Jan 25-30: Jan 25 Monday: (Conversion of the Apostle Paul): Mk 16:15-20: (The feast of the conversion St. Paul) https://www.franciscanmedia.org/conversion-of-saint-paul/ Paul, the “Apostle to the Gentiles” and the greatest missionary of the Apostolic age, was a Roman citizen by his birth in Tarsus (in Cilicia), and a Jew born to the tribe of Benjamin. His Hebrew name was Saul. Since he was a Pharisee, Saul was sent to Jerusalem by his parents to study the Mosaic Law under the great rabbi Gamaliel. As a student, he also learned the trade of tent-making.
He was present as a consenting observer at the stoning of Stephen. But Saul was miraculously converted on his way to Damascus to arrest the Christians. After that, Saul, now called Paul, made several missionary journeys, converted hundreds of Jews and Gentiles and established Church communities. He wrote 14 epistles. He was arrested and kept in prison for two years in Caesarea and spent two more years under house arrest in Rome. Finally, he was martyred by beheading at Tre Fontane in Rome.
Today we celebrate the feast of the conversion St. Paul (described thrice in the New Testament: Acts chapters 9, 22, and 26) an event which revolutionized the history and theology of the early Church. Saul of Tarsus, because of his zeal for the Jewish law and Jewish traditions, became the most outrageous enemy of Christ and his teaching, as the apostles started preaching the Gospel. Saul consented to the martyrdom of Stephen, watching the cloaks of the stoners. After the martyrdom of the holy deacon, the priests and magistrates of the Jews raised a violent persecution against the Christian communities at Jerusalem, and Saul was their fanatical young leader. By virtue of the authority he had received from the high priest, he dragged the Christians out of their houses, chained them and thrust them into prison. In the fury of his zeal, he applied to the high priest and Sanhedrin for a commission to take up all Jews at Damascus who confessed Jesus Christ and bring them bound to Jerusalem to be properly punished. He was almost at the end of his journey to Damascus, when, at about noon, he and his company were suddenly surrounded by a great light. As Saul fell to the ground, he heard a voice say, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” Saul answered, “Who are you, Sir?” And the voice said, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting. Now, get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” Saul rose and, blind, was led by his companions into Damascus. The Lord sent a Damascus disciple named Ananias to heal and instruct Saul. Ananias entered the house and, obeying Jesus’ orders, laid his hands-on Saul and prayed over him so that he might regain his sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit. And immediately something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes. He regained his sight, got up, was baptized and, having eaten, recovered his strength. Saul had realized the truth that Jesus was the mysterious fulfillment of all he had been blindly pursuing. He could easily identify Jesus with Jesus’ followers. He stayed several days in Damascus with Christian disciples and started teaching in the synagogues that Jesus was the promised Messiah and the Son of God. Saul’s conversion into Paul teaches us that we, too, need conversion and the renewal of our lives by a fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit, which will enable us to bear witness to Christ by exemplary lives. USCCB video reflections http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/ Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/(L/21
Jan 26 Tuesday (Saints Timothy & Titus, Bishops) (https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saints-timothy-and-titus) :Lk 10:1-9: 1 After this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to come. 2 And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3 Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and salute no one on the road. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, `Peace be to this house!’ 6 And if a son of peace is there, your peace shall rest upon him; but if not, it shall return to you. 7 And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages; do not go from house to house. 8 Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you; 9 heal the sick in it and say to them, `The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ USCCB video reflections http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/
Both Timothy and Titus were converts and coworkers of St. Paul, who used them to defuse tensions in problem Churches. Timothy was born in Lystra in Asia Minor. He had a Greek father and Jewish mother, Eunice by name. He was converted by Paul in AD 47. He labored with Paul for 15 years, even during Paul’s house arrest in Rome, and Paul called him “dear son.” He visited the cities of Asia Minor and Greece in the company of St. Paul. He was made a bishop of Ephesus when he was comparatively young. Paul wrote two letters to him and once advised him to take a little daily dose of wine to treat his stomach problem: “Stop drinking only water but have a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent illnesses” (1Timothy 5:23). He also advised Timothy to “stir into flame” the grace of the Holy Spirit Whom he had received in Baptism (with Confirmation) and Ordination. Timothy won a martyr’s crown at Ephesus on a pagan feast day in the precincts of the temple of the goddess Diana to which he had gone to calm an unruly crowd.
