MISSIONARIES OF ST. FRANCIS DE SALES

From SFS Bible Diary

Click on the day for the readings

Monday: February 20th

St Wulfric (1080–1154) was an anchorite and miracle worker in Wiltshire and Somerset, England. He was frequently visited by King Stephen. As an young priest, he was much addicted to hunting. A chance conversation with a beggar, however, converted him to more godly pursuits.

Reflection: A helpless boy in a helpless crowd, that is the scene of today’s gospel. There are all sorts of people in that crowd, but clearly helpless and powerless to tackle the problem at hand. This powerlessness and helplessness stem from two things: lack of faith and lack of prayer and the disciples lacked both. The disciples of Jesus lacking in faith and spiritual power and effectiveness is not a new problem. Jesus had the same experience. The Church always claims special status in the world, calls herself the sac¬rament of salvation for the world. Priests and religious claim for themselves special status in the Church and society and the power and authority to mediate God to the people. But, alas! the reality is otherwise. They are just like anyone else in the crowd. The remedy for a powerless life and ministry is faith in Jesus and prayer in humility and trust.

Tuesday: February 21st

Saint Peter Damian (1007 –1072) was born in Ravenna, Italy. Left an orphan in early years, he was at first adopted by an elder brother, who ill-treated him. Later another brother, who was archpriest at Ravenna, had took him away to be educated. He was a reforming Benedictine monk and cardinal in the circle of Pope Leo IX. He was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1828.

Reflection: Jesus is travelling secretly through Galilee taking time to instruct his dis¬ciples about how the Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men and be put to death. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem and he is anxious that his disciples understand the meaning of what lies ahead. But they did not understand what he said and they were afraid to ask him. We can say they did not want to understand. To understand what Jesus said would be to change their life. They did not want what Jesus predicted to happen. That was not the reason they followed him. They still want him to stake claim to power and give a share to them. The disciples did not understand what the kingdom was. The Church today does not understand what the kingdom is. The Church does not understand what the true values of the kingdom are.

Wednesday: February 22nd

The See of St Peter: Since early times, the Roman Church had a special commemoration of the authority of St. Peter. The Roman See has always held a peculiar place in the affection and obedience of orthodox believers because of its “presiding in love and service” over all the Churches of God.

Reflection: This feast has been celebrated in Rome since the fourth century. It signifies the unity of the Church founded upon the Apostles. Peter was the chosen disciple of Jesus who would symbolize this unity, Peter, who is an able leader and is courageous to confess his faith in Jesus, and Peter who denies Jesus, and falters in his faith. But the Gospels indicate that he was Jesus’ choice to lead the community in the future, the one to strengthen the brethren because he will do what he does through Jesus’ help. “Not flesh and blood” but the Father in heaven is the source of his enlightenment and strength. Leaders in the Church need always to keep the figure of Peter in front of them alive. In spite of their human frailties, God has chosen them to lead his people, to build up communities, to unify, to bind and to loose.

Thursday:February 23rd

St. Polycarp(69–155) was a 2nd-century Christian bishop of Smyrna. He died a martyr, bound and burned at the stake, then stabbed when the fire failed to touch him. It is recorded by Irenaeus, who heard him speak in his youth, and by Tertullian, that he had been a disciple of John the Apostle.

Reflection: The Church remembers today St. Polycarp who was martyred in about 155 by being burnt to death in the stadium. His words to his executioners, who urged him to revile Christ so that they could release him were, “Eighty-six years I have served Him, and He has never done me wrong. How, then, should I be able to blaspheme my King who has saved me?” These were the motivations for the thousands of martyrs of the early Church and for the martyrs up to the present day: complete faith in the Lord and in his love; experience of the Lord as one’s liberator and saviour. What is the reason for our fickle faith, lukewarm responses to the call of the Lord and of the Church and for our indifference? It is our lack of experience of the Lord, his saving and merciful presence in our day to day life and activities.

