Jan 24 Monday (St. Francis de Sales, Bishop, Doctor of the Church):
Mk 3: 22-30: 22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul, and by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” 23 And he called them to him, and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. 27 But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods unless he first binds the strong man; then indeed he may plunder his house. 28 “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” — 30 for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”(Feast Day gospel: Jn 15: 9-17) Additional reflections: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections
The context: Today’s Gospel passage gives Jesus’ crushing reply to the slander propagated by the observers from the Sanhedrin, that Jesus expelled devils using the assistance of the leader of devils.
Jesus refutes the false allegation raised against him by the Sanhedrin scribes with three counterarguments and a warning: 1) A house divided against itself will perish and a country engaged in civil war will be ruined. Hence, Satan will not fight against Satan by helping Jesus to expel his co-workers. 2) If Jesus is collaborating with Satan to exorcise minor demons, then the Jewish exorcists are doing the same. 3) Jesus claims that he is using the power of his Heavenly Father to evict devils, just as a strong man guards a house and its possessions from the thief. 4) Finally, Jesus gives a crushing blow to his accusers, warning them that by telling blatant lies they are blaspheming against the Holy Spirit and, hence, that their sins are unforgivable.
Life messages: 1) Jesus teaches that we can be influenced by the evil spirit if we listen to him and follow him. 2) Hence, we have to keep our souls daily cleansed and filled with the Spirit of God, leaving no space for the evil spirit to enter our souls. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22
Jan 25 Tuesday (The Conversion of St. Paul, the apostle): Mk 16:15-18: https://www.franciscanmedia.org/conversion-of-saint-paul/ Additional reflections: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections
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 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 (described thrice in the New Testament: Acts chapters 9, 22, and 26) an event 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.(“(Feast Day gospel: Lk 10:1-9) Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22
Jan 26 Wednesday (Sts. Timothy & Titus, Bishops): https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saints-timothy-and-titus Luke 10: 1-9 — 1 After this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to come. 2 And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3 Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and salute no one on the road. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, `Peace be to this house!’ 6 And if a son of peace is there, your peace shall rest upon him; but if not, it shall return to you. 7 And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages; do not go from house to house. 8 Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you; 9 heal the sick in it and say to them, `The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ (Regular reading: Mk 4: 1-20). Additional reflections: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections
Both Timothy and Titus were converts and coworkers of St. Paul, who used them to defuse tensions in problem Churches. Timothy was born in Lystra in Asia Minor. He had a Greek father and Jewish mother, Eunice by name. He was converted by Paul in AD 47. He labored with Paul for 15 years, even during Paul’s house arrest in Rome, and Paul called him “dear son.” He visited the cities of Asia Minor and Greece in the company of St. Paul. He was made a bishop of Ephesus when he was comparatively young. Paul wrote two letters to him and once advised him to take a little daily dose of wine to treat his stomach problem: “Stop drinking only water but have a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent illnesses” (1Timothy 5:23). He also advised Timothy to “stir into flame” the grace of the Holy Spirit Whom he had received in Baptism (with Confirmation) and Ordination. Timothy won a martyr’s crown at Ephesus on a pagan feast day in the precincts of the temple of the goddess Diana to which he had gone to calm an unruly crowd.
Titus was a Greek-speaking Gentile from Antioch whose parents were Gentiles. He was Paul’s friend and fellow preacher, a peacemaker and an administrator whom Paul chose to carry his letters to Church communities. He was made administrator (bishop) of Christians in Crete, charged with organizing the Church there, correcting abuses and appointing presbyter-bishops.
Life messages: 1) Let us have the apostolic zeal of saints Timothy and Titus. 2) Let us also practice their charity and patience. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22
Jan 27 Thursday (St. Angela Merici, Virgin) https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-angela-merici : Mk 4: 21-25: 21 And he said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a bushel, or under a bed, and not on a stand? 22 For there is nothing hid, except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret, except to come to light. 23 If any man has ears to hear, let him hear.” 24 And he said to them, “Take heed what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. 25 For to him who has will more be given; and from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” Additional reflections: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections
The context: Today’s Gospel passage is taken from Mark’s version of Jesus’ teaching after he had told the parable of the sower. Jesus reminds us that we are the light of the world and that our duty is to receive and radiate around us Christ’s light of love, mercy, compassion and forgiveness.
