Wednesday, 12 February 2020 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 7 : 14-23

At that time, Jesus then called the people to Him again and said to them, “Listen to Me, all of you, and try to understand. Nothing that enters a person from the outside can make that person unclean. It is what comes from within that makes a person unclean. Let everyone who has ears listen.”

When Jesus got home and was away from the crowd, His disciples asked Him about this saying, and He replied, “So even you are dull? Do you not see that whatever comes from outside cannot make a person unclean, since it enters not the heart but the stomach, and is finally passed out?”

Thus Jesus declared that all foods are clean. And He went on, “What comes our of a person is what defiles him, for evil designs come out of the heart : theft, murder, adultery, jealousy, greed, maliciousness, deceit, indecency, slander, pride and folly. All these evil things come from within and make a person unclean.”

Wednesday, 12 February 2020 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 36 : 5-6, 30-31, 39-40

Commit your way to YHVH; put your trust in Him and let Him act. Then will your revenge come, beautiful as the dawn, and the justification of your cause, bright as the noonday sun.

The mouth of the virtuous utters wisdom and his tongue speaks of what is right. His steps have never faltered, for the Law of God is in his heart.

YHVH is the salvation of the righteous; in time of distress, He is their refuge. YHVH helps them, and rescues them from the oppressor; He saves them, for they sought shelter in Him.

Wednesday, 12 February 2020 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Kings 10 : 1-10

The queen of Sheba heard about Solomon’s fame, and came to test him with difficult questions. She arrived in Jerusalem with a vast retinue and with camels loaded with spices and an abundance of gold and precious stones.

When she came to Solomon, she told him all that she had on her mind and Solomon answered all her questions. There was nothing that the king could not explain to her. And when the queen of Sheba had seen all the wisdom of Solomon, the palace he had built, the food on his table, the residence of his officials, the attendance of his servants and their clothing, his cupbearers, and the burnt offerings which he offered at YHVH’s House, it left her breathless.

Then she said to the king, “All that I heard in my own land concerning you and your wisdom was true. But I did not believe the reports until I came and saw with my own eyes. And what did I see! I was told only half the story; for your wisdom and wealth surpass the report I heard.”

“Fortunate are your wives! Fortunate are your servants who are ever in your presence and hear your wisdom! Blessed be YHVH your God, Who has looked kindly on you and has put you on the throne of Israel! Because of YHVH’s eternal love for Israel, He has made you king so that you may dispense justice and righteousness.”

Then she gave the king a hundred and twenty talents of gold, spices in abundance, and precious stones. Such an abundance of spices as those which the queen of Sheba gave to king Solomon was never again seen.

Tuesday, 11 February 2020 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes and World Day of the Sick (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Mass of Our Lady of Lourdes)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, celebrating one of the most famous apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Lourdes in southern part of France. At that time, Mary appeared to a young girl named Bernadette Soubirous in a grotto within the forest nearby the small village town of Lourdes. The Blessed Virgin revealed herself to be the Lady of the Immaculate Conception. But before that revelation, she appeared as a figure of a woman dressed in white and bedazzled with light.

Bernadette Soubirous, later on to be known as St. Bernadette Soubirous was an uneducated peasant young girl, whose words no one initially took seriously, including the local parish priest to whom St. Bernadette had reported her vision of the apparition. Initially the priest was skeptical as was others, who thought that the young St. Bernadette must have been hallucinating. Yet, more and more apparition came through and the Blessed Virgin continued to make herself visible to St. Bernadette and some others who came to visit the grotto with her.

In one occasion, St. Bernadette was asked to show a sign by the people, and the Blessed Virgin guided her by asking her to dig the ground at a spot that she showed her. As St. Bernadette dug the ground, the ground felt damp and wet, and immediately a gush of spring water came out of the ground. This would eventually become the origin of the now famous Lourdes holy springs of water that had healed many people who came to Lourdes seeking to be healed by the grace of God through His mother Mary, Our Lady of Lourdes.

When the local priest and others still doubted the authenticity of the apparition, St. Bernadette asked the apparition of her name, and the Lady responded with ‘I am the Immaculate Conception’ as I mentioned earlier. St. Bernadette brought this response to the priest who was completely taken by surprise at what he had heard. For at that time, in the year 1858, the year of the apparition, it was just four years after the declaration of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary by Blessed Pope Pius IX.

