 2008 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the apparitions.
Life Messages: The World Day of the Sick observed on February 11th serves the purpose of reminding the members of the Church of the healing ministry of the Church. It reminds us of our Christian obligation to attend to the sick and the suffering around us.
2) This is a day to show our gratitude to the caregivers, the doctors, the nurses, the health care workers, the pastoral ministers and all those who strive to restore the physical and spiritual health of the sick. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) 2019
Feb 12 Tuesday (Mk 7:1-13): Mark: 7:1-13: 1 Now when the Pharisees gathered together to him, with some of the scribes, who had come from Jerusalem, 2 they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands defiled, that is, unwashed. 3 (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they wash their hands, observing the tradition of the elders; 4 and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they purify themselves; and there are many other traditions which they observe, the washing of cups and pots and vessels of bronze.) 5 And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with hands defiled?” 6 And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, `This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 7 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’ 8 You leave the commandment of God, and hold fast the tradition of men.” 9 And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God, in order to keep your tradition! 10 For Moses said, `Honor your father and your mother’; and, `He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him surely die’; 11 but you say, `If a man tells his father or his mother, What you would have gained from me is Korban’ (that is, given to God) — 12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God through your tradition which you hand on. And many such things you do.”
The context: Today’s Gospel passage describes Jesus’ confrontation with the Scribes and the Pharisees sent from Jerusalem by the Jewish religion’s Supreme Court, the Sanhedrin, to assess Jesus’ “heretical teachings.” Their first question to Jesus was why he did not command his disciples to do the ritual washing of hands before meals or during a banquet. Exodus 30:17ff had laid down rules for how the priests should wash their hands before offering sacrifice. Jewish tradition had extended this purification to all Jews before every meal, in an effort to give meals a religious significance. Ritual purification was a symbol of the moral purity a person should have when approaching God. One should have a clean conscience and clean mind. But the Pharisees had focused on the mere external rite. Therefore, Jesus restored the genuine meaning of these precepts of the Law, the purpose of which was to teach the right way to render homage to God.
Jesus’ explanation: Jesus shocked his questioners by accusing them of hypocrisy and giving lip-service to God while ignoring His teachings, replacing them with man-made interpretations. As an example, Jesus pointed out how they were cleverly evading God’s commandment to honor one’s parents by falsely interpreting the precept of Korban. According to their interpretation, one could be freed from taking care of one’s parents in their old age by declaring the money or property meant for their support as “Korban,” or a special offering to God. Jesus told them that the true source of defilement was a person’s heart and mind. True religion should not be mere external observances disconnected from the mind and the intentions.
Life messages: 1) We need to remember that the essence of religion is a personal relationship with God and with our fellow-human beings, not merely the external observances of religion. 2) God expects from us that generosity and good will which urge us to practice more mercy, more kindness, more willingness to forgive offenses and more readiness to serve others lovingly and sacrificially. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) 2019
Feb 13 Wednesday: Mk 7:14-23: 14 And he called the people to him again, and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: 15 there is nothing outside a man which by going into him can defile him; but the things which come out of a man are what defile him.” 17 And when he had entered the house, and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a man from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters, not his heart but his stomach, and so passes on?” (Thus, he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, “What comes out of a man is what defiles a man. 21. From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder,22adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.23All these evils come from within and they defile.” All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man
The context: Today’s Gospel passage continues Jesus’ explanation to the public of his revolutionary views on the ritual washing of hands before meals. Exodus 30:17ff had laid down how priests should wash before offering sacrifice. Jewish tradition had extended this to all Jews before every meal in an effort to give meals a religious significance. Ritual purification was a symbol of the moral purity a person should have when approaching God. But the Pharisees had focused on the mere external rite. For Jesus, true religion should not be mere external observances disconnected from the mind and the intentions.
Jesus’ explanation: Jesus shocked the people by his plain statement: ” … there is nothing outside a man which by going into him can defile him; but the things which come out of a man are what defile him.” In other words, Jesus made the shocking declaration that all the ritual food laws of the Old Testament about Kosher food were null and void. For Jesus, those laws were intended to teach the people of the Old Covenant the importance of offering acceptable sacrifice and worship to God with a clean conscience and clean mind, with clean thoughts and clean deeds. Hence, the true source of defilement is a person’s heart and mind because “out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.”
Life message: 1) We need to keep our minds filled with love, mercy, compassion and forgiveness if we want to practice the true religion of loving God living in others. Hence, let us ask God to help us cleanse our minds of evil thoughts and desires and free them from jealousy, envy and pride. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) 2019
Feb 14 Thursday (St. Cyril, Monk and St. Methodius, Bishop: Mark 7:24-30: 24 And from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And he entered a house and would not have any one know it; yet he could not be hid. 25 But immediately a woman, whose little daughter was possessed by an unclean spirit, heard of him, and came and fell down at his feet. 26 Now the woman was a Greek, a Syro-Phoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 And he said to her, “Let the children first be fed, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 28 But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” 29 And he said to her, “For this saying you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” 30 And she went home, and found the child lying in bed, and the demon gone.
The context: In the Gospel, Jesus demonstrates that salvation is meant for the Gentiles as well as for the Jews, by healing the daughter of a Gentile woman as a reward for the mother’s strong Faith. Thus, Jesus shows that God’s mercy and love are available to all who call out to Him in Faith.
