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Feb 1-6: Feb 1 Monday: Mk 5: 1-20: 1 They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of Gerasenes. 2 And when he had come out of the boat, there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, 3 who lived among the tombs; and no one could bind him anymore, even with a chain; 4 for he had often been bound with fetters and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the fetters he broke in pieces; and no one had the strength to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains, he was always crying out, and bruising himself with stones. 6 And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshiped him; 7 and crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” 8 For he had said to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” 9 And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” 10 And he begged him eagerly not to send them out of the country. 11 Now a great herd of swine was feeding there on the hillside; 12 and they begged him, “Send us to the swine, let us enter them.” 13 So he gave them leave. And the unclean spirits came out, and entered the swine; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea, and were drowned in the sea. 14 The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. 15 And they came to Jesus, and saw the demoniac sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, the man who had the legion; and they were afraid. 16 …20. USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/
The context: Today’s Gospel episode demonstrates Jesus’ power over the devil in a Gentile town of the Decapolis, east of the Jordan, called Gadara (Matthew), or Gerasa (Mark and Luke). A demon-possessed man (two men in Matthew) came out of a tomb-filled desolate place. The demons, recognizing Jesus as the Son of God, begged Him to send them into a herd of swine. The possessed man’s demons named themselves Legion (ca 5000 men), indicating their number. Jesus did as the evil spirits requested, and the now-possessed swine ran down the slope and drowned in the sea. The frightened people of the city asked Jesus to leave their city. The people considered their swine more precious than the liberation given to the possessed man. If we have a selfish or materialistic outlook, we fail to appreciate the value of Divine things, and we push God out of our lives, begging Him to go away, as these people did.
Life messages: 1) We need to come out of our tombs: Jesus is calling us to come out of the tombs. Our tombs are the closed-in, sealed-off areas of our hearts where Life in the Spirit of God has died because we haven’t let Jesus minister to us through others. Such ungodly persons are lonely. They try to fill their inner emptiness by packing their lives with money, promiscuity, addictions or workaholism, but nothing works.
2) Jesus the Liberator is ready to free us from the tombs of our evil addictions and habits If we will only let og of everything and give Jesus a chance , He can, and will, help us to experience the joy and freedom of the children of God. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21
Feb 2 Tuesday (The Presentation of the Lord): ((https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/presentation-of-the-lord ) https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/ Lk 2:22-32: The context: Today’s Gospel presents the head of the Holy Family, Joseph, faithfully obeying God’s law given through Moses concerning the purification of the mother and the redeeming of the child by presenting Mary and the Baby Jesus in the Temple. The events recounted appear elsewhere in the liturgical year but are those we traditionally celebrate today, February 2nd, with the Feast of Presentation of Jesus. This is a combined feast, commemorating the Jewish practice of the purification of the mother after childbirth and the presentation of the child in the Temple. It is known as the Hypanthe feast or Feast of the Purification of Mary (by the offering two pigeons in the Temple), the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (by prayers and the payment of “five shekels to a member of the priestly family” (Nm 3:47-48; NAB Note on Lk 2:22), to redeem or buy the firstborn male child back from the Lord’s service), and the Feast of Encounter (because the New Testament, represented by the Baby Jesus, encountered the Old Testament, represented by Simeon and Anna). On February 2nd, we celebrate these events as a formal ending of the Christmas season. The same day, we also celebrate the Feast of Candlemas (because candles are blessed then for liturgical and personal use).
Purification and redemption ceremonies: The Mosaic Law taught that, since every Jewish male child belonged to Yahweh, the parents had to “buy back” the child (“redeem” him), with the payment of “five shekels (by the rich) to a member of the priestly family” (Nm 3:47-48; NAB Note on Lk 2:22). In addition, (Nm 18:15) every mother had to be purified after childbirth by prayers and the sacrifice of a lamb (or two turtle doves for the poor) in the Temple. Joseph kept these laws as an act of obedience to God.
