Readings & Reflections: Monday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time & St. Apollonia, February 12,2018

Readings & Reflections: Monday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time & St. Apollonia, February 12,2018

Jesus sighs, “Why does this generation seek a sign?” The verifying sign that the Pharisees seek  is found in the certainty of Christ’s believers who “consider it all joy” to encounter trials for the faith. They sing, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted.” Perseverance generates perfection.

AMDG+

Opening Prayer

Dear Jesus, By the time you had encountered the Pharisees as described in today’s gospel, You had already performed various miracles and works of power. Yet the Pharisees were not satisfied, but seemed to want something more, something on a grander scale.  Lord today, we have, at times, given You the same response to all the goodness You have blessed our lives. We continue to reject You with our unbelief and our repeated sinfulness. Lord, forgive us for our ambivalent and weakened faith and bless us with a heart like Yours which is overflowing with unconditional love and commitment. Allow us to respond only with total faith and belief in the Good News.  Enable us to repent, and believe in the gospel. We know Lord that even in the face of your rejection, Your heart will not rest in drawing us closer to the Father and His flock and until we all positively respond to the love You continue to gives us. In Your Name, we pray. Amen.

Reading 1
Jas 1:1-11

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
to the twelve tribes in the dispersion, greetings.

Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters,
when you encounter various trials,
for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
And let perseverance be perfect,
so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
But if any of you lacks wisdom,
he should ask God who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly,
and he will be given it.
But he should ask in faith, not doubting,
for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea
that is driven and tossed about by the wind.
For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord, since he is a man of two minds, unstable in all his ways.

The brother in lowly circumstances
should take pride in high standing,
and the rich one in his lowliness,
for he will pass away “like the flower of the field.”
For the sun comes up with its scorching heat and dries up the grass,
its flower droops, and the beauty of its appearance vanishes.
So will the rich person fade away in the midst of his pursuits.

The word of the Lord.

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 119: 67, 68, 71, 72, 75, 76

R. (77a) Be kind to me, Lord, and I shall live.
Before I was afflicted I went astray,
but now I hold to your promise.
R. Be kind to me, Lord, and I shall live.
You are good and bountiful;
teach me your statutes.
R. Be kind to me, Lord, and I shall live.
It is good for me that I have been afflicted,
that I may learn your statutes.
R. Be kind to me, Lord, and I shall live.
The law of your mouth is to me more precious
than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
R. Be kind to me, Lord, and I shall live.
I know, O LORD, that your ordinances are just,
and in your faithfulness you have afflicted me.
R. Be kind to me, Lord, and I shall live.
Let your kindness comfort me
according to your promise to your servants.
R. Be kind to me, Lord, and I shall live.

Gospel
Mk 8:11-13

The Pharisees came forward and began to argue with Jesus,
seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him.
He sighed from the depth of his spirit and said,
“Why does this generation seek a sign?
Amen, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.”
Then he left them, got into the boat again,
and went off to the other shore.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Reflection 1 – Seeking a sign

“Why does this generation seek a sign?”

This was the question posed by Jesus to the scribes and Pharisees in today’s gospel. Amidst what Jesus has taught the people of His time and the countless miracles He allowed them to experience while in His midst, the people of who opposed Jesus still had the courage to ask for more signs.

Today, most of us ask this question from God whenever we are in a fix and have to make up our minds on issues affecting our daily lives. “Give me some signs that this is from You. Otherwise I will have to seriously think about it, even drop it.”  This is a very typical response of someone who does not want to believe or does not have faith.  This is a response of someone who has difficulty in following the will of our Lord especially if it means some adjustments in life, when it means giving up our comfort zones in order to be with our Lord. Quite often we have likened God to a friend, an acquaintance or a co-worker, even a close or distant relations. We require that He proves Himself otherwise we will not follow.

