Mk 2:18-22: 18 Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and people came and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 19 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. 20 The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day. 21 No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; if he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. 22 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; if he does, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but new wine is for fresh skins.” USCCB video reflections: https://youtu.be/rLDXFfT0tzI?list=PLpTzvCOJa7DAFrAB3rgpm4xC_YNYqc0xt
The context: Today’s Gospel passage gives Jesus’ reply to the question (raised, perhaps by some Pharisees), of why Jesus’ disciples ate and drank, while they (John the Baptist’s disciples), and the Pharisees fasted and prayed. Prayer, fasting and almsgiving were three cardinal “good deeds” of Jewish religious life.
Jesus’ reply: Jesus responded to their sincere question using three metaphors: the metaphor of the “children of the bridal chamber,” the metaphor of patching torn cloth, and the metaphor of wineskins. First, Jesus compared his disciples with the children of the bridal chamber. These were the selected friends of the bride and groom who feasted in the company of the bride and groom during a week of honeymoon. Nobody expected them to fast. Jesus assured the questioners that his disciples would fast when he, the Bridegroom, was taken away from them. In the same way, we are to welcome both the joys of Christian life and the crosses it offers us. But Joy is the chief characteristic of a Christian – joy even in tribulation. Using the comparisons of the danger of using new, unshrunken cloth to make a patch for an old garment, or old wineskins to store new, still-fermenting wine, Jesus told the questioners that they must have more elastic and open minds and larger hearts to understand and follow his new ideas which were, in many cases, different from the traditional Jewish teachings.
Life message: 1) We need to be adjustable Christians with open and elastic minds and hearts. The Holy Spirit, working actively in the Church and guiding the teaching authority in the Church, enables the Church to put into practice new visions, new ideas, new adaptations and new ways of worship in place of old ones. So, we should have the generosity and good will to follow the teachings of the Church. 2) At the same time, we need the Old Testament revelations, the New Testament teachings and the Sacred Tradition of the Church as main sources of our Christian Faith. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
Jan 21 Tuesday (St. Agnes, Virgin, Martyr) https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-agnes/ : Mk 2:23-28: 23 As Jesus was passing through a field of grain on the Sabbath, His disciples began to make a path, picking the heads of grain. 24 And the Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” 25 And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: 26 how he entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” 27 And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath; 28 so the Son of man is lord even of the Sabbath.” USCCB video reflections: https://youtu.be/XATFnFzLhUI?list=PLpTzvCOJa7DAFrAB3rgpm4xC_YNYqc0xt
The context: Today’s Gospel passage gives Jesus’ teaching on the purpose of the Sabbath and on its proper observance. This was his response to a criticism and a silly accusation made by Pharisees against his disciples. On a Sabbath, to satisfy their hunger, they had plucked ears of grain from a field, removing the husks by rubbing the grain between their palms and blowing away the chaff. The Pharisees accused them of violating Sabbath laws by performing three items of work forbidden on the Sabbath, namely, harvesting, threshing and winnowing. God Himself, the originator of the Sabbath (Gn 2:3), ordered the Jewish people to avoid certain kinds of work on this day (Ex 20:8-11; 21:13; Dt 5:14) to leave them free to give more time to God. As time went by, the rabbis complicated this Divine precept. By Jesus’ time they had extended the list to 39 kinds of forbidden work (Navarre Bible Commentary).
Counterarguments: According to Matthew, Jesus gives three counterarguments from Holy Scripture defending his apostles. But Mark gives only one of those arguments. Jesus argues that basic human needs, like hunger, take precedence over Divine worship and Sabbath observance. In other words, the commandment to keep the Sabbath holy does not come before the duty to seek basic sustenance. Jesus cites from Scripture the example of hungry David and his selected soldiers. They approached Abiathar (Mk 2: 26), the high priest of Nob (or his father, priest Ahimelech (1 Sm 21:1-6) who gave them for food the “bread of the Presence” which only the priests were allowed to eat The bread of the Presence consisted of twelve loaves or cakes placed each morning on the table in the sanctuary, as homage to the Lord from the twelve tribes of Israel (cf. Lv 24:5-9). The loaves withdrawn to make room for the fresh ones were reserved to the priests (Navarre Bible Commentary).