As such, due to the constraints of technology and communication at that time, as well as the obvious fact that St. Bernadette was just an illiterate, poor, uneducated young peasant girl, there could have been no way that St. Bernadette could have known of that fact beforehand if not for the fact that the apparition was indeed of the Blessed Virgin Mary herself. And since then, the priest would become a great champion for the cause of the apparition to be made officially approved and recognised by the Church, with the cooperation with the local bishop.

In the meanwhile, the crowds of people coming to the site continued to grow especially as several miracles were attributed to the spring water of Lourdes. Several people were healed of their illnesses and became perfectly well again. And eventually when doctors and psychologists came to investigate the miraculous occasion, the apparition and St. Bernadette herself, they could not explain all that happened there except with the eyes of the faith.

It would be several more years before the Church officially recognised the apparitions at Lourdes by the Blessed Virgin Mary, but ever since then, Lourdes have always been popular with numerous pilgrims from all over the world, especially the sick and the dying who were seeking God’s help through the intercession of His blessed Mother, Mary, who had made this recourse available for us mankind. And all of these indeed have its roots in what we have heard in our Scripture readings today.

In today’s Gospel text, we heard the famous account of the Wedding at Cana, the moment when Our Lord performed His very first miracle, turning water into wine for the sake of the couple who were married that day. As mentioned, the couple ran out of wine, and we have to understand that in the Jewish tradition, for a wedding to run out of wine while the celebration was still ongoing, it would be a terrible shame and embarrassment for the couple.

That was why the couple was having such a predicament, and Mary noticed their trouble, and she went to her Son Jesus, asking if He could do something to help the couple out of their trouble. The Lord responded that it was not yet His time, but nonetheless, Mary still went out of her way and told the servants to listen to whatever Jesus would be saying to them. Most likely moved by His mother’s compassion and concern for the couple, her plea for Him to help, Jesus moved and told the servants to follow His instructions, and as we all know, the water in the jars turned miraculously into the finest wines.

From what we have heard in this account from the Wedding at Cana and also what we have just talked about, the story of the apparition of Mary at Lourdes, we can clearly see how Mary, God’s own Mother, has always been concerned for us, and she has always tried to show us compassion and getting her Son, Our Lord, to help us from our troubles and predicaments. Just as the wedding couple faced potential shame and embarrassment from having not enough wine in their wedding, we too are beset by many troubles, including sickness and sufferings from many diseases.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all remember that at the moment of His crucifixion and as He was about to die, the Lord Jesus entrusted His own mother Mary to St. John, His Apostle, and in doing so, He symbolically entrusted her to all of us His disciples and His Church. And at the same time, we have all also been entrusted to her as her own adopted children as well. That is why our Blessed Mother always looks upon us with loving and tender care, seeking our happiness and true joy in God, her Son.

And because Mary is the mother of God, by our faith we believe that she sits even now by the side of her Son’s throne in heaven. Historically, the mother of the king has always held great influence in the court and the king has also often listened to his mother’s counsel and words. In the same way therefore, Mary, Our Lady of Lourdes, is always interceding and praying for us, and her Son, Our Lord and King, will listen to His own mother’s words and prayers.

That was how so many people who had faith in God and in the intercession of His mother, Our Lady of Lourdes, were healed from their many afflictions and sicknesses. Let us therefore today, which is also designed as the World Day of the Sick, focus our prayer and intentions on all our sick ones, for all those who are suffering from all sorts of physical, mental and spiritual sicknesses of all kinds. Let us also pray especially for this moment, those who are currently suffering from the terrible effects of the current novel Coronavirus, 2019-nCov, that all those who suffer may, by the grace of God and through the intercession of Mary, Our Lady of Lourdes, be healed from all of their sufferings, pains and troubles.

May the Lord continue to watch over us, and may His blessed mother, Mary, Our Lady of Lourdes continue to look after us, that each and every one of us who are suffering from sickness one way or another, may be healed and made whole, and having been made good and whole again, may we all be brought together in God’s love and embrace, forevermore. Amen.