Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Feb. 1 
Mark 1: 21-28

Last Sunday in our homily we spoke of change and conversion. We spoke of “repentance,” “turning from our sin”, “changing our minds,” and turning to another way of acting or doing things. Today’s Gospel selection leads us along the same path.

Today’s Gospel tells the story of Jesus casting out an “unclean spirit” from a man. These “demons” or “unclean spirits” may be defined as anything the people of Jesus’ times did not understand. For example, the sickness of alcoholism was as rampant in Jesus’ time as it is now. In those days they didn’t have a clue as to why anyone would drink and drink and drink until they went insane or died. So they called it a “demon.” For that matter, we still don’t understand it all that well and you still hear people today talking of “demon rum.” They thought such things as disease, mental illness, criminal behavior, etc., were evil as opposed to good and attributed them, therefore, to the devil.

Today we can still look at these “unclean spirits” both in the metaphoric and the real sense. Today this phraseology serves as a symbol or sign or the “voice” of evil we sometimes hear within ourselves; the voice of fears, resentments, alibis, telling lies, manipulating others, rationalizing, greed, anger, and so forth. These things can possess us; we can be obsessed with them. We know they can be contrary to the way, truth, and life of Jesus that we as disciples are supposed to be seeking and preaching. Jesus said to the demon possessing the man in today’s Gospel: “Quiet! Come out of him!” And the devil left the man. Jesus will do the same for us and any “demons” we may have. All we have to do is ask him.

Fr. Howard

 


Monday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time, Feb. 2
Feast of the Presentation of the Lord or Candlemas Day

February 2 has been a pretty popular day down through history. As we see above in naming this day, it has two names: Feast of the Presentation of the Lord and Candlemas Day.

This day commemorates the ritual purification of Mary forty days after the birth of her Son, Jesus. On this day, Christians remember the presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple. Forty days after the birth of a Jewish boy, it was the custom to take him to the Temple in Jerusalem to be presented to God by his parents. This is reminiscent of our own Baptism. In pre-Christian times, this day was celebrated as the “Feast of Lights” and celebrated the increased strength of the life-giving sun as winter gave way to spring.

This day is also called Candlemas Day because of the custom of blessing the year’s supply of candles for the churches on this day. Candles were important in earlier times not only because there were no electric lights but also as a protection against the plague, illness and famine. I can still remember getting orders from my Mom on this day to remember to bring home some of the blessed candles to have in our home. Every time there was a thunder and lightening storm she would light a blessed candle asking for God’s protection on all from the storm. The candles also remind us that Jesus is the “light of the world” to lead us through the darkness of doing things our own way instead of doing things Jesus’ way. Jesus leads his followers through the darkness of worldly ways.

February 2 marks the midpoint of winter, half way between the shortest day of the year and the spring equinox. In olden days the Christmas season lasted for forty days – until the second of February.

People also believe that Candlemas Day predicted the weather for the rest of the winter. If Candlemas Day is a bright sunny day, it means there is more winter coming. A cloudy, wet, stormy Candlemas Day means that the worst of winter is over. In America the same story is told concerning the groundhog or woodchuck.

Have a Happy February 2!

Fr. Howard

 


Tuesday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time, Feb. 3
Feast of St. Blaise

The Second Vatican Council accomplished much good for the Church, much of which still has to be acted upon. But it also had some “not so good” aspects, one of which was doing away with many of the devotional rituals of times gone by. One of these rituals was the“Blessing of Throats” that took place on February 3, the Feast of St. Blaise. In this ritual two blessed candles are held slightly opened and pressed around and against the throat of the recipient as the blessing prayer is said. St. Blaise’s protection of those with throat ailments apparently comes from a legend having to do with a boy who was brought to him with a fishbone stuck in his throat. The boy was about to die from this condition and Blaise healed him. If this ritual is no longer in your parish, ask your pastor about reviving it.

We really do not know a whole lot about the life of St. Blaise. Most of what has come down to us is legend. Legend also has it that he was very fond of animals and worked among them healing their illnesses and maladies. Blaise lived in the 4th century and perhaps is the first veterinarian on record. He is the patron Saint of animals and those with throat ailments.

St. Blaise, pray for us that we may not suffer from illnesses of the throat and pray that all who are suffering in any way may he healed by God’s love. Amen.