This is God’s reality among His people. Even after giving up His divinity, coming to be one of us and dying for our sins on the cross, we still require Him to prove His point. We have actually made a slave out of our God, sad and painful as it may be to accept. As a parent, as a spouse and as a sibling we all know how it painful it is when those close to us lose faith in the goodness that flows from within us.  A lot of times we risk our name and all we got just to show those close to us how much we love them and how good our intentions are. We always try to give our loved ones a sign to live by.

The problem with the Pharisees was they chose to be blind to Jesus. Showing them signs would be like showing the blind more pictures. Have we realized how our God feels whenever we require Him to prove His point and His will for us?

In our brokenness and in our bruised state, our vision becomes not only hazy but blinded. Our hearts are hardened and we become so stubborn in our ways.  Although we say, we are all Christian disciples we find it hard to accept the will of our Lord.  We turn away from Him and opt to go with what is convenient, what passes away, what is momentary and even lustful.

God message for us today is never to look for signs for He has given enough signs.  He has His Word for us to stand, to live by and guide us. He has given us His life, His love and all that we need to reach our true home. God has all the answers inscribed in our hearts if we only open up to the Spirit.  Jesus is the ANSWER and He more than satisfies what our hearts need.

Let us be reminded of what Jesus said in Matthew 12: 39-42:  “An evil and unfaithful age is eager for a sign! No sign will be given. At judgment everyone will rise with the present generation and be the ones to condemn the world.  At the preaching of Jonah, people reformed their lives. People came from the farthest corner of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon. Yet we have ONE Who is greater than Jonah and Solomon here.”

Isn’t this enough assurance, enough sign, enough answer from our GOD?
Isn’t Jesus nailed on the Cross more than sufficient? Believe and live!!!

Direction
Allow the Spirit to lead us in life.  Total and unconditional surrender to God and His will is the way of every disciple.

Prayer
Heavenly father, perfect my faith so that when my circumstances become difficult I may continue to hang on be your loyal follower. In Jesus, I pray. Amen.

Reflection 2 – No sign shall be given to this generation

Are you good at reading signs? Signs tell us what is coming ahead. The people of Jesus’ time expected that the coming of the Messiah would be accompanied by extraordinary signs and wonders. The religious leaders tested Jesus to see if he had a genuine sign from heaven to back his claim to be the Messiah. False messiahs in the past had made extraordinary claims to attract their followers, such as claiming that they could cleave the Jordan River in two or cause the walls of Jerusalem to fall.

What makes us blind-sighted to God’s presence and power in our lives?
Jesus knew the hearts of those who came to test him. They were more interested in seeking signs to prove that they were right and Jesus was wrong. Jesus revealed the true intention of their heart – they came to argue with him and to test him (Mark 8:11) because they did not believe that he spoke in the name of his Father in heaven. They wanted to discredit his claim to be the true Messiah and Savior. They unfortunately were blind-sighted to the truth of Jesus’ message that the Father had sent him, the only begotten Son, to set them free from sin, Satan, and death. No miracle of Jesus would convince them because their hearts were full of self-seeking pride and glory for themselves.

Simeon had prophesied at Jesus’ birth that he was “destined for the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that inner thoughts of many will be revealed”(Luke 2:34-35). Jesus gave the Pharisees no sign except himself and the ultimate proof of his divinity when he overcame death and rose victorious from the tomb on the third day.We also need no further proof than the witness of Jesus who fulfilled what Moses and the prophets had foretold would take place when the Messiah came to redeem his people.