Titus was a Greek-speaking Gentile from Antioch whose parents were Gentiles. He was Paul’s friend and fellow-preacher, a peacemaker and an administrator whom Paul chose to carry his letters to Church communities. He was made administrator (bishop) of Christians in Crete, charged with organizing the Church there, correcting abuses and appointing presbyter-bishops.
Life messages: 1) Let us have the apostolic zeal of saints Timothy and Titus. 2) Let us also practice their charity and patience. (Fr. Tony) L/19
Jan 27 Wednesday (St. Angela Merici, Virgin) https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/all?keys=&page=4 : Mk 4:1-20: 1 Again he began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea; and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. 2 And he taught them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: 3 “Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. 5 Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it had not much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil; 6 and when the sun rose it was scorched, and since it had no root it withered away. 7 Other seed fell among thorns and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. 8 And other seeds fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty-fold and sixty-fold and a hundredfold.” 9 And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” 10 …..19 USCCB video reflections http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/
The context: Today’s Gospel passage gives us the parable of the sower, the seeds sown, and the yield depending upon the type of soil. It is the first parable of Jesus in the New Testament about the Kingdom of Heaven. It is also a parable interpreted by Jesus himself. This parable was intended as a double warning: to the hearers to be attentive to, and to the Apostles to be hopeful about, Jesus’ preaching in the face of growing opposition to the Master and his ideas. Jesus wants all of us to open our hearts generously to the word of God and then to put that word into practice. The sower is God, the Church, the parents, the teachers, and we ourselves. The seed sown is the high-yielding word of God which is “a sharp sword” (Is 49:2), “two-edged sword” (Heb 4:12), and “fire and hammer” (Jer 23:29).
Soil type & the yield: The hardened soil on the footpath represents people with minds closed because of laziness, pride, prejudice, or fear. The soil on flat rock pieces represents emotional types of people who go after novelties without sticking to anything, and are unwilling to surrender their wills to God. “I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh” (Ez 11:19). The soil filled with weeds represents those who are addicted to evil habits and evil tendencies, those whose hearts are filled with hatred or jealousy, and those whose greed focuses on acquiring money by any means and on enjoying life in any way possible. The good and fertile soil represents well-intentioned people with open minds and clean hearts, earnest in hearing the word and zealous in putting it into practice. Zacchaeus, the sinful woman and the thief on Jesus’ right side, St. Augustine, St. Francis of Assisi and St. Francis Xavier, among others, fall into this category of the good soil.
Life message: Let us become the good soil and produce hundred-fold yields by earnestly hearing, faithfully assimilating and daily cultivating the word of God we have received, so that the Holy Spirit may produce His fruits in our lives. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21
Jan 28 Thursday (St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest, Doctor of the Church) https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-thomas-aquinas : Mt 23: 8-12: 8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren. 9 And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called masters, for you have one master, the Christ. 11 He who is greatest among you shall be your servant; 12 whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. USCCB video reflections http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/
The context: It was the third day of ‘Holy Week,’ in Jerusalem, a day of controversy and personal attacks. Jesus was under fire, and he lashed out at the religious leaders of Israel for rejecting Him as Messiah.
Three sins of the Scribes and Pharisees: Jesus raises three objections to the Pharisees: they do not practice what they preach, they adopt a very narrow and burdensome interpretation of the Torah, and they seek public acknowledgment. “They do all their deeds to be seen by others” (23: 5). Jesus accuses the scribes and Pharisees of seeking the glory that rightly belongs to God. They express their love of honor in several ways, thereby converting Judaism into a religion of ostentation. (i) “They make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long” (v. 5). (ii) They “love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues” (v. 6). (iii) They “love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to have people call them rabbi” (v. 7). 23: 9 “call no man your Father on earth” cannot be used as a text against calling priests ‘Father,’ because in I Corinthians 4:14-15 Paul says that he is a father to the Corinthians.
