Feb 21-26 weekday homilies

Feb 21-26:Kindly click on https://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed Sunday and weekday homilies, RCIA & Faith formation classes:

Feb 21 Monday: (St. Peter Damien, Bishop): (https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-peter-damian) Mk 9:14-29: 14 And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd about them, and scribes arguing with them. 15 And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed, and ran up to him and greeted him. 16 And he asked them, “What are you discussing with them?” 17 And one of the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a dumb spirit; 18 and wherever it seizes him, it dashes him down; and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid; and I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” 19 And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” 20 And they brought the boy to him; and when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. 21 And Jesus asked his father, “How long has he had this?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 And it has often cast him into the fire and into the water, to destroy him; but if you can do anything, have pity on us and help us.” 23 And Jesus said to him, “If you can! All things are possible to him who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” 25 And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You dumb and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again.” 26 And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse; so that most of them said, “He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. 28 And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” 29 And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” (Additional reflections: Click on: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

The context: Today’s Gospel passage describes an exorcism and healing which Jesus performed after coming down from the mountain of Transfiguration.

Why did the Apostles fail to heal the epileptic? The father of the epileptic boy complained to Jesus about the inability of the apostles to cure his son. They failed to heal the boy because: 1) although they had been given the power of healing, they failed to vitalize or activate it by prayer as Jesus did; 2) they did not have strong, trusting and expectant Faith in God’s power; 3) as Jesus remarked, exorcism requires not only healing power but also a life of prayer and penance. Jesus heals the epileptic by a word of Divine command: Jesus demanded strong Faith from the boy’s father as a condition for healing. Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” Then Jesus commanded the evil spirit, using His Divine authority: You dumb and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again.” As the evil spirit left the boy, he was healed of his epilepsy.

Life messages: 1) God will work daily miracles in our lives, provided we pray with trusting Faith. 2) Jesus offers us freedom from bondage to sin, evil habits and addictions. 3) Let us make full use of the protection and help God offers to those who seek Him with Faith in His power and trust in His mercy. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

Feb 22 Tuesday (Chair of St. Peter the Apostle): https://www.franciscanmedia.org/chair-of-saint-peter/ : Mt 16:13-23: Additional reflections: Click on: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

By celebrating the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter we acknowledge the  authority that was given to St. Peter by Jesus Christ himself as seen in the gospel reading of today   and  we honor the mission of teacher and pastor conferred by Christ on Peter and continued in an unbroken line down to the present Pope. Even while criticizing the hypocrisy of the Scribes and Pharisees Jesus acknowledged their God-given authority to teach in Mt 23: 2: “The Scribes and Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses”. We are not commemorating a piece of furniture today because  the chair in question is “chair” like “chairman”, a position, an office. We are also celebrating the unity we have together as we are in communion with our Holy Father, the Vicar of Christ and we use this occasion to renew our submission to the Magisterium or teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff, extended both to truths which are solemnly defined ex cathedra, and to all the acts of the ordinary Magisterium. The  first occupant of this chair, St. Peter stumbled a bit, denying Jesus three times and hesitating to welcome Gentiles into the new Church. Some of its later occupants have also stumbled a bit, sometimes even failing scandalously. So, the feast reminds us that the Vicar of Christ needs the prayer support of all the Catholics. This feast also gives us the occasion to  give thanks to God for the authority and mission He entrusted to the Apostle Peter and his successors. (Pope St. John Paul II: On the feast of the Chair of St Peter, the liturgy once again offers us the famous oracle of the prophet Ezekiel, in which God reveals himself as the Shepherd of his people. Indeed, the chair is inseparable from the pastoral staff, because Christ, Teacher and Lord, came to us as the Good Shepherd (cf. Jn 10: 1-18).’

It is also the feast of a relic long reputed to be St. Peter’s actual chair or the Cathedra Petri.  On this feast day, 110 candles illuminate the reliquary that containing Peter’s original chair. This relic has been venerated by the faithful since the fourth century. Previously preserved in the Baptismal Chapel of what is referred to as the Old St Peter’s Basilica, built by the Emperor Constantine around 333AD, today it can be found encased in a reliquary — the bronze throne built by Bernini and enshrined in the apse of St Peter’s Basilica. The throne is supported by the statues of four Doctors of the Church:  two from the West, St Augustine and St Ambrose, and two from the East:  St John Chrysostom and St Athanasius, beneath the well-known stained-glass image depicting the Holy Spirit as a dove. In medieval liturgical custom the Pope was enthroned on the relic for part of his coronation ceremony and used it as his liturgical cathedra in the Basilica on the feast. Ever since, Bernini’s artwork covering the Chair, it is considered only as a  reliquary and not used. The last time the relic was exposed was in 1867 by Blessed Pius IX on the eighteenth centenary of the martyrdom of Ss. Peter and Paul. Since ancient kings sat on thrones and ruled, Peter’s chair is a symbol of his authority from Jesus to rule the Church. This feast also reminds us that Jesus bestowed on Peter a special place among the Apostles. He was one of the three who were with Christ on special occasions, such as the Transfiguration of Christ and the Agony in the Garden of Gethsemani. Peter was the only Apostle to whom Christ appeared individually on the first day of the week, the day of the Resurrection. Peter, in turn, often spoke on behalf of the Apostles. When Jesus asked the Apostles, “Who do men say that the Son of Man is?” Simon replied, “Thou art Christ, the Son of the Living God.”  (Mt 16:16)

