11th February – 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B) / Our Lady of Lourdes

This was today’s homily for the 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time but also for the commemoration of Our Lady of Lourdes and World Day of the Sick.

LourdesA good number of people here in this church will have been to Lourdes. The six million pilgrims who go there annually is testament to heaven having touched earth there in 1858. Added to this is the amazing healing miracles that have happened on this hallowed ground. One of the certified miracles is of a man who had much of his stomach removed because of cancer. During his pilgrimage he had an experience of well-being and having been healed. Upon returning home he had another X-ray which showed that his stomach was miraculously whole again – a phenomena that cannot be explained naturally.

In this year of 1858 Our Lady visited St Bernadette 18 times and gave herself the title I AM THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION. This came 4 years after the universal Church proclaimed this as a dogma – namely that Mary was conceived without Original Sin, based on her future role as mother of the God-Man.

Even though Bernadette died in 1879 from TB at the age of 35, her body remained incorrupt and can be seen today in a glass case at Never, France. She looks as if she has just fallen asleep. I once heard a talk in which it was said that the cells in her body are like living cells even though they have no supply of oxygenated blood. I further heard that even her hair and finger nails grow. This is all a SIGN that if we live a holy life too, we will experience true incorruption – that we will survive death and live with God forever.

st bernadette 2

I’d now like to read Bernadette’s own account of what happened at the first apparition. (My own comments/commentary are in []s.)

I had gone down one day with two other girls to the bank of the river Gave when suddenly I heard a kind of rustling sound. I turned my head toward the field by the side of the river but the trees seemed quite still and the noise was evidently not from them. Then I looked up and caught sight of the cave where I saw a Lady wearing a lovely white dress with a bright belt. On top of each of her feet was a pale yellow rose, the same colour as her Rosary beads. [In this brief description of the mysterious Lady, we are told that she has Rosary beads.]

  At this I rubbed my eyes, thinking I was seeing things, and I put my hands into the fold of my dress where my Rosary was. [This tells us that Bernadette was already devoted to the Rosary. How many of us here today carry Rosary beads in our pockets?!] I wanted to make the sign of the cross but for the life of me I couldn’t manage it and my hand just fell down. [Bernadette is overcome by this awesome visitation.] Then the Lady made the sign of the cross herself and at the second attempt I managed to do the same, though my hands were trembling. Then I began to say the Rosary while the Lady let her beads slip through her fingers, without moving her lips. When I finished the Rosary she immediately vanished.

I wish to draw your attention to the fact that this first apparition consisted completely of Bernadette and Our Lady praying the Rosary, after which Our Lady promptly disappeared. This is a significant detail in itself.

A few weeks ago in relation to new-year’s resolutions I encouraged you all to spend at least 20 minutes with God daily in prayer. I’d like to renew this encouragement today. If you do nothing else for Lent this year, this will be a marvellous exercise in itself. If you commit to saying the Rosary with a morning and evening offering, you will have met your 20 minute objective.

If you can say the Rosary as a family, it is an additional blessing. You have all heard of the saying that a family that prays together, stays together. Which of our families are not in need of this special grace. If you claim to be very busy then you can say the Rosary in parts during the day like when you are walking the dog, at the end of lunch break, etc. The Rosary can also be said whilst we are in the car.

Giving God 20 minutes of prayer every day is a much more meaningful exercise than giving up chocolate biscuits for Lent. The real purpose of Lent is a renewal of our Faith, living more generously with God and neighbour, weeding out our sinful habits, etc.

So in summary: An excellent way to renew our relationship with God this Lent is to commit to 20 minutes of daily prayer and in particular to praying the Rosary.

 

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10th February – St Scholastica

I came across the following article in this morning’s breakfast reading from the online Catholic Herald. It is a request of Pope Francis from his Angelus Address last Sunday.

Pope Francis Appeal

“Faced with the tragic continuation of conflict in several parts of the world, I invite all faithful to a special day of prayer and fasting for peace on this coming 23 February, Friday of the First Week of Lent,” Pope Francis said. “We will offer this in particular to the populations of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and of South Sudan.

“As on other similar occasions, I also invite non-Catholic and non-Christian brothers and sisters to participate in this initiative in the ways they consider most appropriate, but all together.

