February 2 is the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, a major feast of our calendar.
February 5 and February 8 we remember two valiant women saints, St. Agatha and St. Josephine Bakhita. Both faced the evils of human trafficking and abuses against women. Timely examples of present evils and God’s grace that works against them.
February 6 we celebrate Saint Paul Miki and Companions, martyrs of the church in Japan. Our calendar reminds us every nation has holy people. That day let’s remember Japan, our church there and its holy people.
Our readings this week continue from chapters 5 and 6 of Mark’s gospel. He begins chapter 5: “They came to the other side of the sea, to the territory of the Gerasenes.” That’s pagan territory. He begins chapter 6: ”He departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples.” Two important destinations for us, as well. Our own hometown and the world beyond.
FEBRUARY 1 Mon Weekday. Heb 11:32-40/Mk 5:1-20
2 Tue The Presentation of the Lord Feast
Mal 3:1-4/Heb 2:14-18/Lk 2:22-40 or 2:22-32
3 Wed Weekday
[Saint Blaise, Bishop and Martyr; Saint Ansgar, Bishop]
St. John Bosco, (1815-1888) was born in northern Italy, then experiencing the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution. His father died when he was two and he was brought up by his mother who struggled financially raising him, yet took care he had a good religious and humanistic education.
At twenty, John entered the seminary and once ordained a priest he devoted himself to helping young men facing a society moving from farms to factories, from an apprentice-based economy to one based on machines. He provided for their education and spirituality. He was joined by Mother Mary Dominic Mazzarello who took on the education of young women.
As young Italians began to immigrate to other countries in search of work, John Bosco and his companions accompanied them to North and South America. The Salesian community he founded spread throughout the world as educators and missionaries.
The opening prayer for his feast calls John Bosco “a teacher and father of the young.” He believed firmly that young people needed a good educational formation, but he also believed they needed teachers who took a fatherly interest in them, as God is Father of us all.
“The young should know that they are loved,” he said. As a boy he himself knew what the loss of father meant. As a young man he enjoyed circus entertainers, so he knew we need entertainment. But he also said, “ I do not recommend penance, but work, work, work.”
“Let us regard those boys over whom we have some authority as our own sons. Let us place ourselves in their service. Let us be ashamed to assume an attitude of superiority. Let us not rule over them except for the purpose of serving them better.
This was the method that Jesus used with the apostles. He put up with their ignorance and roughness and even their infidelity. He treated sinners with a kindness and affection that caused some to be shocked, others to be scandalised, and still others to hope for God’s mercy. And so he bade us to be gentle and humble of heart.” (Letter, John Bosco)
The church must always look at the “signs of the times in the light of faith.” We pray for people like John Bosco to meet the needs of the young today.
Saturday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time (Year I)
Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19; Mark 4:35-41
Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.
Is faith objective or subjective?
The New American Bible (Revised Edition) footnote to Hebrews 11:1 explains the difficulty of translating the original Greek words that it has rendered “realization” (hupostasis) and “evidence” (elegchos). The difficulty is existential and experiential.
The Son of God united “flesh” (sarx) and divinity in his own person, an objective fact attested by Scripture, Tradition, and the Church, but facts do not produce faith of themselves. Even the devils “believe and tremble,” James writes (2:19).
Hupostasis unites object and subject—that which is believed and the heart that believes. As object, hupostasis means substance, being and reality. As a subjective experience, it means confidence, realization and conviction.
Elegchos also carries objective and subjective meanings. As object, it means proof or evidence, and as subjective experience it means inner conviction. Translation is difficult because the choice of one word seems to exclude others. The NABRE has tried to include both the objective and subjective dimensions of faith in its translation.
From the point of view of spacetime, faith is related to hope in the realm of “not yet.”
All these died in faith. They did not receive what had been promised but saw it and greeted it from afar…
From the point of view of eternity, faith rejoices “now” with the eye of God in the heart.
Abraham your father rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad.
Heroes like Abraham walked with God, trusting in his “unseen” promises. Yet Abraham’s faith was as real and substantial as sight, Jesus attested two millennia after the death of the patriarch.
Genesis records that Enoch “walked” (halak) with God and “he was not, for God took him” (Genesis 5:24). The word for “walk” appears in Genesis 3:8 to describe God “walking” in the garden. God and the son of God walked together, an image of the Father and the Son: “The Father and I are one” (John 10:30).
The seventh member of the genealogy in Genesis did not die, an early sign of the resurrection hope. Seven also indicates perfection and completion in the Hebrew covenant.