Life message: Like the Jewish Sabbath, the Christian Sunday is to be 1) a day of rest and refreshment with members of the family; 2) a day for thanksgiving and the recharging of spiritual batteries through participation in the Eucharistic celebration (for Catholics); 3) a day for parents to teach religious faith and Bible to their children; 4) a day to do works of charity in the neighborhood and in the parish; 5) a day for socializing with family members, neighbors and fellow-parishioners. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
Jan 22 Wednesday: Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children
Facts: a) Abortion: The number of unborn children slaughtered in the wombs of their mothers in the last 25 years is 1200 million in the world and 37 million in the U.S.A. (4400 per day in the U.S.). Almost half of the women in the US over the age of 40 have undergone an abortion, with or without the consent of the baby’s father. b) Euthanasia: Hundreds of old or terminally ill people are killed in advanced countries, under the names “mercy-killing” or euthanasia. c) Suicides and Physician-Assisted Suicides: Suicide is the eighth leading cause of death for all U.S. men. It took the lives of 30,622 people in U.S.A. in 2001. It is the third leading cause of death for 15-19-year-old youngsters (19 adolescents each day) and only 5% of suicides are attributed to mental illness. d) Homicides e) Embryo-destruction for scientific experiments.
Why should we respect life? 1) The Bible teaches that life is a gift of God and, hence, we have to respect it from womb to tomb. Abortion attempts to destroy a work of God. Based on the word of God, the Church teaches that an unborn child from the moment of its conception in its mother’s womb is precious because it carries an immortal soul.
2) It is God’s commandment that we shall not kill. (Exodus 20: 13: “You shall not kill.”). The circumstances of how the baby was conceived do not change the evil of abortion: it is still a baby who is killed. Every tiny human embryo can grow into a child, and modern medical technology can enable it to survive outside its mother’s womb after five and a half months.
3) International Law forbids the killing of innocent, defenseless people. Abortion is the killing of a defenseless child in its safest abode, the womb, by its own mother, mostly for selfish motives.
4) Abortion harms women physically, emotionally, psychologically, socially and spiritually. 93% of the abortions in America are for convenience. The mother’s health is an issue only 3% of the time, and the baby’s health is an issue 3% of the time. Rape and incest are issues only 1% of the time. Ninety-three percent of all abortions in America are performed because of selfishness, just because someone doesn’t want a child!
5) Advocates of pro-choice follow a dangerous principle of far-reaching consequences in the society. If it is justifiable to kill unwanted children by abortion, then the old, the sick, the handicapped, the mentally ill, and the retarded can also be killed.
Life messages: 1) We need to respect and protect all forms of human life from conception to natural death; we need to work and pray vigorously to end the culture of death. 2) We need to speak and act against abortion in private and public forums. Protecting human life is no more a sectarian creed than the Declaration of Independence is a sectarian document. Because all rights depend on life, the right to life is the most fundamental issue of all; if that is eliminated, the rest will follow. 3) We need to work to have the government enact anti-abortion, anti-euthanasia and anti-Physician-assisted suicide laws; these killings violate justice, and therefore the command of God to love one another. 4) We need to give real care, support and assistance to mothers with unwanted pregnancies, contemplating abortion. Helping a woman choose life affirms and empowers her. 5) We need to teach the Church’s doctrines on abortion. The Church cares about the women who have had abortions, forgives them, heals them, and brings them peace with God, with their lost children and with themselves. The Church reminds us that abortion is a mortal sin but promises any woman who has had an abortion that if she truly repents of her sin, she will find welcome and forgiveness. Fr. Tony (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Jan 22 Wednesday (Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children) : Mk 3:1-6 1 There was a man there with a withered hand. 2 And they watched him, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. 3 And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come here.” 4 And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. 5 And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. 6 The Pharisees went out, and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him. USCCB video reflections: https://youtu.be/X1O7oMESbr8?list=PLpTzvCOJa7DAFrAB3rgpm4xC_YNYqc0xt
The context: Today’s Gospel describes a miraculous healing done by Jesus on one Sabbath as a public violation of Sabbath law to prove that God’s intention for the Sabbath was to do good and to save life rather than to do evil or to destroy life.