Jesus is the only begotten Son of God who came from the Father in heaven to set us free from the power of sin, Satan, and death. His death on the cross atones for all of our sins and opens for us the floodgates of God’s merciful love and healing forgiveness. He alone can set us free from guilt, condemnation, pride, and fear. He alone can give us abundant life, peace, and joy through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus gives us “listening ears” and “eyes of faith” to recognize his presence in our lives 
The Lord reveals himself and makes his presence known to us in many ways – in his “word” (the good news he came to give us) and in the “breaking of the bread” in the Eucharist (he is theBread of Life), in his church – the Body of Christ, and in his creation (he is the Word who created all things). And even in the daily circumstances of our lives the Lord Jesus continues to speak to us and guide us. If we seek the Lord Jesus, we will surely find him. And we can be confident that he will give us whatever we need to carry out his will for our lives. Most of all the Lord Jesus assures us of his daily presence with us and the promise that he will never leave us. Theresa of Avila’s prayer book contained a bookmark which she wrote: Let nothing disturb you, let nothing frighten you; All things pass: God never changes. Patience achieves all it strives for. Whoever has God lacks nothing, God alone suffices. Is God enough for you?

“Lord Jesus, may I always recognize your saving presence in my life and never forget your promises when I encounter trials and difficulties. Give me a faith that never wavers, a hope that never fades, and a love that never grows cold.” – Read the source: http://dailyscripture.servantsoftheword.org/readings/2018/feb12.htm

Reflection 3 – Sailing away from arguments

Have you ever tried to help someone who would not listen to what you were really saying? They only heard what they wanted to hear, if anything at all. Usually, it’s something that gives them an excuse to disbelieve you.

It’s so very frustrating, isn’t it?  We want to do good for them, but they deafen their ears or they misconstrue our intent or they twist our meaning to suit their purposes.

When this happens, how do you feel? “Frustrated” yes, but that’s not all. There’s something icky about it. We feel torn between giving up and trying one more time. We pray for the other person, but we wish we could find the magic words that would finally break through whatever’s shrouding that person’s mind.

That’s probably how Jesus felt in today’s Gospel story. The Pharisees’ reason for requesting a sign was not motivated by a hope that Jesus was the Messiah. They were asking for an argument. If they truly wanted to believe in him, they would have been converted by the many previous signs they had already witnessed.

In this scripture, Jesus shows us what to do when people argue with us. If they’re not asking questions that would help them understand what we’ve said, they’re not interested in learning something new from us. Debating them is pointless and will only cause hurt and further division.

Like Jesus, we have to walk away from the argument. Our words are not helping them. The most caring thing we can do is to climb into our boats, like Jesus, and paddle to the other side of the sea to find people who are ready to listen — people who ask questions for the sake of discovering the truth, people who are humble enough to believe that they don’t have all the answers nor see the full picture.

It’s not easy to walk away from an argument when we’re trying to help. It hurts to see people continue to suffer from the lies and misconceptions they believe. That’s okay; we’re not supposed to like it — we care. But walking away is not quitting. We’ll continue to pray for their conversion to the truth, and we’ll show by our lives the truth of our words.

It might take many years and hard troubles before they’ll be ready to listen, but never despair. God wants to help them even more than you do, and he’s not finished with them. God will not allow them to die before they’re ready to spend eternity with him, because you are praying for them in the spirit of his love.

Remember, even some Pharisees became believers in Jesus. It was a Pharisee who donated his tomb to the crucified Lord. – Read the source: http://gnm.org/good-news-reflections/?useDrDate=2017-02-13

Reflection 4 – Confidence vs. Seeking a Sign

“O God most loving, who are Love itself, how we wound you if we trust not in you with all our hearts! If, after the favors you have shown us, and more than all, after having died for us, we do not feel confidence in you, we must be worse that the very brutes. After all you have given us in the past, can we doubt your loving kindness in the future, or think that you will cease to protect those you have saved from hell? Will you leave your adopted sons to die of hunger, or cease to guide them aright in the path in which you do set them when they had wandered away? When we were estranged from you, you did give us many graces – will you then refuse them now when our only desire is to serve you? While we offended against you, you did follow after us when we fled from you; you did draw us to yourself, did cleanse us from our guilt, and giving to us your Holy Spirit, did fill our souls with joy, and bestow on us the kiss of peace.

“And wherefore did you do all this? Surely it was that we might believe that as for Christ’s sake you did reconcile us to yourself when we were among your enemies, much more surely, will you keep us for his sake, now that we are in the number of your friends.