The encounter with Simeon and Anna: By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the old, pious, Spirit-filled Simeon and the very old widow, Anna, both of whom who had been waiting for the revelation of God’s salvation, were present in the Temple the day Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to Present Him to the Father. Simeon recognized Jesus as the Lord’s Anointed One, and in his prayer of blessing, he prophesied that Jesus was meant to be the glory of Israel and a Light of revelation to the Gentiles. While he blessed Mary, Simeon warned that her child would be “set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign of contradiction” and that “a sword will pierce through your own soul. Simeon was prophesying both the universal salvation that would be proclaimed by Jesus and the necessity of suffering in the mission of the Messiah.
Life message: Every Holy Mass in which we participate is our presentation. Although we were officially presented to God on the day of our Baptism, we present ourselves and our dear ones on the altar before God our Father through our Savior Jesus Christ at every Holy Mass. Hence, we need to live our daily lives with the awareness both that we are dedicated people consecrated to God and that we are obliged to lead holy lives. Let us also remember and pray for our godparents who presented us to the Lord on the day of our Baptism Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21
Feb 3 Wednesday (St. Blaise, Bishop and Martyr) https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-blaise : Mk 6: 1-6: (Mt 13:54-58): USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/
The context: Today’s Gospel passage describes the painful indifference Jesus met in his audience and the jealous, hurtful comments Jesus heard when, as a carpenter-turned-Rabbi with a band of his own disciples, he started preaching in the synagogue of his hometown, Nazareth.
A prophet without honor: The people of Nazareth literally jammed the synagogue, eager to see their familiar carpenter-turned-miracle-working preacher, Jesus, working miracles as he had done in neighboring towns and villages. But they were jealous, incredulous, and critical, rather than believing, which prevented Jesus from doing miraculous healings. They were jealous of the extraordinary ability of a former carpenter without formal education in Mosaic Law to give a powerful and authoritative interpretation of their Holy Scriptures. A carpenter’s profession was considered low in social ranking. Besides, they could not accept a prophet coming from so low a family background as Jesus’ was, nor could they accept his “blasphemous” claim to be the promised Messiah. Jesus’ relatives, known to them, were equally unimportant people. But the most offensive thing he did, in their judgment, was to point out to them their own unbelief, citing examples of the famous prophets Elijah and Elisha favoring Faith-filled Gentiles over unbelieving Jews.
Brothers and sisters of Jesus: “Ancient Hebrew, Aramaic and other languages had no special words for different degrees of relationship, such as are found in more modern languages. In general, all those belonging to the same family, clan, and even tribe, were brethren. Jesus had different kinds of relatives, in two groups–some on his mother’s side, others on St. Joseph’s. Matthew 13:55-56 mentions, as living in Nazareth, “His brethren” James, Joses, Simon and Judas, and elsewhere there is reference to Jesus’ sisters (cf. Matthew 6:3). But in Matthew 27:56 we are told that James and Joses were sons of a Mary distinct from the Blessed Virgin, and that Simon and Judas were not brothers of James, or St. Joseph’s children from a previous marriage. Jesus, on the other hand, was known to everyone as the son of Mary (Mark 6:3) or the carpenter’s son (Matthew 13:55). The Church has always maintained as absolutely certain that Jesus had no brothers or sisters in the full meaning of the term: it is a dogma that Mary was ever-Virgin” (Navarre Bible Commentary)
1) Perhaps we have experienced the pain of rejection, betrayal, abandonment, violated trust, neglect, or abuse from our own friends and relatives. On such occasions, let us face rejection with prophetic courage and optimism. 2) Let us not, like the people in Jesus’ hometown, reject God in our personal lives.
3) Our country needs to hear God’s Truth from Spirit-filled Christians with the prophetic courage of their convictions.