The incident and the reaction: Ex 20:8 and Dt 5:12 instructed the Jews to keep the Sabbath holy. But the Scribes and the Pharisees had amplified God’s law on the Sabbath by misinterpreting it and had made it burdensome for the common people through man-made laws. Jesus wanted to demonstrate in public the original intention of God in declaring the Sabbath holy. For Jesus, the Sabbath was a day of rest to be used in adoring God, learning and teaching His laws and doing good to/for others. Hence, Jesus took the liberty of granting healing to a man with a withered hand in the local synagogue immediately after the worship service, thus infuriating the scribes and the Pharisees.
Life messages: 1) Our Christian Sabbath, that is, Sunday, observance of participating in the Eucharistic celebration is meant to recharge our spiritual batteries for doing good to/for others and avoiding evil. 2) Our Sunday observance is also meant to be an offering of our lives to God on the altar, to ask God’s pardon and forgiveness for our sins, to present our needs before the Lord and to participate in the Divine Life by Holy Communion. 3) It is also a day for us to spend time with the members of the family and to participate in the activities of our parish and neighborhood. Fr. Tony(http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
Jan 23 Thursday (St. Vincent of Saragossa, Deacon, Martyr/ St. Marianne Copeof Moloka’i, Virgin) https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-vincent-of-zaragossa/ Mk 3: 7-12: 7 Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great multitude from Galilee followed; also from Judea 8 and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from about Tyre and Sidon a great multitude, hearing all that he did, came to him. 9 And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they should crush him; 10 for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed upon him to touch him. 11 And whenever the unclean spirits beheld him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” 12 And he strictly ordered them not to make him known. USCCB video reflections: https://youtu.be/pKOBm_iV3C4?list=PLpTzvCOJa7DAFrAB3rgpm4xC_YNYqc0xt
The context: Today’s Gospel describes how both Jews and Gentiles from Galilee and all surrounding areas gathered around Jesus, practically every day of his public ministry of preaching and healing. Jesus preached the Good News of God’s love and demonstrated the mercy and compassion of God his Father by his healing ministry.
Jesus’ mission was universal, attracting Jews and pagans alike. He exercised his Divine power of healing, using his human body to demonstrate to the people that he was both God and man. Jesus instructed the healed ones not to publicize him as the expected Messiah because he did not want to bring his public life to a premature end. The ordinary Jews believed that the expected Messiah would declare himself King of the Jews after overthrowing the Roman rule. Hence, it was dangerous to let people regard him as the Messiah.
Life message: 1) Jesus continues to preach the Good News and heal the sick through his Church and through us his followers. “It is by faith that we touch Jesus. And it is far better to touch him by faith than to touch or handle him with the hands only and not by faith.” (St. Augustine). He welcomes our response to him and calls us to come to him through the Sacraments, and especially through our participation in the Eucharistic celebration, with trusting Faith and confident expectation. “The holy human nature of our Lord is our only route to salvation; it is the essential means we must use to unite ourselves to God. Thus, we can today approach our Lord by means of the sacraments, especially and pre-eminently the Eucharist. And through the sacraments there flows to us, from God, through the human nature of the Word, a strength which cures those who receive the sacraments with faith (cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, “Summa Theologica”, III, q. 62, a. 5). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/(L/20
Jan 24 Friday (Francis de Sales, Bishop, Doctor) https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-francis-de-sales/ : Mk 3: 13-19: 13 And he went up on the mountain, and called to him those whom he desired; and they came to him. 4 And he appointed twelve, to be with him, and to be sent out to preach 15 and have authority to cast out demons: 16 Simon whom he surnamed Peter; 17 James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James, whom he surnamed Boanerges, that is, sons of thunder; 18 Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus, and Simon the Cananaean, 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. Then he went home. (& Lk 6: 12-16) USCCB video reflections: https://youtu.be/kVWuyiL590o?list=PLpTzvCOJa7DAFrAB3rgpm4xC_YNYqc0xt
The context: Today’s Gospel passage gives a short account of the call and mission of the Apostles. Jesus is the first missionary, sent by his Father with the “Good News” that God his Father is a loving, merciful and forgiving Father who wants to save everyone through His Son Jesus. Today’s Gospel describes how Jesus selects and empowers twelve future missionaries as Apostles, giving them his own mission along with a share of his power to preach and to heal the sick as proof of the truth of their message, then sending them to Jewish towns and villages as his heralds.
