Thursday, February 14, 2019

Memorial of Saint Cyril, monk, and Saint Methodius, bishop

(Genesis 2:18-25; Mark 7:24-30)

Today in this liturgy we celebrate four evangelizers.  We may be stretching both the term as well as the liturgy to render such a result.  However, it will be worth the effort if we reinforce our sense of being evangelizers as well.

The first to be mentioned is Jesus himself.  He is the evangelizer par excellence.  The Father sent him to the world to announce His great love.  In the gospel reading Jesus evidently needs some rest from the work.  Nevertheless, he heals the Syrophoenician woman’s daughter so that she too can give thanks and praise to the God of Israel.

Should we not see the Syrophoenician as an evangelizer?  She explains -- to Jesus in a sense and certainly to us – that God’s love was never intended solely for Jews.  She knows instinctively that it is meant for every human being.  She also shows us how God especially bestows His efficacious love on the humble of heart.

Today the Church remembers Saints Cyril and Methodius.  They were ninth century missionaries who overcame hardships and challenges to convert a part of Russia and Moravia to Christ.  Coming from Greece, their orthodoxy was suspect in the Western church.  German bishops were especially hostile to their efforts to work among the peoples of Moravia.  However, they demonstrated their faithfulness to established doctrine and used their scholarship to abet their work.  They translated the Bible into Slavic languages which assisted their evangelization efforts.

According to Fr. Stephen Rehrauer, a Redemptorist moral theologian, St. Valentine was a priest of Rome during one of the great persecutions of the Church.  He was arrested and spent time in jail before his execution.  There he converted the jailer’s blind daughter to Christ.  On his way to his martyrdom, he slipped the girl an envelope with a note reminding her to be faithful to her promise to love others like Christ.  He signed the note, “Your Valentine.”  When the girl opened the envelope and found the note, she received the gift of sight.  Fr. Rehrauer concludes that when people today exchange Valentine greetings, they might keep this story in mind.  He says that in asking one another to be their “Valentine,” they are not asking that they be their lovers, but their mentors.  They are asking that they teach them the love of Christ.