“Our heavenly Father always listens to His children who cry to Him in pain and in anguish; ‘He heals the broken hearted and binds their wounds’ (Psalm 147, 3). I address a heartfelt appeal that we too hear this cry and, each person in his or her own conscience, before God, let us ask ourselves, ‘what can I do for peace?’.

“Certainly we can pray; but not only this: each person can say a concrete ‘no’ to violence, as far as it depends on him or her. Because the victories obtained with violence are false victories: whereas working for peace is good for all!”

 

9th February.

I had another routine clinic today in Letterkenny. Blood phosphates are a bit low so I’ll be going on a week’s supplement; no big deal.

This is today’s gospel followed by the commentary from the Irish Bishops’ website.

GOSPEL

jesus healsA reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark        7: 31-37
He makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.

 

Returning from the district of Tyre, Jesus went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, right through the Decapolis region. And they brought him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they asked him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, put his fingers into the man’s ears and touched his tongue with spittle. Then looking up to heaven he sighed; and he said to him, ‘Ephphatha’, that is, ‘Be opened’. And his ears were opened, and the ligament of his tongue was loosened and he spoke clearly. And Jesus ordered them to tell no one about it, but the more he insisted, the more widely they published it. Their admiration was unbounded. ‘He has done all things well,’ they said ‘he makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

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Gospel Reflection             Friday               Fifth Week in Ordinary Time                  Mark 7:31-37

The gospels often describe people bringing someone to Jesus. In particular, people bring those who cannot make their way to Jesus themselves. We are given a picture of people looking out for each other, especially for those who have some form of impediment or disability. We have a good example of that in today’s gospel reading. People brought to Jesus a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech and they begged Jesus to lay his hands on the man. They lead him to Jesus and then they intercede with Jesus on his behalf because he cannot speak for himself. The people who brought the man to Jesus portray one element of our own baptismal calling. We are all called to bring each other to Jesus, and, like the people in the gospel reading, to intercede for each other with the Lord, to pray for each other, especially for those who, for whatever reason, cannot pray for themselves. The Lord draws us to himself in and through each other. He needs us if he is to do his life-giving work, just as he needed people to bring the deaf man who couldn’t speak to him. Each of us is an important labourer in the Lord’s field. The Lord is dependent on every one of us.

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The Gospel reflection comes from: Weekday Reflections for the Liturgical Year 2017/2018; ‘LET THE WORD OF GOD DWELL IN YOU’ by Martin Hogan, published by The Messenger c/f   www.messenger.ie/bookshop/
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8th February.

Sr. Mary Elizabeth, SOLT shares a reflection for last Sunday’s readings. She reminds us that the goal is to become more and more like Christ, who laid down his life for us. She encourages us to ask God what he desires for us and to lay down our lives for him.

7th February.

This is the commentary of Bishop Robert Barron (Word on Fire Ministries) on today’s gospel (below).

Jesus Bread of LifeFriends, in today’s Gospel Jesus explains that sinful behavior flows from within our hearts. How often the Bible speaks of the “heart.” By that it means the core of the self, the deepest center of who we are, that place from which our thoughts and actions arise. God wants to penetrate that heart, so that he is the center of our souls.

But there is something terribly black in the human heart. We are made in the image and likeness of God, but that image can be so distorted by sin as to be barely recognizable. Our faith clearly teaches the awful truth of the Fall  [as St Paul says “In Adam (the inherited Original Sin of our first parents) all men died (lost God’s gift of grace and union with him)”]. We see the evidence of it in the mystery of sin, which is not to be ignored, not to be trifled with, not to be rationalized away. We are all capable of dark and evil acts. I’m not okay and neither are you.

Have our hearts become hardened, so that God cannot get in? Is there a deep resistance in us to grace? [The real purpose of Lent is conversion and opening our lives to God’s grace anew by PRAYER, FASTING AND ALMSGIVING.]

Gospel MK 7:14-23

Jesus summoned the crowd again and said to them,
“Hear me, all of you, and understand.
Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person;
but the things that come out from within are what defile.”

When he got home away from the crowd
his disciples questioned him about the parable.
He said to them,
“Are even you likewise without understanding?
Do you not realize that everything
that goes into a person from outside cannot defile,
since it enters not the heart but the stomach
and passes out into the latrine?”
(Thus he declared all foods clean.)
“But what comes out of the man, that is what defiles him.
From within the man, from his heart,
come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder,
adultery, greed, malice, deceit,
licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.
All these evils come from within and they defile.”

