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.

Saturday, 11 February 2023 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, World Day of the Sick (Gospel Reading)

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

Mark 8 : 1-10

At that time, soon afterwards Jesus was in the midst of another large crowd, that obviously had nothing to eat. So He called His disciples and said to them, “I feel sorry for these people, because they have been with Me for three days and now have nothing to eat. If I send them to their homes hungry, they will faint on the way; some of them have come a long way.”

His disciples replied, “Where, in a deserted place like this, could we get enough bread to feed these people?” He asked them, “How many loaves have you?” And they answered, “Seven.” Then He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground. Taking the seven loaves and giving thanks, He broke them, and handed them to His disciples to distribute. And they distributed them among the people. They also had some small fish, so Jesus said a blessing, and asked that these be shared as well.

The people ate and were satisfied. The broken pieces were collected, seven wicker baskets full of leftovers. Now those who had eaten were about four thousand in number. Jesus sent them away, and immediately got into the boat with His disciples, and went to the region of Dalmanutha.

Alternative reading (Mass of Our Lady of Lourdes)

John 2 : 1-11

At that time, three days after Jesus called Nathanael, there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus was also invited to the wedding with His disciples. When all the wine provided for the celebration had been served, and they had run out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.”

Jesus replied, “Woman, what concern is that to you and Me? My hour has not yet come.” However His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.” Nearby were six stone water jars, set there for ritual washing as practiced by the Jews; each jar could hold twenty or thirty gallons.

Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them to the brim. Then Jesus said, “Now draw some out and take it to the steward.” So they did. The steward tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing from where it had come; for only the servants who had drawn the water knew. So, he called the bridegroom to tell him, “Everyone serves the best wine first, and when people have drunk enough, he serves that which is ordinary. Instead you have kept the best wine until the end.”

This miraculous sign was the first, and Jesus performed it at Cana in Galilee. In this way He let His glory appear, and His disciples believed in Him.

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

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

Psalm 89 : 2, 3-4, 5-6, 12-13

Before the mountains were formed, before You made the earth and the world, from eternity to eternity – You are God.

You turn humans back to dust, saying, “Return, o mortals!” A thousand years in Your sight are like a day that has passed, or like a watch in the night.

You sow them in their time, at dawn they peep out. In the morning they blossom, but the flower fades and withers in the evening.

So make us know the shortness of our life, that we may gain wisdom of heart. How long will you be angry, o Lord? Have mercy on Your servant.

Alternative reading (Mass of Our Lady of Lourdes)

Judith 13 : 18bcde, 19

My daughter, may the Most High God bless you more than all women on earth. And blessed be the Lord God, the Creator of heaven and earth, Who has led you to behead the leader of our enemies.

Never will people forget the confidence you have shown; they will always remember the power of God.

Saturday, 11 February 2023 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, World Day of the Sick (First Reading)

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

Genesis 3 : 9-24

YHVH God called the man saying to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard Your voice in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” God said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree I ordered you not to eat?”

The man answered, “The woman You put with me gave me fruit from the tree and I ate it.” God said to the woman, “What have you done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me and I ate.”

YHVH God said to the serpent, “Since you have done that, be cursed among all the cattle and wild beasts! You will crawl on your belly and eat dust all the days of your life. I will make you enemies, you and the woman, your offspring and her offspring. He will crush your head and you will strike his heel.”

To the woman, God said, “I will increase your suffering in childbearing, and you will give birth to your children in pain. You will be dependent on your husband and he will lord it over you.” To the man, He said, “Because you have listened to your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I forbade you to eat, cursed be the soil because of you! In suffering you will provide food for yourself from it, all the days of your life.”

“It will produce thorn and thistle for you and you will eat the plants of the field. With sweat on your face you will eat your bread, until you return to clay, since it was from clay that you were taken, for you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

The man called his wife by the name of Eve, because she was the mother of all the living. YHVH God made garments of skin for the man and his wife, and with these He clothed them. Then YHVH God said, “Man has now become like one of Us making himself judge of good and evil. Let him not stretch out his hand to take and eat from the tree of life as well, and live forever.”

So God cast him from the garden of Eden to till the soil from which he had been made. And after having driven the man out, God posted Cherubim and a flaming sword that kept turning at the east of the garden of Eden to guard the way to the tree of Life.

Alternative reading (Mass of Our Lady of Lourdes)

Isaiah 66 : 10-14c

Rejoice for Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who love her. Be glad with her, rejoice with her, all you who were in grief over her, that you may suck of the milk from her comforting breasts, that you may drink deeply from the abundance of her glory.

For this is what YHVH says : I will send her peace, overflowing like a river; and the nations’ wealth, rushing like a torrent towards her. And you will be nursed and carried in her arms and fondled upon her lap. As a son comforted by his mother, so will I comfort you. At the sight of this, your heart will rejoice; like grass, your bones will flourish.