By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and “he was found no more because God had taken him.” Before he was taken up, he was attested to have pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please him, for anyone who approaches God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
The possibility of resurrection kept alive by the memory of Enoch in the human heart enlivened the faith of Abraham many centuries later.
By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was ready to offer his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac descendants shall bear your name.” He reasoned that God was able to raise even from the dead, and he received Isaac back as a symbol.
Faith is both objective and subjective. Faith is the life of God in the human heart. Faith is the still, quiet divine center in the midst of storms and trials.
Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm.
Faith is Jesus asleep, yet in command, in the inner boat.
“On that day, as evening drew on, he said to them ‘Let us cross to the other side.’” Earlier that same day, Jesus taught the crowds and his disciples gathered at the lakeshore, Mark’s Gospel says. His words were wise and reassuring. Words you could set the course of your life on.
Yet, as he and his disciples sailed onto the Sea of Galilee “ a violent squall came up, waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up. Jesus was in the stern asleep on a cushion.” They were afraid they were going to drown, and Jesus in the stern of the boat seemed asleep, unaware of their fears.
A good image of what our lives can be, isn’t it? The words of faith can bring such strength and encouragement. “Peace be with you.” “I am the vine, you are the branches.” “I’m with you all days.” “I am the way, the truth and the life.”
Then, the storms come; unexpectedly, powerfully, with frightening suddenness sometimes, turning our lives upside down. Overwhelmed by life’s quick tragedies and doubts, we forget God’s assurances. Like Jesus in the boat, God seems asleep, unaware of our experience.
Mark’s gospel is good to reflect on today in a raging pandemic, political and economic storms, the planet endangered by wild seas and changing weather.
“The winds and the sea obey him,” our gospel today reminds us. God is for stormy times as well as fair. He doesn’t want us to perish. “Have faith,” he says, “I’m with you.” God’s with us in storms.
Friday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time (Year I)
Hebrews 10:32-39; Mark 4:26-34
The Word through whom the world came to be knew his creation intimately (John 1:3). Earth, air, soil, and water that composed his own body were fashioned in the beginning by the Spirit of God hovering over the face of the waters (Genesis 1:2). That same life-giving Spirit keeps the world continually in being and becoming like a never-ending song.
He said, “This is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.”
Seeds of the Logos waft through the universe by the Breath of the Sower and grow by the mysterious life-giving energy of the Spirit. In the language of science, organic life emerged from inorganic matter though it knows not how. Spirit has not entered the vocabulary of science, but without it life’s mystery eludes empiricism. Spirit and matter interpenetrate, according to Genesis.
In Adam, organic life becomes conscious of itself as a person in communion with other persons and all living beings. Homo sapiens (“wise human being”) is matter awake.
The Light, which enlightens everyone, scattered seeds of truth throughout the universe in preparation for his coming (John 1:9). All truth in the Law and the Prophets of the Old Testament and in pagan philosophy originated from the Logos and dispersed by the Spirit. Knowledge of divinity and the natural law are accessible to all (Romans 1:20; 2:14-15).
He said, “To what shall we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”
The mustard seed is the personal cosmos in the image of the Logos. Sown “in the beginning,” it grew inorganically, organically, and spiritually by the Breath of God. Seeds of wisdom (sapientia) prepared homo sapiens to receive the Word made flesh.
Those who received the Word and became one with the Word followed the pattern of his life.
Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.
Remember the days past when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a great contest of suffering.
The seed of the Logos, growing into the theandric organism of the Blessed Trinity, must break to release the deifying energy of grace.
We are not among those who draw back and perish, but among those who have faith and will possess life.
“Jesus said to the crowds: “This is how it is with the Kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit.” (Mark 4, 26-34)
Instead of a Sower, a “man” scatters seed on the land in the parable from Mark’s Gospel we read today. The seed sprouts and grows “he knows not how.” In Mark’s previous parable, the Sower can be God as well as man, but only a man can be so lacking in knowledge and attention as this parable describes.
Day and night, limited by routine life, he goes about living and working, not seeing or understanding everything. We are creatures, not God.
The Kingdom of God is beyond human power to build and understand, the parable says. “Of its own accord the land yields fruit.” God brings the Kingdom about. “Your Kingdom come.”
How hard to humbly acknowledge we don’t control or fully understand the world we live in. The two parables for today tell us to recognize our limited power and wisdom. We’re told, “You can do anything if you believe and put your mind to it.” Not true. We’re human beings.
The two parables today have a different message. Yes, bring out the light you have and don’t hide it, but also remember the Great Light beyond yours that gradually reveals the Kingdom. In humble trust we see the Kingdom of God.