Feb 24 Monday: Mk 9:14-29: 14 And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd about them, and scribes arguing with them. 15 And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed, and ran up to him and greeted him. 16 And he asked them, “What are you discussing with them?” 17 And one of the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a dumb spirit; 18 and wherever it seizes him, it dashes him down; and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid; and I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” 19 And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” 20 And they brought the boy to him; and when the spirit saw him,immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. 21 And Jesus asked his father, “How long has he had this?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 And it has often cast him into the fire and into the water, to destroy him; but if you can do anything, have pity on us and help us.” 23 And Jesus said to him, “If you can! All things are possible to him who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” 25 And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You dumb and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again.” 26 And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse; so that most of them said, “He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. 28 And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” 29 And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” USCCB video reflections: https://youtu.be/d35uonIP-B0?list=PLpTzvCOJa7DCtgpPT22G8NClHeoKpWu5Q
The context: Today’s Gospel passage describes an exorcism and healing which Jesus performed after coming down from the mountain of Transfiguration.
Why did the Apostles fail to heal the epileptic? The father of the epileptic boy complained to Jesus about the inability of His Apostles to cure his son. They failed to heal the boy because: 1) although they had been given the power of healing, they failed to vitalize or activate it by prayer as Jesus did; 2) they did not have strong, trusting and expectant Faith in God’s power; 3) as Jesus remarked, exorcism requires not only healing power but also a life of prayer and penance. Jesus heals the epileptic by a word of Divine command: Jesus demanded strong Faith from the boy’s father as a condition for healing. Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” Then Jesus commanded the evil spirit, using His Divine authority: “You dumb and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again.” As the evil spirit left the boy, he was healed of his epilepsy.
Life messages: 1) God will work daily miracles in our lives, provided we pray with trusting Faith. 2) Jesus offers us freedom from bondage to sin, evil habits and addictions. 3) Let us make full use of the protection and help God offers to those who seek Him with Faith in His power and trust in His mercy. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
Feb 25 Tuesday: Mk 9: 30-37: 30 They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he would not have any one know it; 31 for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of man will be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him; and when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” 32 But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to ask him. 33 And they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” 34 But they were silent; for on the way they had discussed with one another who was the greatest. 35 And he sat down and called the twelve; and he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” 36 And he took a child, and put him in the midst of them; and taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.” USCCB video reflections: https://youtu.be/ARVeFzmvNzo?list=PLpTzvCOJa7DCtgpPT22G8NClHeoKpWu5Q
Context: Today’s Gospel outlines the criteria for greatness. Jesus’ Apostles shared the Jewish hope that the Messiah would be a political ruler, and that they would hold important portfolios in the Messianic kingdom. Hence, in today’s passage, Jesus warns his Apostles and the future hierarchy in his Church against the natural human tendency to pride and ambition. He exhorts the spiritual leaders, as well as all believers in responsible positions, to be humble, trusting and innocent, that is, like children.
Child-like qualities: Children are basically innocent and honest. They are naturally humble because they depend on their parents for everything. They trust and obey their parents because they know their parents love them. Hence, Jesus advises his disciples to forget their selfish ambitions and to spend their lives serving others in all humility, with trusting Faith in a loving and providing God. Then they will be great in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Life Messages: 1) We need to practice humility in thoughts, words and actions. “Learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart.” “What is the essential thing in the religion and discipline of Jesus Christ?” St. Augustine asks, and then responds, “I shall reply: first humility, second humility and third humility.” 2) We should not seek recognition and recompense for the service we do for Christ and the Church as parents, teachers, pastors etc. 3) Trusting Faith resulting from true humility is essential for all corporal and spiritual works of mercy. 4) Since children reflect the innocence, purity, simplicity and tenderness of our Lord, and since they are given the protection of a guardian angel, we are to love them, train them and take care not to give scandal to them. 5) We need to try to treat everyone with love and respect because, “Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life,” (St. Basil) (CCC #336(Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
Feb 26 ASH WEDNESDAY: Ash Wednesday (dies cinerum) is the Church’s Yom Kippur or the “Day of Atonement.” Its very name comes from the Jewish practice of doing penance wearing “sackcloth and ashes.” The Old Testament tells us how the people of Nineveh (Jon 3:5), King Ben Hadad of Syria (1 Kg 20:31-34), and Queen Esther (4:16) fasted wearing sackcloth and ashes. In the early Church, Christians who had committed serious sins were instructed to do public penance wearing sackcloth and ashes. The Church instructs us to observe Ash Wednesday and Good Friday as days of full fast and abstinence. Fasting is prescribed to reinforce our penitential prayer during the Lenten season. The prophet Joel, in the first reading, insists that we should experience a complete conversion of heart and not simply regret for our sins. In Psalm 51, our Responsorial Psalm today, the Psalmist acknowledges his sin and begs God for His Mercy. Saint Paul, in the second reading, advises us “to become reconciled to God.” Today’s Gospel instructs us to assimilate the true spirit of fasting and prayer.
