February 9, 2020

This coming Tuesday, February 11, we celebrate the annual World Day of Prayer for the Sick. It is always celebrated on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, a wonderful reminder of the Blessed Mother’s appearance at Lourdes in France many years ago and of the city of Lourdes where the sick have come for healing and assistance ever since. The celebration also reminds us of the ministry of Jesus while he walked this earth. While he came to preach and teach, in some ways his ministry of healing and forgiveness is what so many of us focus on almost every time we hear the Scriptures proclaimed at Mass or we read them ourselves in the quiet of our homes. Jesus the Healer epitomizes the image of God’s love and goodness not only in times past but certainly right up to the present day.

 

As I have done each year in the past, I want to quote some paragraphs from the Letter Pope Francis has written to us on the occasion of this 2020 World Day of Prayer for the Sick:

 

“Jesus’ words, ‘Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest’ (Mt 11:28) point to the mysterious path of grace that is revealed to the simple and gives new strength to those who are weary and tired. These words of Christ express the solidarity of the Son of Man with all those who are hurt and afflicted. How many people suffer in both body and soul! Jesus urges everyone to draw near to him—‘Come to me!’—and he promises them comfort and repose. ‘When Jesus says this, he has before him the people he meets every day on the streets of Galilee: very many simple people, the poor, the sick, sinners, those who are marginalized by the burden of the law and the oppressive social system….These people always followed him to hear his word, a word that gave hope! Jesus’ words always give hope!’ (Angelus, 6 July, 2014).

 

“On this XXVIII World Day of the Sick, Jesus repeats these words to the sick, the oppressed, and the poor. For they realize that they depend entirely on God and, beneath the burden of their trials, stand in need of his healing. Jesus does not make demands on those who endure situations of frailty, suffering and weakness, but offers his mercy and his comforting presence. He looks upon a wounded humanity with eyes that gaze into the heart of each person. That gaze is not one of indifference; rather, it embraces people in their entirety, each person in his or her health condition, discarding no one, but rather inviting everyone to share in his life and to experience his tender love.

 

“Why does Jesus have these feelings? Because he himself became frail, endured human suffering and received comfort from his Father. Indeed, only those who personally experience suffering are then able to comfort others. There are so many kinds of grave suffering: incurable and chronic diseases, psychological diseases, situations calling for rehabilitation or palliative care, numerous forms of disability, children’s or geriatric diseases. At times human warmth is lacking in our approach to these. What is needed is a personalized approach to the sick, not just of curing but also of caring, in view of an integral human healing. In experiencing illness, individuals not only feel threatened in their physical integrity, but also in the relational, intellectual, affective and spiritual dimensions of their lives. For this reason, in addition to therapy and support, they expect care and attention. In a word, love. At the side of every sick person, there is also a family, which itself suffers and is in need of support and comfort.

 

“Dear brothers and sisters, who are ill, your sickness makes you in a particular way one of those ‘who labor and are burdened,’ and thus attract the eyes and heart of Jesus. In him, you will find light to brighten your darkest moments and hope to soothe your distress. He urges you: ‘Come to me.’ In him, you will find strength to face all the worries and questions that assail you during this ‘dark night’ of body and soul. Christ did not give us prescriptions, but through his passion, death and resurrection he frees us from the grip of evil.

 

“In your experience of illness, you certainly need a place to find rest. The Church desires to become more and more the ‘inn’ of the Good Samaritan who is Christ (cf. Lk 10:34), that is, a home where you can encounter his grace, which finds expression in closeness, acceptance and relief. In this home, you can meet people who, healed in their frailty by God’s mercy, will help you bear your cross and enable your suffering to give you a new perspective. You will be able to look beyond your illness to a greater horizon of new light and fresh strength for your lives.”

 

Pope Francis then goes on in his letter to offer some insights and suggestions to healthcare professionals such as physicians, nurses, medical and administrative personnel, assistants and volunteers. If you engage in any of these professions, I would encourage you to continue reading his words at www.vaticanva.org. You won’t regret the time you spend reading and reflecting on his message.

 

Here at St. Peter’s we will celebrate this World Day of Prayer for the Sick by offering the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick during the 1:15 Mass on Tuesday, February 11. If you are over the age of 62, are soon undergoing serious tests or about to have surgery, have a chronic debilitating illness, depression, or a continuing physical or emotional condition, please join us for this sacrament. We ask you to arrive five-ten minutes before Mass so that you may be seated accordingly in order to allow the priests to come easily through the congregation for the laying on of hands and for the anointing.

 

FIFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

 

In the verses preceding today’s Gospel, Jesus begins the Sermon on the Mount with the Beatitudes. As Moses formed God’s people by giving them the Old Law on Mount Sinai, so Jesus, the new Moses, forms a new people by giving them his New Law.

 

“You are the salt of the earth,” says Jesus. As salt permeates food and brings out its flavor, so as Christians we are called to permeate the world and transform its values. “You are the light of the world,” continues Jesus. In the Gospel of John, Jesus proclaims “I am the light of the world” (Jn 8:12). As Jesus’ followers, we are called to let his light shine through our lives, drawing others to this light.

 

In the letter to the followers in Corinth, St. Paul shows how his life witnessed to the light of Christ. He tells the Corinthians that when he came to them, he did not preach using great rhetorical gifts. Instead, he allowed the Spirit to speak through him. Physically, Paul came “in weakness and fear and much trembling.” The power of the Spirit, however, transformed his human inadequacies to communicate the message of the crucified and Risen Christ.