Special features: Jesus selected very ordinary people, most of them hard-working fishermen with no social status, learning or political influence, because he was sure that they would be very effective instruments in God’s hands. It was a strange mixture of people. Matthew was a hated tax-collector for a foreign power while Simon the Cananaean was a Zealot and fanatical nationalist who belonged to a fanatic group determined to destroy Roman rule by any means. The others were mostly professional fishermen with a lot of good will, patience and stamina. It was only their admiration and love for Jesus that united them. Jesus selected them after a night of prayer and gave them his own powers of healing and exorcism and his own mission of preaching the “Kingdom of God.”
Life message: 1) As Christians we have the same mission that Jesus entrusted to his Apostles, to proclaim the word of God to all the world. We fulfill this mission primarily by living out Jesus’ teachings and by promoting and helping the world-wide missionary activities of the Church with prayer, moral support and financial aid. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/(L/20
Jan 25 (Mk 16:15-20: (The feast of the conversion St. Paul) https://www.franciscanmedia.org/conversion-of-saint-paul/ Paul, the “Apostle to the Gentiles” and the greatest missionary of the Apostolic age, was a Roman citizen by his birth in Tarsus (in Cilicia), and a Jew born to the tribe of Benjamin. His Hebrew name was Saul. Since he was a Pharisee, Saul was sent to Jerusalem by his parents to study the Mosaic Law under the great rabbi Gamaliel. As a student he also learned also the trade of tent-making. He was present as a consenting observer at the stoning of Stephen. But Saul was miraculously converted on his way to Damascus to arrest the Christians. After that, Saul, now called Paul, made several missionary journeys, converted hundreds of Jews and Gentiles and established Church communities. He wrote 14 epistles. He was arrested and kept in prison for two years in Caesarea and spent two more years under house arrest in Rome. Finally, he was martyred by beheading at Tre Fontane in Rome. Today we celebrate the feast of the conversion St. Paul which revolutionized the history and theology of the early Church. Saul of Tarsus, because of his zeal for the Jewish law and Jewish traditions, became the most outrageous enemy of Christ and His teaching, as the apostles started preaching the Gospel. Saul consented to the martyrdom of Stephen, watching the cloaks of the stoners. After the martyrdom of the holy deacon, the priests and magistrates of the Jews raised a violent persecution against the Christian communities at Jerusalem, and Saul was their fanatical young leader. By virtue of the authority he had received from the high priest, he dragged the Christians out of their houses, chained them and thrust them into prison. In the fury of his zeal, he applied to the high priest and Sanhedrin for a commission to take up all Jews at Damascus who confessed Jesus Christ and bring them bound to Jerusalem to be properly punished. He was almost at the end of his journey to Damascus, when, at about noon, he and his company were suddenly surrounded by a great light. As Saul fell to the ground, he heard a voice say, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” Saul answered, “Who are you, Sir?” And the voice said, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting. Now, get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” Saul rose and, blind, was led by his companions into Damascus.
The Lord sent a Damascus disciple named Ananias to heal and instruct Saul. Ananias entered the house and, obeying Jesus’ orders, laid his hands-on Saul and prayed over him so that he might regain his sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit. And immediately something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes. He regained his sight, got up, was baptized and, having eaten, recovered his strength. Saul had realized the truth that Jesus was the mysterious fulfillment of all he had been blindly pursuing. He could easily identify Jesus with Jesus’ followers. He stayed several days in Damascus with Christian disciples and started teaching in the synagogues that Jesus was the promised Messiah and the Son of God. Saul’s conversion into Paul teaches us that we, too, need conversion and the renewal of our lives by a fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit, which will enable us to bear witness to Christ by exemplary lives. USCCB video reflections: https://youtu.be/XMVIlTrbe0E?list=PLpTzvCOJa7DAFrAB3rgpm4xC_YNYqc0xt Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/(L/20