The blessing of the ashes and the significance of the day: The priest dipping his thumb into ashes (collected from burnt palms of the previous year’s Palm Sunday), marks the forehead of each with the sign of the cross, saying the words, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return” or “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” By marking the sign of the cross with ashes on the foreheads of her children, the Church reminds us a) that our bodies will become dust when buried and ashes if cremated, and b) that our life-span is very brief and unpredictable; 2- gives us a strong warning that we will be eternally punished if we do not repent of our sins, become reconciled with God, asking His pardon and forgiveness, and do penance; and 3- offers us a loving invitation to realize and acknowledge our sinful condition, return to our loving and forgiving God with true repentance as the prodigal son did and ask Him for the renewal of our life.
Ash Wednesday messages: # 1: We need to purify and renew our lives during the period of Lent by repentance, which means expressing sorrow for sins, turning away from occasions of sin, and returning to God. We need to express our repentance by being reconciled with God daily, by asking for forgiveness from those whom we have offended, and by giving unconditional forgiveness to those who have offended us. # 2: We need to do prayerful fasting and little acts of penance for our sins and share our blessings generously with others, following the example of Jesus’ 40 days of fasting and prayer before his public ministry. Fasting reduces our “spiritual obesity” or the excessive accumulation of “fat” in our soul in the form of evil tendencies, evil habits and evil addictions. It also gives us additional moral and spiritual strength and encourages us to share our blessings with the needy. USCCB video reflections: https://youtu.be/XWiPfsgHUkg?list=PLpTzvCOJa7DCtgpPT22G8NClHeoKpWu5Q (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
Feb 27 Thursday: Lk 9:22-25: 22 Jesus said to his disciples, “The `Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and on the third day raised. 23 And he said to all, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? USCCB video reflections: https://youtu.be/_SqG_l5CU40?list=PLpTzvCOJa7DCtgpPT22G8NClHeoKpWu5Q
The context: After Peter had made his famous declaration of Faith in Jesus as God and the Messiah, Jesus plainly warned his disciples about his suffering death and Resurrection. But the Apostles were unwilling to accept such a fate for their master. Hence, Jesus declared the three conditions of discipleship which he expected from his followers, as given in today’s Gospel.
The triple conditions: 1) Deny yourself. 2) Take up your cross. 3) Follow Me. 1) Denying oneself involves a) cleansing of the heart by the eviction of self from the heart and the cleansing of all evil tendencies and addictions from the heart, with the help of the Holy Spirit, b) the enthronement of God in the heart and the dedication of oneself to Him, and c) the surrendering of one’s life to the enthroned God through the loving, selfless service of others for God’s glory.
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 exploited people living under subhuman conditions. The realization that Jesus carries with us the heavier part of our cross also makes our cross-bearing easier and more salvific.
3) Follow Me means to follow Jesus by obeying the word of God and adjusting one’s life accordingly. The disciple should be ever ready to obey as Jesus directs him or her through His words in the Bible and through the teaching authority He has instituted in the Church.
The paradox of saving/losing and losing/saving life: According to Bible commentators, the word “life” is here used, clearly, in a double sense: the earthly life of man in flesh and time 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 by spending it for Jesus and the Gospel, will save his (eternal), Life. Life message: We need to love the cross, wear the cross, carry the crosses we are given and transform these God-given crosses of our life into the instruments of our salvation by working with the Holy Spirit. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
Feb 28 Friday: Mt 9:14-15: 14 Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 15 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.” USCCB video reflections: https://youtu.be/oEuy-ukV9h0?list=PLpTzvCOJa7DCtgpPT22G8NClHeoKpWu5Q
The context: Today’s Gospel passage gives Jesus’ reply to the question asked by a few disciples of John the Baptist about fasting and feasting. Prayer, fasting and almsgiving were the three-cardinal works of Jewish religious life. Hence, John’s disciples wanted to know why they and the Pharisees fasted, while Jesus’ disciples were seen feasting with him and never fasting.