 

6th February – St Paul Miki & Companions, Martyrs.

Suicide is an unfortunate and most tragic symptom that all is not well in our progressive and advanced world. Neil Diamond sang “Good times have never been so good.” If this is true then why are so many young people, especially, taking this saddest of paths – even pre-teenage children. This is obviously a very complex issue but one dimension of it is that everybody – at some point in their lives – finds themselves in a dark place. What do we do in such instances? It is understandable response to panic and despair. But if we believe in Jesus as our beloved Lord, Saviour and Good Shepherd, then we can entrust our deepest selves and problems to his care, confident that he can take us through whatever dark valleys that lie ahead.

St Paul Miki and his companion Japanese martyrs are truly a wonderful example of what it is to entrust ourselves to God’s care in the more dire of circumstances. Mocked and tortured, they were taken to Nagasaki on 5 February 1597, bound to crosses and speared.

The Office of Readings detailing their martyrdom is below.

################### OFFICE OF READINGS ####################

st paul mikiThe crosses were set in place. Father Pasio and Father Rodriguez took turns encouraging the victims. Their steadfast behaviour was wonderful to see. The Father Bursar stood motionless, his eyes turned heavenward. Brother Martin gave thanks to God’s goodness by singing psalms. Again and again he repeated: “Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.” Brother Francis Branco also thanked God in a loud voice. Brother Gonsalvo in a very loud voice kept saying the Our Father and Hail Mary.

Our brother, Paul Miki, saw himself standing now in the noblest pulpit he had ever filled. To his “congregation” he began by proclaiming himself a Japanese and a Jesuit. He was dying for the Gospel he preached. He gave thanks to God for this wonderful blessing and he ended his “sermon” with these words: “As I come to this supreme moment of my life, I am sure none of you would suppose I want to deceive you. And so I tell you plainly: there is no way to be saved except the Christian way. My religion teaches me to pardon my enemies and all who have offended me. I do gladly pardon the Emperor and all who have sought my death. I beg them to seek baptism and be Christians themselves.”

Then he looked at his comrades and began to encourage them in their final struggle. Joy glowed in all their faces, and in Louis’ most of all. When a Christian in the crowd cried out to him that he would soon be in heaven, his hands, his whole body strained upward with such joy that every eye was fixed on him.

Anthony, hanging at Louis’ side, looked toward heaven and called upon the holy names – “Jesus, Mary!” He began to sing a psalm: “Praise the Lord, you children!” (He learned it in catechism class in Nagasaki. They take care there to teach the children some psalms to help them learn their catechism).

Others kept repeating “Jesus, Mary!” Their faces were serene. Some of them even took to urging the people standing by to live worthy Christian lives. In these and other ways they showed their readiness to die.

Then, according to Japanese custom, the four executioners began to unsheathe their spears. At this dreadful sight, all the Christians cried out, “Jesus, Mary!” And the storm of anguished weeping then rose to batter the very skies. The executioners killed them one by one. One thrust of the spear, then a second blow. It was over in a very short time.

 

5th February – St Agatha, Virgin & Martyr.

St Agatha was martyred at Catania in Sicily, probably during the persecution of Decius (250-253). The Magnificat Antiphon from Evening Prayer ascribes these words to her in her martyrdom. They are a wonderful example of ‘delayed gratification’, carrying the Cross with Jesus so as to have a greater share in the new life of his Resurrection: Lord Jesus Christ, my loving Master, I give you thanks for giving me the strength to overcome the torments which were brought against me; bid me come joyfully to your undying glory.

It is a noble thing to come to the aid of the vulnerable and voiceless of which the greatest example in today’s world is the unwanted babies in danger of abortion. Please consider saying this 9 day novena to the Holy Face of Jesus beginning today or tomorrow to defeat the current drive here in Ireland to legalise abortion.

The Holy Face of Jesus Crucified was a devotion of St Therese of Lisieux. This is a painting of the Holy Face based on the Shroud of Turin done by her own sister.

Holy Face

There are 3 versions. Visit this LINK and download/print the A4 sheet, then fold twice; else follow the below images. If you would like to do the longer version of the novena visit daily this link: https://humanlife.ie/holy-face-9-day-novena/

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