“O my God and my mercy! After the countless favors you have shown us, permit not that we distrust you and question whether you do love us and intend to save us. More evident than the sun at midday is the witness borne by your works that you do cherish us and give us the hope of salvation. Let our hearts rely confidently on God even though we feel not the sweetness of his consolations” (Source: St. John of Avila, +1569, Magnificat, Vol. 16, No. 12, February 2015, pp. 255-256).

Reflection 5 – How to remain steady in the faith

The Letter of Saint James (1:1-11) is a good summary of how to handle adversity as a Christian. The warning about the dangers of doubt is very important: “Ask in faith, not doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed about by the wind.” Such waves are so erratic, you never know which one’s going to swamp you. It’s the kind of water that Peter began to walk on and then sank into.

When we doubt God’s love or his desire to intervene during our trials, we’re double-minded. We believe, we don’t believe, we trust, we don’t trust, we hope, we don’t hope. Having two minds makes us very unstable and we soon fall over. We must not suppose that we’ll receive anything from the Lord; although he gives it, we won’t notice! All we see are the waves.

What challenges the steadiness of your faith? What tosses you like the surf and drives you like the wind?

Probably your answer is the same as mine: people. Yeah, those people who seem to be in our face just to undermine our joy, those people who are difficult to deal with, those people who criticize us or ridicule us, and those people who are on the road of destruction and we worry about them and we try to help them but they won’t stop to seek God’s healing and peace.

Those people who cause the various trials we’re encountering — they challenge our patience, our ability to love unconditionally, our quickness to forgive, our endurance, our hopefulness, etc. In other words, they challenge the steadiness of our faith. The more vulnerable we are to these challenges, the more easily our faith is tossed around by doubts and other destructive forces.

Are these people really to blame, though? No, we can only blame ourselves, for we are responsible for how we react to the trials. Others might limit the possible outcomes of the trials, but we don’t have to let them control our faith, too, or our moods. Our response is always our choice, and if we fail to take ownership of this, we let others toss us around like wind-driven waves on the sea, and we let their behavior make us doubt God’s goodness and his love and his desire to help.

James says that we are to be joyful about our trials. This seemingly impossible joy comes from knowing that no one can control our faith but us; it’s ours and God alone has access to it.

As James reminds us, we should ask God for wisdom, and he will respond by teaching us how to endure our trials. That’s not a bad way to live! As long as we choose to believe him and act upon his wisdom, rather than react to the troublemakers, we’ll enjoy a steady faith that calms the waters even while the storms continue to rage. – Read the source: http://gnm.org/good-news-reflections/?useDrDate=2018-02-12

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Reflection 6 – St. Apollonia (d. 249 A.D.)

The persecution of Christians began in Alexandria during the reign of the Emperor Philip. The first victim of the pagan mob was an old man named Metrius, who was tortured and then stoned to death. The second person who refused to worship their false idols was a Christian woman named Quinta. Her words infuriated the mob and she was scourged and stoned.

While most of the Christians were fleeing the city, abandoning all their worldly possessions, an old deaconess, Apollonia, was seized. The crowds beat her, knocking out all of her teeth. Then they lit a large fire and threatened to throw her in it if she did not curse her God. She begged them to wait a moment, acting as if she was considering their requests. Instead, she jumped willingly into the flames and so suffered martyrdom.

There were many churches and altars dedicated to her. Apollonia is the patroness of dentists, and people suffering from toothache and other dental diseases often ask her intercession. She is pictured with a pair of pincers holding a tooth or with a golden tooth suspended from her necklace. St. Augustine explained her voluntary martyrdom as a special inspiration of the Holy Spirit, since no one is allowed to cause his or her own death.

Comment:

The Church has quite a sense of humor! Apollonia is honored as the patron saint of dentists, but this woman who had her teeth extracted without anesthetic surely ought to be the patron of those who dread the chair. She might also be the patron of the aging, for she attained glory in her old age, standing firm before her persecutors even as her fellow Christians fled the city. However we choose to honor her, she remains a model of courage for us.