Fr. Howard

 


Wednesday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time, Feb. 4
Mark 6: 1-6

Even though the word “rejection” is not used explicitly in our Gospel chosen to be read today, the idea of the people rejecting Jesus is certainly present, as it is in many other places in Scripture. The Greek word for “reject” is atheteo which means despise, cast aside, spurn. The word “reject” comes from the Latin re-jacere which means literally to throw again, to throw back (in the sense of catching a fish that is too small and throwing it back again into the water.), to repulse, to refuse to accept. Jesus shows his awareness of this rejection by quoting Psalm 118: 22 in Matthew 21:42: “Jesus said to them, “Did you never read the Scriptures: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord this has been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes?”

This rejection of Jesus is unfortunately still going on today. And people who reject Jesus and his values are also rejecting their true happiness, joy and peace that come only from him. They reject being lifted, raised above the usual human standards and ways.

What are some of the reasons for rejection? Why do we reject Jesus and other people too? One of the main reasons I see is because those we reject are different from us in one way or another. I had a developmentally handicapped brother who was rejected by many people. He had the mentality of a four year old. He was different and those who rejected him never discovered that he was a truly beautiful, wonderful and precious person. The loss was theirs; not my brother’s. Just like the loss is ours, not Jesus’, when we reject him. We also reject others because we are jealous of them, envious of them. They are too good for us, as it were. But this is just another way of their being different from us, and again the loss is ours.

Today’s Gospel causes me to look around and see if I am rejecting anyone now (and if I am, I am at the same time rejecting Christ). Why is this happening? Why am I harming myself in this way? What can I do to remedy the situation?

Fr. Howard

 


Thursday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time, Feb. 5
Mark 6: 7-13

In our Gospel chosen to be read today, Jesus leaves Nazareth and the rejection of the people there, and calls his disciples to come to him in order to prepare them to go out and preach. He told them they were to take nothing with them but a walking stick – “no food, no sack, no money in their belts.” They were to preach of the Lord Jesus, his challenges and his values.

Jesus is simply asking them to preach what he is and what they themselves are as his followers. Jesus was, for example, a poor man. He had no money, no place to rest his head, no place to call his own. He was totally dependant on the will of the Father and this was how his disciples had to be to preach to others to follow Jesus. The famous jockey Eddie Arcaro is reported to have once said: “Once a guy starts wearing silk pajamas, it’s hard to get up early”. This saying pretty much fits what the Gospel is telling us about the disciples going out to preach. I can’t go someplace in a big Cadillac and preach poverty to the people when I get there.

The disciples had to show their dependence on God in order to preach about it. How does all this affect us in our day and age? This is something for all of us disciples and followers of Jesus to think about.

Fr. Howard

 


Friday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time, Feb. 6
Mark 6: 14-29

It has been said that the only thing necessary for evil to have its way in the world is for the good people of the world to do nothing. John the Baptist didn’t just sit back and let Herod marry his brother’s wife. Rather, John spoke up, saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”

When is the last time we spoke up when we saw or heard something going on that is contrary to the way, truth and life of Jesus? One of the most common offenses against our love of neighbor is, for example, gossip. We all run into this almost daily; people saying not-so-nice things about another. How often do we just listen and keep quiet – or worse yet, join in with the others. That is a perfect opportunity to say something good about the person being talked about.

Let us pray for the strength to react to evil as we should and not let the opportunity to say something pass by.

Fr. Howard

 


Saturday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time, Feb. 7
Mark 6: 30-34

In the Gospel reading for today, the Apostles have just returned from their going out to preach for the first time, as we saw in last Thursday’s Gospel. Now Jesus invites them to get away by themselves to a deserted, quiet place and rest for a while.

Jesus certainly understood the right way of doing things. Many people in our world today are what we call workaholics. They carry working to the extreme. Work, work, work all the time. They are obsessed with work. And everything else is their life is neglected for the sake of their work. We have seen many times in the past that there is no virtue in extremes – ever! Virtue is always found in the middle between the two extremes. Jesus knew the need of balance in our lives, a time for this and a time for that as we read in the 3rd chapter of the Book of Ecclesiastes.

Is there anything I am doing to extremes in my life that is throwing all the rest out of sync? Let’s take the time to sit still, be quiet, and ask ourselves: “Who am I? Where am I? Why am I here? Where am I going?”

Fr. Howard

 

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