Saturday, 11 February 2023 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, World Day of the Sick (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the Church celebrates the occasion of the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, marking that well-known Apparition of the Mother of God, the Blessed Virgin Mary at the site of Lourdes in rural southern part of France. This Apparition of Our Lady of Lourdes happened over a century and a half ago, in the mid 19th century, as Mary, Our Lady of Lourdes appeared before a young peasant girl named Bernadette Soubirous, now better known as St. Bernadette, revealing her true nature and intentions to her. Despite the many challenges and doubts that St. Bernadette faced back then, eventually the Church acknowledged the vision and Apparition to be authentic, and celebrated universally as the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, with the site of Lourdes itself becoming one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in the world.

Our Lady often appeared throughout history during times of great trials and hardships for the faithful people of God and for the world in general. She appeared in Hispania in the years of the persecutions against Christians during the earliest days of the Church to St. James the Apostle, now known as the Apparition of Our Lady of the Pillar, when Mary, who was probably even still living in the world back then, appeared to the Apostle to reassure him and to strengthen his resolve in proclaiming the truth of God to the people that he was ministering to. Mary also appeared in Guadalupe in Mexico, during the years immediately following the post-Columbian European expansion into the American continent, the New World when wars, conflicts, pandemics and other factors led to the sufferings and deaths of untold millions. Back then it was also right in the midst of the Protestant reformation when the Church became divided and splintered due to heretical teachings of those so-called reformers.

In all those occasions and others, the Blessed Virgin, Mother of God appeared to various people including that at Lourdes because she wanted to show us all the love of God and remind us of everything that her Son had done for our sake, in His sacrifice on His Cross out of ever pure and enduring love for each and every one of us. Despite our many transgressions and stubborn attitude in rejecting His kindness and love, God has always loved us regardless, and desired that each and every one of us may find our way back to Him, to be reconciled to Him, and at the same time He has also entrusted all of us to the loving care of His mother Mary, just as He had done so from His Cross. This way, each and every one of us are beloved and dear to her, and receive from her the most tender love that she has shown her Son, Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

In Lourdes, Our Lady appeared to the young, fourteen year old Bernadette Soubirous in the grotto of Massabielle where the Shrine to our Lady of Lourdes now stands. St. Bernadette initially did not know who it was that called her and appeared to her, but as she continued to meet Our Lady of Lourdes on more and more occasions, listening to her speaking and revealing more about herself, St. Bernadette kept on coming back to meet the Apparition of Our Lady. On this date, the eleventh day of February, was the date of the first apparition, and in total eighteen apparitions of Our Lady happened, and as people began to hear about the apparition of the Lady dressed in white with blue sash as encountered by the young St. Bernadette, they started to come to the site of the Apparition.

In one of the apparitions, Our Lady told St. Bernadette to dig the ground at that area and drink from the spring that would come forth from the ground. St. Bernadette did so faithfully and although it made her to appear dishevelled with mud, and dismayed some of her supporters, but the spring that came forth at the grotto site of the Apparition quickly gained a great reputation for healing, as the waters that came forth from the spring brought about quite a number of miraculous healings that scientists and doctors later on could not explain by whatever means, and the Church later certified as being authentic and miraculous in nature. That was the beginning of the famous healing miracles at Lourdes, and the beginning of the popular pilgrimage to the site of Our Lady’s Apparition, which drew millions of pilgrims and more every year.

When met by skepticism and doubt by the Church authorities, on the date of the Feast of the Annunciation of the Lord, Our Lady told St. Bernadette Soubirous that she is the Immaculate Conception, which stunned the authorities, the local bishop and priest who therefore became convinced of the authenticity of the Apparition, as the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary was just proclaimed by the Blessed Pope Pius IX four years prior to the Apparition, and at the age and time back then, with much more difficult communication and transport, there could have been no way for an illiterate young peasant girl like St. Bernadette to know this truth about the Blessed Virgin, the Immaculate Conception, unless the Apparition was indeed truly of the Mother of God herself.

From then on, for the next a century and half and more until today, Lourdes had become a place visited by innumerable pilgrims and Christian faithful, with various reasons, and many among them sought healing from their physical troubles and maladies. Many were cured miraculously by their faith in God, and with the help and intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes, His mother, who is also our loving mother. That is why today, on this World Day of the Sick, on the Feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes, each and every one of us are reminded of God’s love for each one of us, which He has reassured us in many times, and which He lavished on us through the help of none other than His own mother Mary, Our Lady of Lourdes, we are all seeking for healing for our various maladies and sickness, our various illnesses and troubles in life.

And even, just as we seek for God’s healing for us, among those of us who are perfectly fit physically and mentally, there is still the sickness of our souls, the corruption of sin that has always been ever present all around us. All of us mankind are sinners be it great or small sins that we have committed, or whether few or plenty in terms of the amount of sins we committed. Not only that, but it is the Lord alone Who is able to heal us from our sins, as while doctors and other means may heal us from our worldly sickness and troubles, no one can forgive sin save that of God Himself. Hence, each one of us on this day are reminded that we who are in need of God’s healing and mercy, all of us should come to seek Him wholeheartedly, and to humbly entrust ourselves to Him with the help from His most loving Mother Mary, Our Lady of Lourdes.

Let us ask then, for our blessed and loving Mother to pray and intercede for us, who are sinners and afflicted with many sickness and troubles, foremost of which is our corruption by sin. May Our Lady of Lourdes continue to pray and intercede for us sinners, and for those afflicted by various maladies, illnesses and sickness, all throughout the world. May the Lord have mercy on us and heal us from our troubles, and help us to come back to Him, and to be reunited with Him, in perfect bliss and happiness one day, free from the troubles of our flesh and our souls, pure and perfect once again. Amen.

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