Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Feb. 7
Today’s Gospel shows Jesus using a miracle to get the attention of the men he intended to call as his disciples, particularly Simon Peter. Strictly speaking, we might define a miracle as an unexpected event or happening attributed to divine intervention. Speaking more casually, a miracle is a wonderful happening that maybe we were hoping for but really didn’t expect to happen – at least when it did. Sounds a little complicated, perhaps. Some examples would be surviving a so-called terminal illness, coming through a close call with no harm done, an unexpected recovery from a chronic illness, and so on. To us who witness them and to those they affect, these things are called miracles. One of these just happened a few weeks ago at a Sunday Mass I was saying. A man had what later proved to be a triple aortic aneurism and I just saw him last Sunday walking around like nothing had ever happened to him. That, to me, is a miracle! Similar things have probably happened to all of us at one time or another.
The miraculous catch of fish narrated in the Gospel is, I think, an example of what I was just talking about. We are tempted to attribute it to divine intervention because Jesus is part of the story. But maybe a large school of fish just happened to swim past at the right time. In any event, it was a marvelous happening and we call it a miracle. And it amazed the men with Jesus enough for them to leave everything and follow him.
I can think of one of these happenings in my own life that had a profound effect upon me and which was life-changing and life-saving. It happened on Sept. 14, 1974. This was during my 20 year encounter with the disease of alcoholism. I had no intention that morning of being in a treatment center the following day and being totally free from alcohol from that day until now and hopefully for the rest of my life. But this is exactly the result of my encounter with a little old lady following my attempt to say a weekend Mass after having way too much to drink. I never recalled meeting that little old lady before that evening and I never saw her again after that evening, but when I walked by her on the way to take off the vestments after Mass she shook her finger at me and said. “Shame on you, shame on you.” These words went through me like a knife that evening and I went and called my Provincial Superior and asked to go to Guest House for treatment. I was there the next day and haven’t had a drink since. This whole thing seemed like a miracle to me at the time and I still regard it as such. Later it dawned on me that the little old lady was the Lord talking to me and leading me back to the right way of living.
How about you? Do you recall any “miracles” in your life? Why not think about them for a while today and then thank God, as I do every day, for his love and strength in my life.
My God, how great Thou art!
Monday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time, Feb. 8
Mark 6: 53-56
Mark concludes the sixth chapter of his Gospel with the passage chosen to be read for today’s Liturgy. In this Gospel we read that the people immediately recognized Jesus as the one who had just fed them with the few loaves and fishes. The disciples, on the other hand, failed to get too excited over Jesus feeding the 5000. The crowd, however, was excited and they ran off here and there and elsewhere to bring the sick to him. When they found him, they begged him to permit them just to touch the tassels on his cloak; “and as many as touched it were healed.”
In this Gospel we see that touch is a very powerful way of communication. I remember when I was chaplain in a hospital that I made it a point to touch each patient I visited by shaking hands with them or touching them gently on the forehead while giving them my blessing. Jesus healed many people in the Gospels with his touch. We, too, can use touch in the form of a hug to heal rifts with others and also to show forgiveness to those who have harmed me in some way. Have you hugged someone today?
Tuesday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time, Feb. 9
Mark 7: 1-13
“This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts.”
Once again, the Gospel for today’s Liturgy invites us to put our money where are mouths are, to walk the walk and not only talk the talk. The human tradition the people were so zealously following amounted to nothing in God’s eyes. They do nothing for the interior person, the heart; they are all external and amount to the Italian expression “bella figura.” They look good but are of no worth whatever.
It is easy for us to fall into this trap, too. We have to do things because they benefit us interiorly and make us better people. Life is not some big show – nor is our relationship with God. We must be sincere for it to be worthwhile. The “bella figura” is ridiculous and meaningless.
Wednesday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time, Feb. 10
Memorial of St. Scholastica
St. Scholastica, whom the Church honors today, was the sister of St. Benedict. Benedict, of course, was the founder of the Benedictine Order and Scholastica followed him to the religious life and founded the Order of Benedictine Nuns. Her monastery was close by to that of her brother and she visited him once a year. When she died legend has it that St. Benedict saw her soul as it ascended into heaven. She died in the year 543.
St. Scholastica, pray for us.
Thursday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time, Feb. 11
Mark 7: 24-30
Today’s Gospel tells of Jesus driving a demon from the daughter of a Greek woman, once again showing Jesus’ care and concern not only for the Jewish people but also for the Gentiles. Jesus is Lord and Savior of each and every person who has been, is now, or will be. He is not my Lord or your Lord; he is everyone’s Lord and he loves us all. Ignorance blocks some people from taking advantage of their redemption and we all fall under that classification many times in our lives.
Let us pray today that the light that shines on those who follow Jesus will shine on those who are blocked from following him too. May the darkness of error and ignorance be lifted by the light of Christ in all.
Friday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time, Feb. 12
Mark 7: 31-37
“At once the man was able to hear and he began to talk without any trouble.”
As I was reading the Gospel for today’s Liturgy, I was thinking of how blessed we all are to have our five senses as gifts of our Creator and how we many times we take them for granted, never bothering to include them in our prayers of thanksgiving to God. How joyful the man in our Gospel for today must have been when he was no longer dumb and could hear and speak. How grateful we all should be for out gifts of taste, touch, sight, hearing and smelling. How terrible it must be to lose any one of them. Let us thank God today for all of the many gifts he showers on all of us.
Saturday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time, Feb. 13
Mark 8: 1-10
Today’s Gospel from St. Mark tells of Jesus feeding a crowd of people for the second time (8: 1-10). Jesus feeding the crowd for the first time can be found in Mark’s Gospel in 6: 34-44. Scholars wonder why there is a repetition. Some maintain the first feeding of the crowd is suggestive of God feeding his people with manna while they were in the desert on their way to the land of milk and honey. The second feeding, they say, was suggestive of the Eucharist. It is also to be noted that the second feeding took place in Gentile territory. Jesus had just cured the Greek woman’s daughter. Understandably, there are Gentiles in the crowd the second time and this gives rise to the idea, the hope, that one day all people of all religions may “break bread” together at the same gathering.
There is a hymn that we sing from time to time at Mass: “In Christ There Is No East Or West”. The first verse is as follows:
In Christ there is no east of west,
In him no south or north;
But one great family bound by love,
Throughout the whole wide earth.
Lord, hasten the day when these words come true and all may break bread together!