Wednesday, February 1, 2012

St. Brigid of Kildare - Sunday 5B: Jesus the Healer - The Pope's Prayer Intentions February 2012


O God, who inspired in Saint Brigid such whole-hearted dedication to your work that she is known as Mary of the Gael, bless, we pray, through her intercession, our country so that we may follow the example of her life and be united with her and the Virgin Mary in your presence.  Through our Lord.

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“I should like a great lake of ale, for the King of the Kings. I should like the family of Heaven to be drinking it through time eternal”Saint Brigid of Kildare

After Saint Patrick, Saint Brigid (457-525) is probably the best known saint in Ireland and today is her feast day. Often referred to as “the Mary of the Gael,” she founded the monastery of Kildare and numerous stories abound about her spirituality, hospitality, compassion, charity and ability to inspire a robust community life.

In one she worked in a leper colony, which found itself without beer. Centuries ago beer was the daily drink of the people, both because water near villages and towns was often polluted and because it was cheap nourishment.

So “when the lepers she nursed implored her for beer, and there was none to be had, she changed the water, which was used for the bath, into an excellent beer, by the sheer strength of her blessing and dealt it out to the thirsty in plenty.”

In the manner of the miracle of the Wedding Feast at Cana, Brigid is also said to have changed dirty bathwater into beer so that visiting clerics would have something to drink. She is reputed to have supplied beer out of one barrel to eighteen churches, which sufficed from Holy Thursday to the end of Easter.

St. Brigid and her cross are linked together by a story about her weaving this form of cross out of rushes at the death bed of either her father or a pagan lord.

Brigid was sent for to counsel this raving man, but his delirium made a conversation about conversion difficult.

Sitting calmly next to his bed, she leaned over to pick up some rushes, which were strewn about the floor of the room for warmth and cleanliness, and wove them together in the form of a cross.

This aroused the man’s curiosity. Her explanation of what the cross meant prompted his request to be baptized just prior to his death.

Hanging Saint Brigid’s cross on the door of one’s home is said to bring blessings on the household.

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Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year "B") - February 5, 2012

[Job 7.1-4,6-7 [Psalm 147]; 1 Corinthians 9.16-19, 22-23; Mark 1.29-39]

Well on into his narrative, Mark recounted crowd reactions to Jesus' presence: “Wherever he went—into villages or cities or farms—they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged that they might touch even the fringe of His cloak; and all who touched it were healed” (Mark 6.56). The perceptive reader will note that, in this summary statement, the evangelist has generalized the story of the woman who had been suffering from haemorrhages for twelve years (5.25-34).

In desperation at having spent all her money on doctors and having only gotten worse, she had said to herself “if I but touch his clothes, I will be made well”. And it was so. The woman was instantly cured on touching the hem of Jesus' garment. In dialogue with her, Jesus drew forth a description of the act of faith behind her action, declaring “your faith has made you well”.

So, when Mark spoke of crowds begging to touch Jesus' cloak, he wanted his readers—and today's hearers of the story—to understand that faith undergirded the gesture by which the afflicted were reaching out to touch Jesus' garment. And we are to understand that they—like the woman—were made well by faith.

This example of how Mark generalizes aspects of the ministry of Jesus and helps disciples grasp the deeper significance of what happened in the healing ministry is an important principle for understanding how the evangelist interpreted features of the Jesus story when handing on the oral and early written traditions he had inherited. Such a dynamic may be at work in Mark's account of a typical day in the Galilean ministry of Jesus (1.21-39).

Last Sunday's gospel report of Jesus' exorcism of a man possessed by an unclean spirit at the Capernaum synagogue is followed, in this Sunday's gospel, by the cure of Simon Peter's mother-in-law. Both these healing acts are complemented by a summary statement which generalizes both the exorcism and the cure: “The whole city was gathered around the door. And He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons....”

However, Mark also profited from the occasion of his summary statement about multiple exorcisms to add an interpretive comment, “and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him”.

This brings us back to the exorcism itself, in which Jesus had rebuked the unclean spirit, saying “Be silent, and come out of him!” Moments earlier, in an attempt to control Jesus by uttering His name, the demon had said, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who You are, the Holy One of God”

Mark took Jesus' command to silence—a traditional aspect of exorcism rituals—and gave it his own significance (“because they knew him”). Thus, did Mark introduce a key motif of his gospel—the veiling of Jesus' identity. This theme, designated by some scholars as ‘the Markan messianic secret’, will be explored more fully next week with the account of Jesus cleansing a leper (1.40-45).

As we shall come to see, in Mark's gospel perspective the demons know who Jesus is and his enemies quickly grasp who he claims to be, while the crowds wonder about him and the disciples seem to be utterly lacking in understanding of the truths he strove to communicate.

The first manifestation of this sorry inner state of the disciples appears when Simon and his companions “hunted for” Jesus in the wilderness, where he had gone to pray early in the morning “while it was still dark”. Their outlook must be deduced from their statement about the crowds who had gathered at the door of Simon Peter's house the night before (“everyone is searching for you”). They imply there are reasons—perhaps not selflessly-motivated ones—for him to go back with them to the crowds.

After prayer, Jesus revealed that he had other priorities and, in a typically hopeful outlook, included them in his company and plans (“Let us go to the neighbouring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also”). Marvellously, the disciples, though uncomprehending, are called to join Jesus in heralding the message of the Kingdom and casting out demons.

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The Holy Father's prayer intentions for this month are the following:

GENERAL INTENTION •Access to Water. That all peoples may have access to water and other resources needed for daily life.

MISSIONARY INTENTIONHealth Workers. That the Lord may sustain the efforts of health workers assisting the sick and elderly in the world’s poorest regions

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