6th Week: Feb 17-22: - Reflections

Feb 17 Monday (Seven Founders of the Order of Servites) ): Mk 8:11-13: The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven, to test him. 12 And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation.” 13 And he left them and getting into the boat again he departed to the other side. USCCB video reflections:

The context: The Pharisees of Jesus’ time had a long list of fifty extraordinary signs which they expected from the real Messiah, to distinguish the promised Messiah from false messiahs.  Some of the false messiahs in the past had claimed that they could divide the Jordan River into two sections or cause the huge stony walls of Jerusalem to fall by a single word.  Hence, the Pharisees demanded that Jesus show some miracles from their list of Messianic signs.
Jesus’ reply: Jesus knew that the proud, hard-hearted and prejudiced Pharisees were unwilling to accept the signs he had been working as the Messianic signs foretold by the prophets.  Others of them, he knew were not interested in his message but only in seeing signs and wonders.  Hence, according to Mark, Jesus unequivocally denied the demand for an additional Messianic sign.  But according to Matthew 12:38-42 and Luke 11:29-32, Jesus offered them another sign–the miracle of Jonah, the sign of the death and Resurrection of Christ, knowing well that not even this remarkable proof would lead the Pharisees to shed their pride.
Life messages: 1) It is very sad to see superstitious Christians travelling miles to see a miraculous statue of a Madonna shedding tears of blood or oil.  At the same time, they fail to see the presence of Jesus as he promised, in the Bible, in the Holy Eucharist, in a worshipping community or in the fellow Christians. 2) Let us pray for the grace of increased Faith in the genuine teachings of Jesus.  Fr. Tony ( L/20

Feb 18 Tuesday (St. Bernadette): Video: Mk 8:14-21: 14 Now they had forgotten to bring bread; and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. 15 And he cautioned them, saying, “Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” 16 And they discussed it with one another, saying, “We have no bread.” 17 And being aware of it, Jesus said to them, “Why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” 20 “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” 21 And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?” USCCB video reflections:
The context: The Jews considered fermentation by yeast as equivalent to putrefaction and, hence, something evil.  That is why Jesus equated evil influence with leaven.  Jesus considered the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and the immoral life of the king Herod as leaven corrupting the dough of Israel.  Hence, he gave the warning against their evil influence to his disciples while they were crossing the Lake in a boat.
The misunderstanding and correction: The Apostles in the boat misunderstood Jesus’ warning as a scolding for their having forgotten to bring enough bread for all of them.  Hence, Jesus reminded them of his miraculous provision of bread in the feedings of the four thousand and of the five thousand people as evidence that they did not have to worry about food they had forgotten to bring for their supper.
Life messages: 1) With trusting Faith, let us rely on the miraculous provision God has in store for us in our daily life when we do our share of work sincerely. 2) Let us take Jesus’ warning not to allow the evil influence of the society around us to define and defile us, but let us rely on the power of the Holy Spirit given Fr. Tony ( L/20

Feb 19 Wednesday: Mk 8: 22-26: 22 And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man, and begged him to touch him. 23 And he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the village; and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands upon him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” 24 And he looked up and said, “I see men; but they look like trees, walking.” 25 Then again he laid his hands upon his eyes; and he looked intently and was restored, and saw everything clearly. 26 And he sent him away to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.” USCCB video reflections:
 The context: Today’s Gospel passage describes Jesus’ healing of a blind man at Bethsaida. Blindness was common in the coastal areas of Palestine because of the intense glare of the sun on the sandy beaches, the poor sense of hygiene and cleanliness among the people and the presence of a swarm of dirty flies on the seacoasts.
The healing: Jesus was moved by the miserable state of the blind man and the trusting Faith of his friends who had brought the blind man to him. So Jesus showed him special consideration by removing him from the crowd to avoid embarrassment and healed him by audible signs, applying saliva to his blind eyes, placing his hands on his head, praying to God the Father loudly and enquiring about the progress gain in sight at each stage. Thus, before curing the eyes of his body, Jesus gave him time to grow in Faith step by step.  The more his Faith grew and the more trusting the man became, the more sight he was able to receive from Jesus.
Life messages: 1) We, too, are often blind to the presence of Jesus in us and in all others around us, although we believe in his presence in the Holy Eucharist, in the Bible and in the praying community. 2) Hence, we, too, need to pray to experience God in our daily lives, in the events of our lives and in all the people we encounter. Fr. Tony ( L/20