Friday: February 24th

Ss Monatnus, Lucius and Companions were a group of martyrs of the early times of Christianity. They were disciples of St. Cyprian of Carthage. While in prison Montanus, Lucius, and their six companions composed a letter about their hardships, but especially about the joy and love that they were able to give one another.

Reflection: Man and woman, they are not two, but one body, Jesus tells the Phari¬sees and that is what the creation story tells us. The man God creates is the human race; he represents in his person the whole of humanity. But this humanity is male and female, man and woman. In marriage the two separate human beings become one body. And that is why Jesus rejects divorce. God’s original plan for marriage is that man and woman be united in an indissoluble bond. For Jesus that is the norm for every marriage. The laws are concession to human sinfulness and they will continue to exist. The Church too tries to make provision for human failure and inadequacy. Nevertheless, the Church must submit to the vision of Jesus, and that vision must remain the norm. But this vision of humanity as men and women must extend beyond marriage, to all human relationships.

Saturday February 25th

St Walburga (710–779) was an English missionary to the Frankish Empire. She was born in Devonshire, England of a family of the local aristocracy. She was the daughter of St. Richard the Pilgrim. She went to Francia to assist Saint Boniface, her mother’s brother, in evangelizing among the Germans.

Reflection: We have been reading Mark’s gospel these past weeks and have seen how frustrated Jesus has been by the religious leaders who have been unwilling to accept him or his message. They are not able to accept the message of the kingdom of God because they do not accept it like children. “I say to you, whoever does not accept the Kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” What is it about little children that captured Jesus’ imagination? Children are honest and express themselves easily or say what they think. Little children are openly affectionate. They love to laugh. Little children trust you. They listen to you. Little children are fascinated with life and living creatures. Little children express awe and wonder. To accept the kingdom like chil¬dren means to shed our cynical, guarded, clever, arrogant, judgmental ways. In what ways do I need to be like children?

Sunday: February 26th

Reflection: “Do not be anxious” because your heavenly Father knows your problems, your needs, your concerns. In today’s first reading we hear how the people of Israel believed that God had abandoned them and forgotten them. But the prophet Isaiah addresses their anxiety assuring them that even if a mother forgot her baby at the breast, God would not forget his own. This is one of the rare female images of God in the Bible, the tender, caring mother who could never abandon her children. And today this song of consolation, this word of the Lord is addressed to us: “I will never forget you.”

In today’s Gospel we hear the voice of Jesus speak similar words of comfort. Do not be anxious about food and clothing. But there is another voice that we hear all around us. There are people who have no food, no clothing, no medicine. Jesus is not suggesting that being his disciple means that we will have a care-free life without a worry. That would be wholly unrealistic. He himself had anxiety about his death. What Jesus is telling us is not to allow worry consume us, eat us up: that leaves us feeling abandoned by God. When Jesus faces the cross, he trusts in a God beyond the cross. He puts his fears and anxieties at this God’s hands and God did not abandon him. So today, as with his disciples, Jesus asks us to see beyond our fears and see the God who knows us and values us.

Monday: February 20th

St. Gabriel Possenti (1838-1862) was an Italian Passionist clerical student. His life in the monastery was not extraordinary, yet he followed the rule of the congregation perfectly and was known for his great devotion to the sorrows of the Virgin Mary. He is the patron saint of students, youth, clerics and seminarians.

Reflection: The cost of Christian discipleship is heavy and the rich man in today’s gospel gets to feel it. He must renounce everything, his security and the prestige his wealth brings him; when he sells everything he owns, he must not give the money to his family or friends, but to the poor. If he does this he will have treasure in heaven. That treasure will be his new security. But that new security is not enough for the man. What is life without some tangible security here on earth? He goes away sad and disappointed. We live in a society which measures success in terms of wealth and security. The gospel asks us to pause and reflect about this matter, to look at ourselves critically in the light of Jesus’ values. Attachment to our possessions can soon lead to our being possessed by our attachments. Then we are no longer free.