Thursday, February 11, 2010

Our Lady of Lourdes

(I Kings 11:4-13; Mark 7:24-30)

An adolescent boy had a brain tumor. The doctors thought the condition terminal, but the family was determined that something could be done. They decided to seek Our Lady’s assistance at Lourdes. Why not? Since the apparitions of the Virgin there over 150 years ago, there have been sixty-seven officially recognized miracles and seven thousand inexplicable cures. In the case of the adolescent, however, help was given in another form. Not too long after he and his mother returned home from the trip, the boy died. Was the family disappointed that no miracle took place? No, the mother said, going to Lourdes and being with all the pilgrims there enabled the family and the boy himself to face his death with calm assurance that all would be well.

In today’s gospel the mother of a girl possessed by an unclean spirit goes to Jesus seeking similar assistance as the family going to Lourdes. Also like those pilgrims, the woman is not disappointed. Jesus frees the girl of the demon so that she might live not a normal life but one giving praise and thanks to God.

When we are sick and call on God for help, especially in the Sacrament of the Sick, we can be confident that God answers our prayer. He sends the Holy Spirit upon us so that we might face our troubles with courage. Sometimes -- perhaps more often than chance would have it -- we will find the Spirit strengthening us physically. In any case, we will be assured that all will be well.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

(I Kings 11:4-13; Mark 7:31-37)

The film Babel, an Academy Award nominee a few years ago, showed how the world is interconnected. A Japanese schoolgirl is deaf and mute like the man brought to Jesus in the gospel today. She is also desperately lonely. Her father, who is depressed over the loss of his wife, had been hunting in Morocco where he left his gun with a guide. The guide sells the gun to a herder who presents it prematurely to his son. The son is goaded into shooting at a tour bus and seriously injures a Southern Californian woman traveling with her husband. The couple left their children with their Mexican housekeeper whose reckless nephew takes them across the border, then jeopardizes everyone’s life by trying to evade the Border patrol upon returning. The story leaves the viewer identifying with all of these characters in the global human quest for love.

We should similarly identify with that deaf-mute whom Jesus heals. We too have trouble hearing– not so much with our ears but with our hearts. We too falter in our speech by forgetting to give the testimony of faith to those in need of assurance. In a world where sensual gratification has become not only the lowest common denominator but also the highest recognizable goal, we do well to allow Jesus to open our ears and to straighten our tongues so that we might proclaim what is truly a truer fulfilling. This is the message of Babel – people need to listen carefully to one another and to respond compassionately.