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.

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

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

Mark 7 : 1-13

At that time, one day, the Pharisees gathered around Jesus, and with them were some teachers of the Law who had just come from Jerusalem. They noticed that some of His disciples were eating their meal with unclean hands, that is, without washing them.

Now the Pharisees, and in fact all the Jews, never eat without washing their hands, for they follow the tradition received from their ancestors. Nor do they eat anything, when they come from the market, without first washing themselves. And there are many other traditions they observe; for example, the ritual washing of cups, pots and plates.

So the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders, but eat with unclean hands?” Jesus answered, “You shallow people! How well Isaiah prophesied of you when he wrote : ‘This people honours Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. The worship they offer Me is worthless, for what they teach are only human rules.’ You even put aside the commandment of God to hold fast to human tradition.”

And Jesus commented, “You have a fine way of disregarding the commandments of God in order to enforce your own traditions! For example, Moses said : Do your duty to your father and your mother, and : Whoever curses his father or his mother is to be put to death. But according to you, someone could say to his father or mother, ‘I already declared Corban (which means “offered to God”) what you could have expected from me.’”

“In this case, you no longer require him to do anything for his father or mother; and so you nullify the word of God through the tradition you have handed on. And you do many other things like that.”

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.

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

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

Psalm 83 : 3, 4, 5 and 10, 11

My soul yearns; pines, for the courts of YHVH. My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.

Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young, at Your altars, o YHVH of Hosts, my King and my God!

Happy are those who live in Your House, continually singing Your praise! Look upon our shield, o God; look upon the face of Your Anointed!

One day in Your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be left at the threshold in the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of the wicked.

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.

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

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

1 Kings 8 : 22-23, 27-30

Then Solomon stood before the Altar of YHVH in the presence of all the assembly of Israel. He raised his hands towards heaven and said, “O YHVH, God of Israel, there is no God like You either in heaven or on earth! You keep Your Covenant and show loving kindness to Your servants who walk before You wholeheartedly.”

“But will God really live among people on earth? If neither heavens nor the highest heavens can contain You, how much less can this House which I have built! Yet, listen to the prayer and supplication of Your servant, o YHVH my God; hearken to the cries and pleas which Your servant directs to You this day. Watch over this House of which You have said, ‘My Name shall rest there.’ Hear the prayer of Your servant in this place.”

“Listen to the supplication of Your servant and Your people Israel when they pray in this direction; listen from Your dwelling place in heaven and, on listening, forgive.”

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.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018 : 23rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Most Holy Name of Mary (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Most Holy Name of Mary)

Luke 6 : 20-26

At that time, looking at His disciples, Jesus said, “Fortunate are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours. Fortunate are you, who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Fortunate are you, who weep now, for you will laugh.”

“Fortunate are you, when people hate you, when they reject you and insult you and number you among criminals, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for a great reward is kept for you in heaven. Remember, that is how the ancestors of the people treated the prophets.”

“But alas for you, who have wealth, for you have been comforted now. Alas for you, who are full, for you will go hungry. Alas for you, who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. Alas for you, when people speak well of you, for that is how the ancestors of the people treated the false prophets.”

Alternative reading (Memorial of the Most Holy Name of Mary)

Luke 1 : 39-47

Mary then set out for a town in the hill country of Judah. She entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leapt in her womb.

Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and, giving a loud cry, said, “You are most blessed among women; and blessed is the Fruit of your womb! How is it, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? The moment your greeting sounded in my ears, the baby within me suddenly leapt for joy. Blessed are you, who believed that the Lord’s word would come true!”

And Mary said, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit exults in God, my Saviour!”

Tuesday, 14 August 2018 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 11 : 27-28

At that time, as Jesus was speaking, a woman spoke from the crowd and said to Him, “Blessed is the one who gave You birth and nursed You!”

Jesus replied, “Truly blessed are those who hear the word of God, and keep it as well.”

Sunday, 24 December 2017 : Fourth Sunday of Advent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 1 : 26-38

In the sixth month, the Angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth. He was sent to a young virgin, who was betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the family of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

The Angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” Mary was troubled at these words, wondering what this greeting could mean. But the Angel said, “Do not fear, Mary, for God has looked kindly on you. You shall conceive and bear a Son, and you shall call Him Jesus. He will be great, and shall rightly be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the kingdom of David, His ancestor; He will rule over the people of Jacob forever, and His reign shall have no end.”

Then Mary said to the Angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” And the Angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the Holy Child to be born of you shall be called Son of God. Even your relative Elizabeth is expecting a son in her old age, although she was unable to have a child; and she is now in her sixth month. With God nothing is impossible.”

Then Mary said, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me as you have said.” And the Angel left her.