Life messages: 1) We need servant leaders in a serving community: The Church is intended by Christ to be a servant community in which those who hunger are to be filled; the ignorant are to be taught; the homeless to receive shelter; the sick cared for; the distressed consoled; and the oppressed set free. Hence, leaders should have a spirit of humble service in thought, word and deed. 2) We need to accept the responsibility which goes with our titles. Titles and polite forms exist to remind each of us of our specific responsibilities in society. Hence, let us use everything we are and have in a way that brings glory to God and His family. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21
Jan 29 Friday: Mk 4:26-34: 26 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 upon the ground, 27 and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he knows not how. 28 The earth produces of itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” 30 And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? 31 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” 33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; 34 he did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything. USCCB video reflections http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/
The context: Using the mini parables of the growth of wheat seeds and mustard seeds in the field, Jesus explains the nature of the growth of the Kingdom of God or rule of God in human beings and human societies. In the case of both wheat and mustard seeds, the initial growth is slow and unnoticeable. But within days a leafy shoot will emerge, and within months a mature plant with numerous branches and leaves, flowers and fruits will be produced. The growth is silent and slow but steady, using power from the seed in the beginning and transforming absorbed water and minerals for energy in the later stages. Jesus explains that the Kingdom of God grows this way in human souls. The Kingdom of God is the growth of God’s rule in human hearts that occurs when man does the will of God and surrenders his life to God. It is slow and microscopic in the beginning. But it grows by using the power of the Holy Spirit, given to us through the Word of God, the Sacraments, and our prayers. Finally, God’s rule in the human heart transforms individuals and communities into God’s people, doing His will in His kingdom.
Life message 1) As we learn God’s will from His words and try to put these words into practice, we participate in the growth of God’s Kingdom on earth, a growth which will be completed in our Heavenly life. But we need the special anointing of the Holy Spirit to be doers of the word of God, so let us offer our lives before God every day, asking for this special anointing. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21
Jan 30 Saturday: Mark 4:35-41: 35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great storm of wind arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care if we perish?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” 41 And they were filled with awe, and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?” USCCB video reflections http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/
The context: Mark’s emphasis on Jesus’ wondrous works helps him to reveal Jesus’ true Messianic identity. The role of God in calming the storms of life is the central theme of today’s Gospel. By describing the miracle, Mark also gives the assurance to his first-century believers that nothing can harm the Church as long as the risen Lord is with them. The incident reminds us today to keep Jesus in our life’s boat and to seek God’s help in the storms of life.
The storm: The Sea of Galilee is lake thirteen miles long from north to south and eight miles broad from east to west at its widest. It is notorious for its sudden storms. When a cold wind blows from the west, the valleys and gullies and hills act like gigantic funnels, compressing the winds and letting them rush down to the lake to create storms with violent waves. Unable to control their fears in just such a storm, the disciples awaken Jesus, accusing him of disregarding their safety. Jesus’ response is immediate. First, Jesus rebukes the winds and the sea, producing perfect calm, to the great astonishment of his disciples. Then only does he reproach them for their lack of Faith.
Life messages: 1) We need to welcome Jesus into the boat of our life. All of us are making a journey across the sea of time to the shore of eternity, and it is natural that, occasionally in our lives, we all experience different types of violent storms: physical storms, emotional storms, and spiritual storms. We face storms of sorrow, doubts, anxiety, worries, temptations and passion. Only Jesus can give us real peace in the storm of sorrow or console us at the loss of our dear ones.
2) When the storms of doubt seek to uproot the very foundations of our Faith, Jesus is there to still that storm, revealing to us His Divinity and the authority behind the words of Holy Scripture. He gives us peace in the storms of anxiety and worries about ourselves, about the unknown future and about those we love. Jesus calms the storms of passion in people who have hot hearts and blazing tempers. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21