Patron Saint of: Dentists, Toothache

Read the source: http://www.americancatholic.org/features/saints/saint.aspx?id=1303

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Apollonia
SAINT APOLLONIA
Francisco de Zurbarán 035.jpg

Saint Apollonia, by Francisco de ZurbaránMuseum of Louvre, from the Convent of the Order of Our Lady of Mercy and the Redemption of the Captives Discalced of Saint Joseph (Seville).
VIRGIN & MARTYR
BORN 2nd century
DIED 249
Alexandria, Egypt
VENERATED IN Coptic Orthodox Church
Eastern Orthodox Churches
Oriental Orthodox Churches
Roman Catholic Church
FEAST February 9
ATTRIBUTES Tongs (sometimes with a tooth in them), depicted holding a cross or martyr’s palm or crown
PATRONAGE Dentists
Tooth problems
AchterbosBelgium
AricciaItaly
Cuccaro MonferratoItaly

Saint Apollonia was one of a group of virgin martyrs who suffered in Alexandria during a local uprising against theChristians prior to the persecution of Decius. According to legend, her torture included having all of her teeth violently pulled out or shattered. For this reason, she is popularly regarded as the patroness of dentistry and those suffering from toothache or other dental problems. French court painter Jehan Fouquet painted the scene of St. Apollonia’s torture in The Martyrdom of St. Apollonia.[1]

Martyrdom[edit]

Torture of Saint Apollonia (1513,Heilsbronn Cathedral, Bavaria).

Ecclesiastical historians have claimed that in the last years of Emperor Philip the Arab (reigned 244–249), during otherwise undocumented festivities to commemorate the millennium of the founding of Rome (traditionally in 753 BC, putting the date about 248), the fury of the Alexandrian mob rose to a great height, and when one of their poets prophesied a calamity, they committed bloody outrages on the Christians, whom the authorities made no effort to protect.

Dionysius, Bishop of Alexandria (247–265), relates the sufferings of his people in a letter addressed to Fabius, Bishop of Antioch, of which long extracts have been preserved in Eusebius‘ Historia Ecclesiae.[2] After describing how a Christian man and woman, Metras and Quinta, were seized and killed by the mob, and how the houses of several other Christians were pillaged, Dionysius continues:

“At that time Apollonia, parthénos presbytis (mostly likely meaning a deaconess) was held in high esteem. These men seized her also and by repeated blows broke all her teeth. They then erected outside the city gates a pile of fagots and threatened to burn her alive if she refused to repeat after them impious words (either a blasphemy against Christ, or an invocation of the heathen gods). Given, at her own request, a little freedom, she sprang quickly into the fire and was burned to death.”[3]

This brief tale was extended and moralized in Jacobus de Voragine‘s Golden Legend (c. 1260).

Fresco of Saint Apollonia
(St. Nicholas Church, Stralsund).

Apollonia and a whole group of early martyrs did not await the death they were threatened with, but either to preserve their chastity or because they were confronted with the alternative of renouncing their faith or suffering death, voluntarily embraced the death prepared for them, an action that runs perilously close to suicide, some thought.Augustine of Hippo touches on this question in the first book of The City of God, apropos suicide:

“But, they say, during the time of persecution certain holy women plunged into the water with the intention of being swept away by the waves and drowned, and thus preserve their threatened chastity. Although they quitted life in this wise, nevertheless they receive high honour as martyrs in the Catholic Church and their feasts are observed with great ceremony. This is a matter on which I dare not pass judgment lightly. For I know not but that the Church was divinely authorized through trustworthy revelations to honour thus the memory of these Christians. It may be that such is the case. May it not be, too, that these acted in such a manner, not through human caprice but on the command of God, not erroneously but through obedience, as we must believe in the case of Samson? When, however, God gives a command and makes it clearly known, who would account obedience there to a crime or condemn such pious devotion and ready service?”[4]

The narrative of Dionysius does not suggest the slightest reproach as to this act of St. Apollonia; in his eyes she was as much a martyr as the others, and as such she was revered in the Alexandrian Church. In time, her feast was also popular in the West. A later narrative mistakenly duplicated Apollonia, making her a Christian virgin of Romein the reign of Julian the Apostate, suffering the same dental fate.