Jesus’ reply: Jesus responded to their sincere question using three metaphors: the metaphor of the “children of the bridal chamber,” the metaphor of patching torn cloth and the metaphor of wineskins (Mark 2:18-20; Luke 5:33-35). In today’s Gospel passage taken from Matthew, Jesus compares his disciples with the children of the bridal chamber. These people were selected friends of the bridegroom who feasted in the company of the bride and groom during a week of honeymoon. Nobody expected them to fast. Jesus declares that his disciples will fast when he, the Bridegroom, is taken away from them. One of the fruits of the Spirit is joy, and it is mentioned next after love in St Paul’s list, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Gal. 5:22). Hence, we are to welcome the joys of Christian life as well as the crosses it offers us. The Fathers of the Church interpret the image of the bridegroom and bride as referring to Christ and his Church. Some explain it topologically: as long as the Spouse is with us, we are not able to mourn; but when by our sin he departs, then is the time for tears and fasting. Yet others apply the words of Christ to the Holy Eucharist. The parable does not condemn the strictness of John nor does it condemn fasting. The disciples of Christ kept the fasts prescribed by the Law, but they did ignore those imposed by the Pharisees.
Life messages: 1) Fasting reduces the excessive accumulation of fat in our soul in the form of evil tendencies and evil habits (= spiritual obesity). In addition, fasting gives us additional moral and spiritual strength. It offers us more time to be with God in prayer. It encourages us to share our food and goods with the needy. We fast so as to share in the sufferings of the Body of Christ (Col 1:24).
2) We need to be adjustable Christians with open and elastic minds and hearts: The Holy Spirit, working actively in the Church and guiding the teaching authority in the Church, enables the Church to have new visions, new ideas, new adaptations and new ways of worship in the place of old ones. So, we should have the generosity and good will to follow the teachings of the Church (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
Feb 29 Saturday: Lk 5: 27-32: 27 After this he went out, and saw a tax collector, named Levi, sitting at the customs post; and he said to him, “Follow me.” 28 And he left everything, and rose and followed him. 29 And Levi made him a great feast in his house; and there was a large company of tax collectors and others sitting at table with them. 30 And the Pharisees and their scribes murmured against his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31 And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm
The context: Today’s Gospel episode of Matthew’s call as Jesus’ Apostle reminds us of God’s love and mercy for sinners and challenges us to practice this same love and mercy in our relations with others.
The call and the response: Jesus went to the tax collector’s post to invite Matthew to become his disciple. Since tax collectors worked for a foreign power and extorted more tax money from the people than the area owed, they were hated and despised as traitors by the Jewish people and considered public sinners by the Pharisees. Jesus could see in Matthew a person who needed Divine love and grace. While everyone hated Matthew, Jesus was ready to offer him undeserved love, mercy and forgiveness. Hence, Matthew abandoned his lucrative job, because for him, Christ’s call to follow Him was a promise of salvation, fellowship, guidance and protection.
Scandalous partying with sinners: It was altogether natural for Matthew to rejoice in his new calling by celebrating with his friends. Jesus’ dining with outcasts in the house of a traitor scandalized the Pharisees for whom ritual purity and table fellowship were important religious practices. Hence, they asked the disciples, “Why does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners?” In answer to their question, Jesus stressed his ministry as healer: “Those who are well do not need a physician; the sick do.” Then, in Matthew’s account, quoting Hosea, Jesus challenged the Pharisees, “Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice’ (Hos 6:6)” Finally, Jesus clarified his position, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Life messages: 1) Jesus calls you and me for a purpose: Jesus has called us, through our Baptism, has forgiven our sins and has welcomed us as members of the Kingdom. In fact, He calls us daily through the Word and through His Church to be His disciples and to turn away from all the things that distract us and draw us away from God.
2) Just as Jesus did, and Matthew did, we, too, are expected to preach Christ through our lives, by reaching out to the unwanted and the marginalized in society with Christ’s love, mercy and compassion. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20