The image of light and lamp: Lamps help people to see and work in the dark, and their light prevents our stumbling and falling down. For the Jews, Light represented the inner beauty, truth and goodness of God. God’s Light illumines our lives with Light, celestial joy and everlasting peace. The glory of the Lord shone around the shepherds at Bethlehem (Lk 2:9). Paul recognized the presence of God in a blinding Light (Acts 9:3; 22:6); God “dwells in inaccessible Light” (1 Tim 6:16). That is why Jesus claims that he is the Light of the world. When the Light of Christ shines in our hearts, we are able to recognize who we are, who our neighbors are and who God is and to see clearly how we are related to God and our neighbors. When we live in Christ’s Light, we do not foolishly try to hide truths about ourselves from ourselves, from our neighbors, or from God. Christ’s Light will also remind us of the consequences of our sinful ways and bad habits.
The paradox of the rich getting richer: In today’s Gospel, Jesus makes the comment “for to him who has, more will be given,” following the warning “Take heed how you hear….” Jesus is telling us that if we listen to him with open minds and open hearts and walk in his Light, the tiny bit of wisdom and understanding that we’ve already gained will grow and grow with his help. If, on the other hand, our hearts are closed to him, even the little bit of wisdom that we think we’ve got will be lost. Jesus is not talking about money or wealth in any form. He is talking about the extent and depth of our connectedness to God. If we are already deeply rooted in God, our spirits will grow larger, richer, and fuller by the day. But if our connection to the Lord is only superficial, our spirits certainly won’t grow, and our connection to Him may well not last at all.
Life message: As “light of the world” it is our duty to remove the darkness from around us and to show others the true Light of Jesus, his ideas and ideals from our model Christian life. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22
Jan 28 Friday (St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest, Doctor of the Church) https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-thomas-aquinas : Mk 4:26-34: 26 Jesus said to the crowds: “This is how it is with the Kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed upon the ground, 27 and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he knows not how. 28 The earth produces of itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” 30 And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? 31 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” 33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; 34 he did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything. (Feast Day gospel: MT 23: 8-12) Additional reflections: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections
The context: Using the mini parables of the growth of wheat seeds and mustard seeds in the field, Jesus explains the nature of the growth of the Kingdom of God or rule of God in human beings and human societies. In the case of both wheat and mustard seeds, the initial growth is slow and unnoticeable. But within days a leafy shoot will emerge, and within months a mature plant with numerous branches and leaves, flowers and fruits will be produced. The growth is silent and slow but steady, using power from the seed in the beginning and transforming absorbed water and minerals for energy in the later stages. Jesus explains that the Kingdom of God grows this way in human souls. The Kingdom of God is the growth of God’s rule in human hearts that occurs when man does the will of God and surrenders his life to God. It is slow and microscopic in the beginning. But it grows by using the power of the Holy Spirit, given to us through the Word of God, the Sacraments, and our prayers. Finally, God’s rule in the human heart transforms individuals and communities into God’s people, doing His will in His kingdom.
Life message 1) As we learn God’s will from His words and try to put these words into practice, we participate in the growth of God’s Kingdom on earth, a growth which will be completed in our Heavenly life. But we need the special anointing of the Holy Spirit to be doers of the word of God, so let us offer our lives before God every day, asking for this special anointing. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22
Jan 29 Saturday: Mark 4:35-41: 35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great storm of wind arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care if we perish?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” 41 And they were filled with awe, and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?” Additional reflections: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections
The context: Mark’s emphasis on Jesus’ wondrous works helps him to reveal Jesus’ true Messianic identity. The role of God in calming the storms of life is the central theme of today’s Gospel. By describing the miracle, Mark also gives the assurance to his first-century believers that nothing can harm the Church as long as the risen Lord is with them. The incident reminds us today to keep Jesus in our life’s boat and to seek God’s help in the storms of life.
The storm: The Sea of Galilee is lake thirteen miles long from north to south and eight miles broad from east to west at its widest. It is notorious for its sudden storms. When a cold wind blows from the west, the valleys and gullies and hills act like gigantic funnels, compressing the winds and letting them rush down to the lake to create storms with violent waves. Unable to control their fears in just such a storm, the disciples awaken Jesus, accusing him of disregarding their safety. Jesus’ response is immediate. First, Jesus rebukes the winds and the sea, producing perfect calm, to the great astonishment of his disciples. Then only does he reproach them for their lack of Faith. Life messages: 1) We need to welcome Jesus into the boat of our life. All of us are making a journey across the sea of time to the shore of eternity, and it is natural that, occasionally in our lives, we all experience different types of violent storms: physical storms, emotional storms, and spiritual storms. We face storms of sorrow, doubts, anxiety, worries, temptations and passion. Only Jesus can give us real peace in the storm of sorrow or console us at the loss of our dear ones.
2) When the storms of doubt seek to uproot the very foundations of our Faith, Jesus is there to still that storm, revealing to us His Divinity and the authority behind the words of Holy Scripture. He gives us peace in the storms of anxiety and worries about ourselves, about the unknown future and about those we love. Jesus calms the storms of passion in people who have hot hearts and blazing tempers. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22