Readings & Reflections: Wednesday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time &St. Claude de la Colombiere, February 15,2017
The “plucked-off olive leaf” was the sign of the existence in the world of a living tree, which meant that the flood waters were receding and that life on earth could begin again. When Jesus heals the blind man, the first thing he sees is “people looking like trees and walking.” He glimpses what we will see on Good Friday: the man Jesus carrying his cross as if he were a tree walking. The sign of that tree is the promise of New Life on earth.
Readings & Reflections: Tuesday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time & Saints Cyril and Methodius; St. Valentine, February 14,2017
Born in Thessalonica of a senatorial family, brothers Cyril and Methodius began a mission to Moravia (present-day Czech Republic) in response to the request of Prince Ratislav for a “bishop and teacher… able to explain to them the true Christian Faith in their own language.” Commissioned by the emperor at Constantinople, the Byzantine Greek brothers Cyril and Methodius undertook a mission to the Slavs in the ninth century. Accordingly, Cyril and Methodius set about translating the Scriptures into Old Slavonic language, using an alphabet devised by Cyril. After two successful years in Moravia (present-day Czech Republic), they traveled to Rome, where Pope Hadrian II approved the Slavonic liturgical books. Cyril died in Rome in 869 A.D. and Methodius continued in the missions, suffering imprisonment for two years by a neighboring German bishop until Pope John VIII intervened. Mthodius spent his final years creating the Nomokanon, a manual of Byzantine ecclesiastical and civil law. He died in 885 A.D. Saint John Paul II named Cyril and Methodius co-patrons of Europe, with Saint Benedict. The brothers’ service to the peoples at the meeting point of East and West made them “authentic precursors of ecumenism.”
Readings & Reflections: Monday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time & St. Giles Mary of St. Joseph, February 13,2017
The murderous Cain is banned from the soil to become a restless wanderer on the earth. To prevent others from killing Cain on sight, the Lord puts a mark on him – a protective sign. The “sign from heaven” that the Pharisees seek has already been given in the Incarnation. The flesh of Christ in our midst is the sign that saves us from our murderous ways.
Readings & Reflections with Cardinal Tagle’s Video: Sunday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time A & St. Apollonia, February 12,2017
How God loves our freedom! As if singing a hymn, he says through Sirach: “If you choose you can keep the commandments. If you trust in God, you too shall live. To whichever you choose, fire or water, stretch forth your hand!” This is the righteousness that “surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees.” “God’s wisdom, mysterious, hidden” has revealed it to us. “Whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” We long to be counted among them, even to the point of tearing out our right eye, cutting off our right hand. For heaven must be rife with one-eye, one-armed saints who reconciled with offending brothers and sisters… who refused to let lust master them. We stretch forth our one remaining hand to the fire of the Holy Spirit, to the water of our baptism, letting our Yes mean Yes.
Readings & Reflections: Saturday of the Fifth week in Ordinary Time & Our Lady of Lourdes, February 11,2017
Our Lady of Lourdes
On February 11,1858 A.D., a beautiful woman appeared to Bernadette Soubirous in a remote stone grotto outside Lourdes, France. On March 25 when asked her name, she replied, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” Only four years earlier, Pius IX had declared the dogma that Mary had been immaculately conceived in the womb of her mother, receiving the saving graces of her Son in anticipation of her divine Motherhood. In the spot where she requested a chapel, a spring bubbled forth. Since that time, sixty-nine official cures and hundreds of unofficial healings have been reported at Lourdes. “Mary is the one who believed and, from her womb, rivers of living water have flowed forth to irrigate human history. The spring that Mary pointed out to Bernadette here in Lourdes is the humble sign of this spiritual reality. From her believing heart, from her maternal heart, flows living water which purifies and heals” (Pope Benedict XVI). Today, the grotto at Lourdes, France, receives six million visitors each year.
Readings & Reflections: Friday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time & St. Scholastica, February 10,2017
What we know of the life of Scholastica is drawn from The Dialogues, Gregory the Great’s biography of her brother, Saint Benedict, the founder of Western monasticism. Born of a noble Roman family in Nursia of Umbria, Scholastica was dedicated to God at a young age. She led a community of virgins at Plombariola, not from Monte Cassino, the monastery Benedict had founded. She visited her brother once a year, meeting for prayer and conversation, just outside the monastery walls. It was shortly after one of these meetings, in the year 542 A.D., that Benedict, looking out from the monastery, saw his sister’s soul ascend to heaven like a dove.
Readings & Reflections: Thursday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time & St. Jerome Emiliani, February 9,2017
In the Church’s art, Jerome Emiliani carries the ball and chain with which he was fettered as a prisoner of war near Treviso, Italy, in 1508 A.D. From the dungeon he asked Mary for help, and he escaped soon after. He lived from that time in a spirit of thanksgiving. After serving as mayor of Treviso, he returned to his native Venice, where he began to attend to the needs of abandoned children. Jerome found them food and clothes, and taught them the Faith through a question-and-answer style catechism. He helped prostitutes, incurables, and the impoverished. In 1531 A.D. he founded the Clerks Regular of Somascha, who continued his work among the poor.
Readings & Reflections: Wednesday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time & St. Josephine Bakhita, February 8,2017
At the age of nine, Josephine Bakhita was kidnapped from her home in Sudan, force-marched for eight days, and sold into slavery. “Bakhita” (Arabic: “fortunate one”) had five masters who treated her with great cruelty. One mistress “tattooed” Bakhita by repeatedly cutting her skin and rubbing salt into the wounds. Finally reaching Venice with a kindly Italian family, Bakhita was entrusted to the Canossian sisters. There she embraced the Faith, ultimately entering the order herself. She served in humble ways, and spent her last years in a wheelchair. “The whole of my life has been God’s gift, men, his instruments; thanks to them for providing me the gift of faith,” she declared. Bakhita died in 1947 A.D. and was canonized in 2000 by Pope John Paul II.
Readings & Reflections: Tuesday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time & St. Colette, February 7,2017
Jesus chastises the Pharisees and scribes: “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me…. You nullify the word of God.” It is precisely that Word which brings forth creation: “Then God said….” We beg for the grace to leave behind our preconceptions and faulty “traditions,” and to have God remake our minds and hearts again and again in his own image and likeness.
Readings & Reflections: Monday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time & St. Paul Miki & Companions, February 6,2017
The fertile missionary fields of Japan were first cultivated by Saint Francis Xavier in 1549. In 1597, the Japanese authorities, fearing foreign influence, began a campaign of persecution with the execution of Paul Miki and his companions on February 5,1597 including 16 Japanese laymen, four of whom were boys. Fearful that the missionary represented the vanguard of an impending conquest by European forces, the Shogun Hideyoshi ordered the men to be marched 400 miles from Miyako to Nagasaki, with blood streaming down their faces as a sign of their disgrace (their ears had been cut). In Nagasaki, each was bound to a cross and killed with a lance. After 1627, villagers were forced to walk over fumie, pictures of the Madonna and Child. Those who refused were exiled or killed. When repeated persecutions failed to destroy the Faith, authorities focused their energies on forcing mission priests to apostatize. A brutal torture known as “the pit” was invented for this purpose. In 1638, Japan was definitely closed to foreigners. The Japanese martyrs were canonized in 1862. Missionaries were again allowed to enter in 1865 A.D.
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