 

Paul argues that God’s power, God’s grace, works through the lives of believers by attracting many to follow and accept the Good News. The prophet Isaiah offered the same idea. The witness of an authentic life attracts people to the message. The prophet affirms this vision: “If you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted, then your light shall rise for you in the darkness.”

 

In the 1988 Apostolic Exhortation Christifidelis laici, Pope John Paul II references today’s Gospel as he speaks of the Christian’s vocation. He calls on the faithful to engage in the mission of the Church. The pope writes: “It is necessary, then, to keep a watchful eye on this our world whose affairs pose problems and grave difficulties. This is the field in which the faithful are called to fulfill their mission to be the ‘salt of the earth’ and the ‘light of the world’ (cf. Mt 5:13-14).”

 

When the Council Fathers wrote on the missionary activity of the Church in the Second Vatican Council document Ad gentes, they emphasized that the work of the Apostles to spread the Good News must continue today. Ad gentes states, “The church, the salt of the earth and the light of the world, is even more urgently called upon to save and renew every creature, so that all things might be restored in Christ, and so that in him men and women might form one family and one people of God” (#1).

 

Jesus tells the crowd that the good that they do will show the glory of God. In Ad gentes, the Council Fathers note that it is through the authentic witness that Christians offer that the mystery of Christ is radiated. The document states, “The disciples of Christ hope to offer an authentic Christian witness. They seek to enhance the dignity of women and men so people are helped to attain salvation by love of God and love of humanity, and the mystery of Christ begins to shine out” (#12).

 

For Your Reflection: When has sharing your goods with another lifted gloom from your life? In what ways has someone shed Christ’s light on your path? How can our faith assembly be more of a light in the darkness for our community?

 

VALENTINE’S DAY

February 14, 2020

 

Each year on February 14, we peruse the store shelves for the perfect gift or card for a loved one. According to Hallmark, more than 163 million cards—not including packaged kids’ valentines—are exchanged. And it’s not just an American phenomenon. Valentine’s Day is celebrated in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, Australia, Italy and Denmark.

 

But why? How did this holiday of love and romance originate and, more importantly, how did Saint Valentine become involved? The answer to these questions are not easy ones. Valentine’s Day is a holiday shrouded in mystery and legend. The origins of Saint Valentine’s Day lie in the ancient Roman fertility festival, Lupercalia, which was celebrated on February 15. During the festival, young women would place their names in a large urn. The young men would draw a name from the urn and then be romantically linked with that young woman for the following year. Still other legends cite the fact that February 14 marked the date when birds began mating.

 

The practice of writing letters has been around for a long time. In fact, the Bible is filled with letters: to the Romans, the Corinthians, Timothy, etc. Letters can be used to inform, scold, praise, entertain, or endear. The U.S. bishops write letters to presidents, policymakers and others to help make the Church teachings and positions known. Individual bishops write letters, too, to their people to inform and encourage them. People write letters to members of Congress to weigh in on certain legislative issues, and when a network announces it will be cancelling a popular television program, what is often the first course of action? A letter-writing campaign.

 

Letters can also serve as lifelines for loved ones separated by distance, war, employment and many other circumstances. Or they can help bridge a gap between people who may be fighting or are estranged, and just aren’t ready to speak face-to-face.

 

Valentine’s Day is a wonderful opportunity to let the people in your life know how much you love and care for them. It just might be the time to send a card, to write a letter, to call them on your cell phone, or if you can, actually tell them—and let it be heart-felt!

 

A REMINDER

 

I have noticed that a number of us have either forgotten or have just become oblivious about the normal way we are to acknowledge the presence of the Blessed Sacrament when we come into church. Ordinarily we should do one of the two following things to reverence the Sacrament in the tabernacle: either we should make a reverent genuflection in the aisle before entering the pew or, if a genuflection is difficult because of knee, hip, or back problems, a reverent bow instead. I do not think most individuals avoid doing these actions purposely, but it probably is that we are just preoccupied or distracted. A genuflection or a bow is one way we remind ourselves of where we are and also give others a good example by our action. If you have become careless in this regard, let this be a kindly reminder to get back in the good habit once again.

 

ANNUAL CATHOLIC APPEAL

 

Please spend some time this week reflecting on the Annual Catholic Appeal brochure that you found in the pew this Sunday. The Annual Catholic Appeal is much different than a one-time special collection. It is a pledged campaign commitment where you can make a gift payable in installments. A pledge is a promise to make a gift over a span of time.

 

Each pledge makes a difference because all parishes participate in the campaign and the gifts of many enable our archdiocese to deliver needed ministries and services to answer Jesus’ call to “Come, follow me…and heal the world.” Once we reach our parish goal of $14,261.00 in paid pledges, any additional funds come back to our parish to help fund our own needs.

 

If you received your pledge form in the mail, please complete it and mail it back or bring it to Mass next weekend. For those of you who did not receive a mailing or have not had time to respond, we will conduct out in-pew pledge process at all Masses next weekend.  

 

A CHUCKLE FOR YOUR PLEASURE

 

A lady had been exposed to strep and needed to visit the doctor’s office just to have her throat swabbed for a culture. She sat in the waiting room for quite a while with her legs crossed, reading a magazine while other patients came and went. Suddenly her turn was called, but when she stood up to go in, she discovered her leg was “asleep.” Not wanting to keep the nurse waiting, she limped and staggered toward the inner office door. She noticed one elderly lady nudging another who sat beside her as the two of them sympathetically watched her painful progress.

 

Two minutes later, her procedure completed and her leg back to normal, she walked easily back to the waiting room. As she strode past the two elderly ladies, she overheard one whisper to the other, “See, Myrtle, I TOLD you he was a wonderful doctor!”