And Jesus said, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and blood have not revealed it to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I say to you: That you are Peter [Cephas, a rock], and upon this rock [Cephas] I will build my Church [ekklesian], and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Mt 16:13-20). In saying this, Jesus made St. Peter the head of the entire community of believers and placed the spiritual guidance of the faithful in St. Peter’s hands. A symbol of this teaching, leading  and guiding authority is the “cathedra,” a bishop’s throne or chair in a cathedral,.Peter delivered the first public sermon after the Pentecost and won a large number of converts. He also performed many miracles and defended the freedom of the Apostles to preach the Gospels. He preached in Jerusalem, Judaea, and as far north as Syria. He was arrested in Jerusalem under Herod Agrippa I, but miraculously escaped execution. He left Jerusalem and eventually went to Rome, where he preached during the last portion of his life. He was crucified there, head downwards, as he had desired to suffer, saying that he did not deserve to die as Christ had died. The date of St. Peter’s death is not clear. Historians estimate he was executed between the years 64 and 68. His remains now rest beneath the altar of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

Original wooden chair of St. Peter enclosed in a decorated bronze case built by Bernini. L/22

Feb 23 Wednesday (St. Polycarp, Bishop, Martyr) (https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-polycarp) : Mk 9: 38-40: John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw we saw someone driving outdemons in your name, and we forbade him, because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him; for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon after to speak evil of me. 40 For he that is not against us is for us. Additional reflections: Click on: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

The context: Ecclesiastical structures and lines of authority were not as clearly defined in the early Church as they are now.  There were several Christian communities in big cities, each established by a different evangelist with different preachers, and each with its own practices.  Rivalries could develop among them. In such circumstances, perhaps the incident and instruction of Jesus presented in today’s Gospel passage was recalled.  In the passage, the Apostles complained about someone using the name of Jesus for healing the sick.  They were upset at seeing someone who did not belong to their group using Jesus’ name to cast out demons.  They were under the false impression that healing and exorcism in Jesus’ name was their sole right. This was the “closed mentality” which they copied from the teaching habits of the Scribes and the Pharisees who reserved the Torah and it is teaching only to the Jews.  They had forgotten the truth that God can use anybody as an instrument of healing.

“Whoever is not against us is for us: Navarre Bible commentary explains this passage thus: “Our Lord warns the Apostles, and through them all Christians, against exclusivism in the apostolate–the notion that “good is not good unless I am the one who does it.”  Jesus gives an ecumenical affirmation, and warning against jealousy and exclusivism or spiritual greed,  telling his disciples that there should not be any rivalry, jealousy or suspicion as long as all hold the same belief.  (Since the present-day divisions in Christianity are substantive, rising from differences over the basic tenets of Faith, today’s Gospel passage does not apply to them). However, Jesus’ instruction invites all Christians who accept him as Lord and Savior to work together for the common welfare of all, especially the poor, the sick and the marginalized.  There is no reason for any Christian denomination to be jealous of another denomination because of the greater good they do for people for God’s glory.  True love seeks the highest good of our neighbor while envy results from the selfishness and pride contrary to true Christian love.

Life message: 1) Let us not try to prevent anyone from doing good to others because of envy or jealousy.  Envy and jealousy are sinful because they lead us to sadness over what should make us rejoice.  True love always seeks the highest good of the neighbor. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

Feb 24 Thursday: Mark 9: 41-50: 41 For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ, will by no means lose his reward. 42 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea. 43 And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, 48 where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. 49 For every one will be salted with fire. 50 Salt is good; but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” Additional reflections: Click on: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

The context: After cautioning his disciples against jealousy and envy, Jesus explains to them the rewards for good works and warns them of the punishment reserved for scandal-givers. Jesus promises a reward for even the smallest act of charity for two reasons: 1) in performing the action, we are recognizing the truth that the beneficiary belongs to Jesus and that Jesus lives in him or her. 2) We perform the action as an expression of our gratitude for the numerous favors we have received from God.

The seriousness of scandal: Jesus tells scandal-givers that suffering a dire punishment like drowning in the deep sea with a millstone hung around their necks would do them less harm than they will suffer for committing the horror of giving scandal to one of His “little ones.” This is because 1) every scandal causes a chain reaction, resulting in the victims’ abusing and giving scandal to others in turn, adversely affecting the whole community in the process. 2) Scandals, like the sexual abuse of children, lead many to serious sins and lead both victims and scandal-givers away from Faith and religious practices. What does Jesus mean by amputation? Jesus teaches that, just as a doctor might remove an infected hand or leg or some other part of the body in order to preserve the life of the whole body, so we must be ready to part with anything that causes us to sin and which leads us to spiritual death. This means that we should abandon certain evil habits, bad friendships and undue attachments to avoid giving serious bad example and committing grave sins. Jesus does not teach that we should literally cut off hand or foot or pluck out our eye. Rather, using a Semitic idiom, he teaches that the most important aspect of our life is our Faith, and that it is better to suffer any calamity rather than to lose this precious gift.