Feb 20 Thursday: Mk 8: 27-33: 27 And Jesus went on with his disciples, to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do men say that I am?” 28 And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others one of the prophets.” 29 And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” 30 And he charged them to tell no one about him. 31 And he began to teach them that the Son of man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he said this plainly. And Peter took him and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter, and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not on the side of God, but of men.” USCCB video reflections: 
The context: Today’s Gospel passage is the first of the three times Jesus foretells his passion, death and Resurrection. The passage consists of two sections, the messianic confession of Peter and Jesus’ prediction of his approaching Passion and death.
Jesus as the Christ, our Lord and Savior: Today’s Gospel explains the basis of our Faith as the acceptance of Jesus as the Christ, our Lord and Savior. It also tells us that Christ Jesus became our Savior by his suffering, death and Resurrection. This famous profession of Faith by Peter took place at Caesarea Philippi, presently called Banias, twenty-five miles northeast of the Sea of Galilee in the northeast part of Israel called the Golan Heights, in the foothills of Mount Hermon. Jesus realized that if his disciples did not know who he really was, then his entire ministry, suffering and death would be useless. Hence, he decided to ask a question in two parts. 1) “What is the public opinion about me?” 2) “What is your personal opinion?” Their answer to the first question was: “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Peter volunteered to answer the second question, saying: “You are the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the living God.” Jesus confirmed Peter’s insight as a special revelation from God. “No mere man has revealed this to you, but my Heavenly Father.” (Mt. 16:17). But Peter found it difficult to accept Jesus’ prediction that he would become the Savior by his suffering and death. When he tried to discourage his master from the path of suffering and death, Jesus promptly corrected Peter telling him that his temptation is from Satan.
Life messages: Let us experience Jesus as our Lord and Savior and surrender our lives to him.  We experience Jesus as personal Savior by listening to him through daily, meditative reading of the Bible, by talking to him through daily, personal and family prayers, by offering to him our lives on the altar whenever we attend Holy Mass and by being reconciled with Him every night by asking his pardon and forgiveness for our sins, and by doing the same periodically in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The next step is the surrender of our lives to Jesus by rendering humble and loving service to others, with the strong conviction that Jesus is present in every person.    Fr. Tony ( L/20

Feb 21 Friday (St. Peter Damien) Catholic online Video: : Mk 8: 34- 9:134 And he called to him the multitude with his disciples, and said to them, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? 37 For what can a man give in return for his life? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of man also be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” 1 And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.” USCCB video reflections:
The context: Immediately after Jesus foretold his suffering and death for the first time, Peter pleaded with Jesus not to make heartbreaking statements like that. In response to Peter’s comment, Jesus challenged his Apostles and would-be disciples by outlining three conditions for discipleship.
The triple conditions: 1) Deny yourself. 2) Take up your cross. 3) Follow Me. 1) Denying oneself involves a) the eviction of self from the heart, cleansing it of all evil tendencies and addictions with the help of the Holy Spirit; b) Enthrone Jesus in one’s heart as Lord and the dedicate oneself to Him; c) Surrender one’s life to the enthroned God through the selfless and loving service done for others to give glory to God.
2) Taking up one’s cross means not only accepting gracefully from God our pains and suffering, but also accepting the pain involved in serving others, in sharing our blessings with them and in controlling our evil tendencies. Carrying one’s cross becomes easier when we compare our light crosses with the heavier ones given to terminally ill patients and to the millions of exploited people living in subhuman conditions. The realization that Jesus carries with us the heavier part of our cross also makes our cross-bearing easier and more salvific for us.
3) Follow Me means following Jesus by obeying the word of God and adjusting one’s life accordingly.
The paradox of saving/losing and losing/saving lifeAccording to Bible commentators, the word “life” is here used, clearly, in a double sense: the temporary earthly life of man in flesh and his eternal life of happiness in Heaven. Hence, what Jesus means is that whoever wishes to save his (earthly) life will lose his (eternal) life.  But whoever loses his (earthly) life for Jesus and the Gospel by spending it for others, will save his (eternal) life.  Fr. Tony ( L/20

