February 11. Our Lady of Lourdes.  Day of Prayer for the Sick.  Fr Brian was well aware of the search for healing of many of his parishioners. Some went on pilgrimages to Ngome or other shrines, some went to healing services in different churches.  On this Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and the World Day of Prayer for the Sick he invited everyone to come together to celebrate Mass, to pray and seek inspiration  using the words of Jesus in the message for the day of Pope Francis.  “We’ve been there.  We know what it feels like.  We did feel Jesus’ loving touch when our baby was so ill. That is why we have decided to become part of the parish ministry to the sick,” Noel and  Lebo shared.

Pope Francis:   “Come to me, all you who labour and are burdened, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28).  These words of Christ express his solidarity with all those who are hurt and afflicted.  They point to the mysterious path of grace that is revealed to the simple and give new strength to those who are weary and tired. On this 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, they stand in need of his healing.   Jesus does not make demands of 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. Message Day of Prayer for the sick 2020.

February 13.  Angela and Andy shared,   “Rabbi Sacks, an important Jewish leader, gave a reflection at a conference in Rome on the complementarity of man and woman and on love. The closing image he presented from Jewish tradition is appropriate for Valentine’s Day and love and commitment.   He spoke of the Fall in Genesis  and how it was then that man and woman came to recognize their true need for and dependence on one another.   Although they had sinned and God was punishing them his love and care for them remained and God made garments for them as he sent them out of the garden.  Rabbi Sacks ends his reflection with the following quotation: ‘And so it has been ever since, that when a man and woman turn to one another in a bond of faithfulness God robes them in garments of light and we come as close as we will ever get to God himself, bringing new life into being, turning the prose of biology into the poetry of the human spirit, redeeming the darkness of the world by the radiance of love.’”    

And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.  From Genesis 3:9-24.   In the nuptial blessing at a wedding the priest uses the words, “O God, by whom woman is joined to man and the companionship they had in the beginning is endowed with the one blessing not forfeited by original sin nor washed away by the flood, look now with favour on these your servants joined together in Marriage who ask to be strengthened by your blessing.  Pope Francis: Christian marriage is a sign of how much Christ loved his Church in the covenant sealed on the cross, yet it also makes that love present in the communion of the spouses. By becoming one flesh, they embody the espousal of our human nature by the Son of God.   That is why, “in the joys of their love and family life, he gives them here on earth a foretaste of the wedding feast of the Lamb.  AL73   

February 14. Sunday 6B.  World Marriage Day – celebration.  Valentine’s Day.  Fr Brian shared a story highlighting    Jesus’ compassionate attitude towards the poor, outcasts and suffering.  “Many of us carry an image of marriage and family as a cosy place of unity and comfort.   While this is certainly an ideal, it is far from the reality.   Even in successful marriages there are times of conflict and suffering, of rejection and broken hearts. From her teenage years Kate had developed a drinking problem and while their marriage had been a happy one at first when the problem became really serious her husband Mike, influenced by his mother had rejected her.  She had become quite destitute and naturally that did cause him pain. Through the influence of a caring priest they were introduced to AA and this had become a life-changer for them, as slowly, by accepting God’s power in dealing with her disease a healing and reconciliation came about.  They even renewed their wedding vows and at the celebratory Valentine’s breakfast offered by the community they smiled intimately and squeezing their hands they raised their non-alcoholic glasses and toasted with gratitude to God their renewed love. “     

St Valentine’s Day possiblyoriginated in stories of Christian martyrs in the early church. One story is about a priest who helped soldiers to marry when this was not allowed while on active duty. Another story is of healing from blindness his judge’s daughter and then signing a farewell letter before he was martyred, “Your Valentine.” The day is no longer a religious feast but can be recognised as a very real cultural, religious and commercial celebration of romance and romantic love for all ages.  

Jesus, moved with pity, stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will, be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him and he was made clean.  Mark 1:40-45.  This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you. A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends.  John 12:24-26.    Pope Francis:  I think of St Valentine’s Day: in some countries commercial interests are quicker to see the potential of this celebration than are we in the Church!  AL208.

February 15.  Cain and Abel. Charlie presented a story of God’s justice.  “How good are we at gift-giving? Do I give the best that I can afford or does it depend on who the gift is for? Am I willing to give away my best portion rather than the second-best?  Do I resent having to give a gift?   The story of the very first children, the two sons of Adam and Eve is one of sibling rivalry and possibly of a difference in disposition.  Abel was open to God and wanted to give God of his best.  Cain gave an offering but his attitude was not of giving most generously, of the very best he had to offer.  Then follows the all-important question God asks of Cain, “What have you done? Where is your brother?”   And Cain answers “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  God punishes him, exiles him and puts a mark on him, but does not put him to death,    Maybe the whole story is about the question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  Pope Francis: Disregard for the duty to cultivate and maintain a proper relationship with my neighbour, for whose care and custody I am responsible, ruins my relationship with my own self, with others, with God and with the earth.  When these relationships are neglected, when justice no longer dwells in the land, the Bible tells that life itself is endangered.  LS 70