4) Trusting Faith in the Divinity and goodness of Christ is essential, if Jesus is to work miracles in our personal lives. In addition, we need to be docile to the Holy Spirit living within us, so that He may work miracles in our lives. 5) When we are challenged by the Gospel and by the Church, we should be thankful and should not allow the prophetic voice of the Church die in our hearts. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21
Feb 3: Mark 6: 1-6: (In the U. S. St. Blaise, Bishop & Martyr and the blessing of throats): https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-blaise/ & Video of his festal celebration in Croatia: https://youtu.be/qoqX63YaJYQ?list=PL58g24NgWPIzvBk2IQVES_xC4WTm6-CDI
Legends: We have only a few legends and no historical documents about St. Blaise and his martyrdom. But some Eastern Churches observe his feast day as a day of obligation. The British, German and Slavic people honor his memory. The U.S. Catholics seek his intercession for the healing of throat diseases by the ritual of blessing of throats. According to the Acts of St. Blaise written in the eighth century, Bishop Blaise was martyred in his episcopal city of Sebastea, Armenia, (Turkey) in 316. Stories go how when the Christian persecutions began, he withdraw to a cave in the woods when inspired to do so by the Lord. Since he was a physician before he became a bishop, Blaise soon became the friend of wild animals that were ill or wounded. They sought him out. One day the governor’s hunters searching for animals to bring to the city’s amphitheater were shocked when they happened upon Blaise. There he was, kneeling and praying — surrounded by totally docile wolves, lions and bears, tame in his presence. When they took him prisoner, on the way to the jail he got more chances to perform miracles besides healing the boy with the fishbone. He met a poor woman in great distress because a wolf had snatched her small, young pig. She asked his help. Blaise commanded the wolf to return the pig. Right away, the wolf heard and brought back the pig which was not harmed. The woman , continued to visit him in prison, bringing him food and candles to bring him light in his dark cell.
His cult spread throughout the entire Church in the Middle Ages because of the healing of a boy. Details regarding the miraculous healing of the boy vary. One account relates that the miracle occurred during his journey to prison when he placed his hand on the boy’s head and prayed. In anther version of the story, the miracle happened while Blaise was in prison ,when he picked up two candles provided to him and formed a cross around the boy’s throat. The use of candles for the blessing of throats stems from the candles supplied by a woman that Blaise used while in prison.
Martyrdom and miracles: When the governor of Cappadocia (in Modern Turkey) began to persecute the Christians, St. Blaise was arrested. The governor of Cappadocia tried in vain to persuade Blaise to sacrifice to pagan idols. The first time Blaise refused; he was beaten. The next time he was suspended from a tree and his flesh torn with iron combs or rakes. Finally, he was beheaded. As he was led to the place of execution a poor mother rushed up to him, begging him to save her child who was choking to death on a fishbone. The bishop gave him a blessing which enabled the child to cough up the bone. Later Bishop Blaise was cruelly tortured and beheaded. The blessing of throats may be given by a priest, deacon, or a lay minister who follows the rites and prayers designated for a lay minister. (Since these are Covid-pandemic days, the minister should take care that the candles do not touch the throat of any person). The priest or deacon makes the sign of the cross over the recipient as the blessing is said. If necessary, laypersons are permitted to give the blessing of the throats but are instructed not to make the sign of the cross.
Life message: We all need some type of healing in some parts of our body, mind, or soul. Let us ask the intercession of St. Blaise with repentant hearts, so that Jesus the healer may place his healing touch on us as we present ourselves for the ritual of the blessing of the throats. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21
Feb 4 Thursday: Mk 6: 7-13: 7 And he called to him the twelve, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8 He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; 9 but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics. 10 And he said to them, “Where you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. 11 And if any place will not receive you and they refuse to hear you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet for a testimony against them.” 12 So they went out and preached that men should repent. 13 And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them. USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/
The context: Today’s Gospel describes the commissioning of the twelve Apostles. They were sent out in pairs with power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases. They were to preach to the people whom Jesus would visit the coming of the Kingdom of God, or God’s rule in their lives, and show them how to prepare their hearts for God’s rule by repenting of their sins and asking for God’s forgiveness and liberation from their evil habits. The Apostles were also expected to follow Jesus’ detailed action plan.
Jesus’ instructions and travel tips. From his instructions, it is clear that Jesus meant his disciples to take no supplies for the road. They were simply to trust that God, the Provider, would open the hearts of believers to take care of their needs. Jesus’ instructions also suggest that his disciples should not be like the acquisitive priests of the day, who were interested only in gaining riches. His disciples should be walking examples of God’s love and providence. The Jews supported their rabbis and judged doing so a privilege as well as an obligation, because hospitality was an important religious tradition in Palestine. The Apostles should choose temporary accommodation in a reputable household, should bless the residents with God’s peace, should be satisfied with the food and accommodation they had received, and should not search for better ones. They were to preach “’the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand,’ heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, and cast out demons.”