Feb 22 Saturday (Chair of St. Peter the Apostle) : Mt 16: 13-23: USCCB video reflections: By celebrating the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter we honor the mission of teacher and pastor conferred by Christ on Peter and continued in an unbroken line down to the present Pope. We also celebrate today, the unity of the Church, founded upon the Apostle Peter, and we use this occasion to renew our submission to the Magisterium or teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff, extended both to truths which are solemnly defined ex cathedra, and to all the acts of the ordinary Magisterium. Like the committee chair, this chair refers to the occupant, not the furniture. Its first occupant stumbled a bit, denying Jesus three times and hesitating to welcome gentiles into the new Church. Some of its later occupants have also stumbled a bit, sometimes even failed scandalously. So, the feast reminds us that the Vicar of Christ needs the prayer support of all the Catholics. This feast also gives us the occasion to give thanks to God for the mission he entrusted to the Apostle Peter and his successors.
It is also is the feast of a relic long reputed to be St. Peter’s actual throne or the Cathedra Petri. On the feast 110 candles illuminate the reliquary that contains it. This relic has been venerated by the faithful since the fourth century. Previously reserved in the Baptismal Chapel of what is referred to as the Old St Peter’s Basilica, built by the Emperor Constantine around 333AD, today it can be found encased in the bronze throne built by Bernini and enshrined in the apse of St Peter’s Basilica. The throne is supported by the statues of four Doctors of the Church:  two from the West, St Augustine and St Ambrose, and two from the East:  St John Chrysostom and St Athanasius, beneath the well-known stained-glass image depicting the Holy Spirit as a dove. In medieval liturgical custom the Pope was enthroned on the relic for part of his coronation ceremony and used it as his liturgical throne in the Basilica on the feast. Ever since Bernini’s art work on it, it is considered as a reliquary. The last time the relic was exposed was in 1867 by Blessed Pius IX on the eighteenth centenary of the martyrdom of Ss. Peter and Paul. Kings of old sat on thrones and ruled. Peter’s chair is a symbol of his authority from Jesus to rule the Church. This feast reminds us that Jesus bestowed to Peter a special place among the Apostles. He was one of the three who were with Christ on special occasions, such as the Transfiguration of Christ and the Agony in the Garden of Gethsemani. He was the only Apostle to whom Christ appeared on the first day after the Resurrection. Peter, in turn, often spoke on behalf of the Apostles. When Jesus asked the Apostles, “Whom do men say that the Son of Man is?”, Simon replied, “Thou art Christ, the Son of the Living God.”
And Jesus said, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and blood have not revealed it to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I say to you: That you are Peter [Cephas, a rock], and upon this rock [Cephas] I will build my Church [ekklesian], and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Mt 16:13-20). In saying this, Jesus made St. Peter the head of the entire community of believers and placed the spiritual guidance of the faithful in St. Peter’s hands. A symbol of this authority is the “cathedra,” a bishop’s throne or chair in a cathedral. Peter delivered the first public sermon after the Pentecost and won a large number of converts. He also performed many miracles and defended the freedom of the Apostles to preach the Gospels. He preached in Jerusalem, Judaea, and as far north as Syria. He was arrested in Jerusalem under Herod Agrippa I, but miraculously escaped execution. He left Jerusalem and eventually went to Rome, where he preached during the last portion of his life. He was crucified there, head downwards, as he had desired to suffer, saying that he did not deserve to die as Christ had died. The date of St. Peter’s death is not clear. Historians estimate he was executed between the years 64 and 68. His remains now rest beneath the altar of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Fr. Tony ( L/20