Life messages: 1) We need to have salt in our lives: Jesus declares that, as the salt of the earth, our duty is to purify, preserve and give flavor to people’s lives by using the blessings given to us instead of leading others to sin by bad example. 2) As salt penetrates what it is placed upon, let us penetrate the society around us, radiating Jesus’ love, mercy, forgiveness and spirit of service. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

Feb 25 Friday: Mk 10:1-12: 1 And he left there and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan, and crowds gathered to him again; and again, as his custom was, he taught them. 2 And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” 3……………………….12 Additional reflections: Click on: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

The context: King Herod had married his brother’s wife, Herodias, violating the Mosaic Law. John the Baptist showed courage in condemning the king in public and lost his head for it. In today’s Gospel, the Pharisees were setting a trap for Jesus asking whether he agreed with his cousin John’s position on divorce. Jesus used the occasion to declare unequivocally that the bond of marriage comes from God, and that it is permanent and indissoluble: “What God has joined, man must not separate.” Today’s Gospel gives Christ’s explicit teaching on marriage and divorce, the Divine origin of marriage, the sacredness of family life and the indissolubility of marriage.

Jesus’ explanation of Mosaic sanction: Jesus explains that Moses’ permission for divorce was only a temporary concession to control the growing rate of divorce in his time, by introducing a law-governed divorce. Jesus adds that it was because of the hard-heartedness of the Jewish men that Moses allowed such a concession. By denying the man’s right to divorce, Jesus places the husband and wife on an equal footing in marriage and teaches that no Mosaic regulation dealing with a temporary situation can alter the permanency and unity of marriage.

Jesus’ clear teaching on divorce: Jesus reminds us that his doctrine goes back to the original intention of God. Citing the book of Genesis, Jesus proves that God made us male and female and commanded that “the two shall become one flesh.” He then draws the conclusion that “they are no longer two, but one body” – partners with equal rights – and declares that no man is allowed to separate what God has joined together (Mt 19:6).

Catholic teaching: Based on the NT teachings given in Mk 10:1-12, Mt 5:31-32; Mt 19:3-9; Lk 16:18; and 1 Cor 7:10-11, the Catholic Church teaches that marriage is a Sacrament involving both a sacred and a legal contract between a man and a woman and, at the same time, a special Covenant with the Lord. “Divorce is also a grave offense against the natural law. In addition, it breaks the contract, to which the spouses freely consented, to live with each other till death…… Divorce is immoral also because it introduces disorder into the family and into society” (CCC #2384, 2385).

Life messages:1) Let us keep all families of our parish in our daily prayers. The mutual understanding and appreciation of the spouses, their openness and frankness, their spirit of sacrifice, adjustment, tolerance, their willingness to ask pardon and give pardon, their generosity in forgiving and forgetting – all these help to make a marriage permanent. 2) Let us also pray for all divorced men and women in the parish and also for those who have married again without an annulment, and welcome them as active members of the parish, although the latter cannot receive Holy Communion. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

Feb 26 Saturday:Mk 10:13-16: “Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” 13 And they were bringing children to him, that he might touch them; and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw it he was indignant, and said to them, “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” 16 And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands upon them. Additional reflections: Click on: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

The context: Today’s Gospel passage describes one of the loveliest incidents in the Gospel story. Jewish mothers used to bring their children to the great rabbis that they might pray over the children, especially on their first birthday. Naturally, mothers wanted the healing touch and blessing of the most popular rabbi, Jesus. In an attempt to protect their Master from the crowd of mothers and noisy children, the Apostles started rebuking them. The passage describes Jesus’ reaction and teaching.

Childlike qualities for entrance into Heaven: By showing his displeasure at the rough reaction of his apostles, Jesus made it clear that everyone is equally important to him as a child of God. The mothers came to Jesus because he was affable, jovial and approachable. Jesus decided to use the occasion as a teachable moment. He taught his disciples that entry into Heaven demands the childlike qualities of humility, innocence, obedience, total trust in a loving and providing God, confidence in the essential goodness of people, and readiness to forgive and forget. “To be little you have to believe as children believe, to love as children love, to abandon yourself as children do…, to pray as children pray” (St. J. Escriva).

Life messages: 1) Let us live in the awareness that we are the children of a loving and providing Heavenly Father and that by Baptism we are members of God’s family. Hence, we are expected to behave well every day as worthy children of a Holy Father. 2) Let us pray for all children in our families and for all our young parishioners and let us find time to cooperate in the parish ministries meant for children and young people. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22