Life messages: 1) We all have a witnessing mission: Each Christian is called, not only to be a disciple, but also to be an apostle, bearing witness to Christ. As apostles, we have to evangelize the world by sharing with others not just words, or ideas or doctrines, but our experience of God and His Son, Jesus. It is through our transparent Christian lives that we must show Jesus, whom we have experienced, to others as unconditional love, overflowing mercy, forgiveness, and concern for the people around us. 2) We also have a liberating mission. There are many demons which can control the lives of people around us making them helpless slaves —the demon of nicotine, the demon of alcohol or drugs, the demon of gambling, the demon of pornography and promiscuous sex, the demons of materialism, secularism, and consumerism. We need the help of Jesus to liberate ourselves and others from these demons. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21
Feb 5 Friday (St. Agatha, Virgin, Martyr): https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-agatha Mk 6:14-29: 14 King Herod heard of it; for Jesus’ name had become known. Some said, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; that is why these powers are at work in him.” 15 But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” 16 But when Herod heard of it he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.” 17 For Herod had sent and seized John, and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife; because he had married her. 18 For John said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, 20 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and kept him safe. When he heard him, he was much perplexed; and yet he heard him gladly. 21 But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and the leading men of Galilee. 22 For when Herodias’ daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will grant it.” 23 And he vowed to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.” 24 And she went out, and said to her mother, “What shall I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the baptizer.” 25 And she came in immediately with haste to the king, and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26 And the king was exceedingly sorry; but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her….29 USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/
The context: Today’s Gospel presents the last scene of a tragic drama with three main characters, Herod, Herodias and John the Baptist. Herod was a jealous, weak, puppet-king with a guilty conscience. He feared the prophet John, because John had publicly scolded him for divorcing his legal wife without adequate cause and for marrying his sister-in-law Herodias, thus committing a double violation of Mosaic Law. Herodias was an immoral, greedy woman, stained by a triple guilt and publicly criticized by John. 1) She was an unfaithful woman of loose morals. 2) She was a greedy and vengeful woman. 3) She was an evil mother who used her teenage daughter for the evil purposes of murder and revenge by encouraging her to dance in public in the royal palace against the royal etiquette of the day. John the Baptist was a fiery preacher and the herald of the Promised Messiah. He was also a Spirit-filled prophet with the courage of his prophetic convictions who dared to criticize and scold an Oriental monarch and his proud wife in public.
God’s punishment: After the martyrdom of John, Herod was defeated by Aretas, the father of his first wife. Later, both Herod and Herodias were sent into exile by Caligula, the Roman emperor.
Life messages: 1) Our sins will haunt us, ruining our mental peace, as happened to Herod and Herodias. 2) Brutal sins against others will not go unpunished. 3) We need to stand up for truth and justice in the spirit of John the Baptist. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21
Feb 6 Saturday (St. Paul Miki and companions, Martyrs) https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-paul-miki-and-companions : Mk 6: 30-34: 30 The apostles returned to Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a lonely place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going, and knew them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns, and got there ahead of them. 34 As he went ashore he saw a great throng, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/
The context: Today’s Gospel passage presents the sympathetic and merciful heart of Jesus who lovingly invites his Apostles to a desolate place for some rest. Jesus realized that the Apostles he had sent on a preaching and healing mission to be neighboring towns and villages needed some rest on their return. He was eager to hear about their missionary adventures as they proudly shared their experiences. In no time, however, they were surrounded by the crowd, and Jesus resumed his preaching and teaching because he saw the crowd as sheep without shepherd.
Today’s Gospel describes how Jesus became a Good Shepherd. The Old Testament describes God as shepherd of His people, Israel. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want (Psalm 23:1). The prophet Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would feed his flock like a shepherd, he would gather the lambs in his arms (Isaiah 40:11). Jesus told his disciples that he was the Good Shepherd who was willing to lay down his life for his sheep. In his epistle, Peter calls Jesus the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls (1 Peter 2:25).
Life messages: 1) Let us show the mercy, compassion, care and concern of Jesus the Good Shepherd to those entrusted to our care. 2) Let us become good sheep of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, by leading pure, innocent, humble, selfless lives, obeying Christ’s commandment of love and gaining daily spiritual strength from the Body and Blood of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, in Holy Communion. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21