Veneration[edit]

Reliquary containing a tooth reputedly that of Saint Apollonia, in theCathedral of PortoPortugal.

The Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches celebrate the feast day of St. Apollonia on February 9, and she is popularly invoked against the toothache because of the torments she had to endure. She is represented in art with pincers in which a tooth is held. In a late 14th-century illumination from a French manuscript, the tooth in her pincers glows from within, like a lightbulb.[citation needed]

Saint Apollonia is one of the two patron saints of Catania.

William S. Walsh noted that, though the major part of her relics were preserved in the former church of St. Apollonia at Rome, her head at the Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere, her arms at the Basilica di San Lorenzo fuori le Mura, parts of her jaw in St. Basil’s, and other relics are in the Jesuit church at Antwerp, in St. Augustine’s at Brussels, in the Jesuit church at Mechlin, in St. Cross at Liege, in the treasury of the cathedral of Porto, and in several churches at Cologne.[5]These relics consist in some cases of a solitary tooth or a splinter of bone. In the Middle Ages, objects claimed to be her teeth were sold as toothache cures. During the reign of Henry VI of England, several tons of these purported teeth were collected in an effort to stop the scam.[citation needed]

There was a church dedicated to her in Rome, near the Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere, but it no longer exists. Only its little square, the Piazza Sant’Apollonia remains. One of the principal train stations of Lisbon is also named for this saint. There is a statue of Saint Apollonia in the church at LocronanFrance. The island of Mauritius was originally named Santa Apolónia in her honor in 1507 by Portuguese navigators.[citation needed] A parish church in Eilendorf, a suburb of Aachen, Germany, is named in honor of Saint Apollonia.

Presence in England[edit]

The stained glass image in Kingskerswell church

In England, there are 52 known images of her in various churches which survived the ravages of the 16th century Commissioners. These are concentrated in Devon and East Anglia. Most of these images are on the panels of rood screens or featured in stained glasswith only one being a stone capital (Stokeinteignhead, Devon). She is also depicted in a tapestry of circa 1499 at St. Mary’s Guildhall, Coventry.

By county, some of the locations are:

Poundstock
  • Devon:
Alphington (now gone), AshtonCombe MartinExeter Cathedral(tapestry in St. Gabriel’s chapel), HolneKennKenton,Kingskerswell(see photo), ManatonPayhemburySouth Milton, Stoke-in-Teignhead, TorbryanUgboroughWhimple (now gone), Widecombe-in-the-MoorWolborough (Newton Abbot)
Long Sutton
Barton TurfDockingHorsham St FaithLudhamNorwich (St. Stephen’s), Norwich-over-the-water (church disused),Sandringham
  • Suffolk:
NortonSomerleytonWesthallChilton

Her image is the side support of the arms of the British Dental Association.

Notes[edit]

  1. Jump up^ Olmert, Michael (1996). Milton’s Teeth and Ovid’s Umbrella: Curiouser & Curiouser Adventures in History, p.66. Simon & Schuster, New York. ISBN 0-684-80164-7.
  2. Jump up^ Eusebius of CaesareaHistoria Ecclesiae, I:vi: 41.
  3. Jump up^ “St. Apollonia”Catholic Encyclopedia. Retrieved 29 January 2013.
  4. Jump up^ Augustine of HippoThe City of God, I:26
  5. Jump up^ William S. Walsh, Curiosities of Popular Customs And of Rites, Ceremonies, Observances, and Miscellaneous Antiquities

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