This is one of the two miracles of healing Jesus performed for Gentiles. The other is the healing of the centurion’s servant. (Mt 8:10-12). These miracles foreshadowed the future preaching of the Gospel to the whole world. Jesus first ignored both the persistent cry of the woman and the impatient demand of his disciples that he send the woman away. Jesus then tried to awaken true Faith in the heart of this woman by an indirect refusal. We notice that the woman was refused three times by Jesus before he granted her request. Finally, the fourth time, her persistence was rewarded, and her plea was answered. She recognized Jesus as the Messiah (the Son of David) and expressed her need in clear, simple words. She persisted, undismayed by obstacles, and she expressed her request in all humility: “Have mercy on me.” (Navarre Bible commentary). Jesus was completely won over by the depth of her Faith, her confidence and her wit, and responded exuberantly, “Woman, great is your Faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.”
Life messages: 1) We need to persist in prayer with trustful confidence. Christ himself has told us to keep on asking him for what we need: “Ask and you shall receive.” Asking with fervor and perseverance proves that we have “great Faith.” We must realize and remember that we do not always get exactly what we have asked for, but rather what God knows we need, what He wants for us and what is really best for us. 2) We need to pull down the walls of separation and share in the universality of God’s love. Today’s Gospel reminds us that God’s love and mercy are extended to all who call on him in Faith and trust, no matter who they are. It is therefore fitting that we should pray that the walls which we raise by our pride, intolerance and prejudice may crumble. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) 2019
Feb 15 Friday: Mark 7:31-37: 31 Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, through the region of the Decapolis. 32 And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had an impediment in his speech; and they besought him to lay his hand upon him. 33 And taking him aside from the multitude privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue; 34 and looking up to heaven, he sighed, and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35 And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36 And he charged them to tell no one; but the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well; he even makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.”
The context: Today’s Gospel describes how Jesus, by healing a deaf and mute man, fulfilled Isaiah’s Messianic prophecy, “The eyes of the blind shall be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped”(Isaiah 35:5). The Gospel invites us to become humble instruments of healing in Jesus’ hands by giving a voice to the needy and the marginalized in our society. It also challenges us to let our ears be opened to hear the word of God, and to let our tongues be loosened to convey the Good News of God’s love and salvation to others. Through this miracle story, Mark’s account also reminds us that no one can be a follower of the Lord without reaching out to the helpless (“preferential option for the poor”).
The miracle is described in seven ritual-like steps: (1) Jesus leads the man away from the crowd; (2) puts his fingers into the man’s ears; (3) spits on his own fingers; (4) touches the man’s tongue with the spittle; (5) looks up to Heaven; (6) sighs; (7) and speaks the healing command: “Ephphatha” (“be opened.”). Jesus carries out this elaborate ritual probably because the dumb man could not hear Jesus’ voice nor express his needs. Jesus applies a little saliva to the man’s tongue because people in those days believed that the spittle of holy men had curative properties. The miracle is about the opening of a person’s ears so that he will be able to hear the word of God, and the loosening of his tongue so that he will be able to profess his Faith in Jesus.
Life messages: 1) Jesus desires to give us his healing touch in order to loosen our tongues so that he may speak to the spiritually hungry through us. Jesus invites us to give him our hearts so that, through us, he may touch the lives of people in our day. 2) We must allow Jesus to heal our spiritual deafness and muteness because otherwise we may find it hard to speak to God in prayer and harder still to hear Him speaking to us through the Bible and through the Church. 3) Let us imitate the dumb man in the Gospel by seeking out Jesus, following him away from the crowd, spending more of our time in getting to know him intimately through studying the Holy Scriptures and experiencing him personally in our lives through prayer. The growing awareness of the healing presence of Jesus in our lives will open our ears and loosen our tongues. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) 2019
Feb 16 Saturday: Mark 8:1-10: 1 In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him, and said to them, 2 “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days, and have nothing to eat; 3 and if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way; and some of them have come a long way.” 4 And his disciples answered him, “How can one feed these men with bread here in the desert?” 5 And he asked them, “How many loaves have you?” They said, “Seven.”6 And he commanded the crowd to sit down on the ground; and he took the seven loaves and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and they set them before the crowd. 7 And they had a few small fish; and having blessed them, he commanded that these also should be set before them. 8 And they ate and were satisfied; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. 9 And there were about four thousand people.10 And he sent them away; and immediately he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha.
The context: The miraculous feeding described in today’s Gospel took place on a hill near the Sea of Galilee after Jesus’ return from the Decapolis. A large crowd remained with Jesus for three days participating in his preaching and healing ministry till all the food they had carried with them was gone.
Jesus felt pity for the hungry multitude and instructed his Apostles to feed them with what they had, namely seven loaves of bread and a few small fish. They brought these to Jesus who said a prayer of thanksgiving over them and instructed them to distribute the bread and fish to the people. After the crowd had eaten their fill the Apostles filled seven baskets with leftover broken pieces.
This passage appears to be a repetition of Mk 6:34-44. But there are two differences: the first account shows the miracle performed for the benefit of Jews, the second for Gentiles. In the first account there are twelve basketfuls of scraps left over, in the second only seven. The language is ‘Eucharistic’: Jesus “took the loaves and giving thanks he broke them and handed them to his disciples to distribute.”
Life messages: 1) We need to help Jesus to feed the hungry today. Jesus invites us to give him our hearts so that he may touch the lives of people in our day through us, just as he touched the lives of millions through saintly souls like Francis of Assisi, Fr. Damien, Vincent de Paul and Mother Teresa.
2) We need to be fed by Jesus. Jesus continues to feed us in His Church with His own Body and Blood in Holy Communion and with the word of God through the Holy Bible. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) 2019