St. V.Pallotti by Sr.Julitta Gołębiowska SAC
First Day (19th January)
St. Vincent, as Christ prayed for his apostles, so may you, too, pray for us, that we may be all that he wants us to be. Give us your spiritual wisdom, your energy and perseverance in ministry, and, above all, your spirit of prayer. Call us to a deeper union with our Lord and with one another, a union in humility and love. In all that we do, help us to embody the Spirit that impelled you, and to continue your work in our own times. Amen.
Second Day (20th January)
St. Vincent, share your spirit with us. May we, too, be so deeply aware of Christ’s love for us that we will desire to give him infinite glory with our lives. May your example of love and constantly strengthen us, especially when we find the difficulties of our lives a heavy burden, and are tempted to discouragement. Encourage us with that confident hope that impelled you, and help us to remain faithful to the father as you were. Amen.
Paolo Veronese, Wedding in Cana, ca 1570
1 Corinthians 12:4-11
"So they filled them up to the brim."
Jesus not only provides the best of wines (the greatest of joys), his own joy is also filled completely to the brim. To the point where the vessels could not hold one more drop!
This finest of wines, this greatest of joys, it is not meant for us individually. It was not given so that the wedding couple could open up a wine cellar and drink themselves silly for the rest of their married lives. This finest of wines, this greatest of joys, is meant to be shared by all. It is meant to overflow into the lives of everyone present.
Jesus has just healed (physically and spiritually) the paralytic man. Now, Jesus takes time out of his teaching to say to Levi, a tax collector who is working at the time, “follow me.” Mark then presents the scene of Jesus at Levi’s house at table with him and many other “tax collectors and sinners.” As usual, the sight of Jesus in this situation upsets the Pharisees, which leads to Jesus saying, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”
Hebrews 4:1-5, 11; Mark 2:1-12
The reading from the Gospel of Saint Mark reminds me of what often happens in our Church:
- As Jesus’ followers gathered around him, we are regularly coming together to listen to his word in our religious services, to having communion with him, and to be strengthened by the fellowship of believers.
- As Jesus’ followers focused on Christ, we too are attentive to his word.
- As Jesus’ followers did not see the paralytic men who wanted to be close to Jesus, we often also overlook the human suffering around us, which is in need of Christ’s healing touch.
Faith is a force of consolation in suffering
Christians know that suffering cannot be eliminated, yet it can have meaning and become an act of love and entrustment into the hands of God who does not abandon us; in this way it can serve as a moment of growth in faith and love... Nor does the light of faith make us forget the sufferings of this world. How many men and women of faith have found mediators of light in those who suffer! So it was with Saint Francis of Assisi and the leper, or with Mother Teresa of Calcutta and her poor. They understood the mystery at work in them. In drawing near to the suffering, they were certainly not able to eliminate all their pain or to explain every evil. Faith is not a light which scatters all our darkness, but a lamp which guides our steps in the night and suffices for the journey.
There are clearly two parts in today’s gospel narrative that present Jesus first as giver and then as receiver leading again to his giving.
Faced with human need, Jesus’ heart is moved to do what he can to alleviate their suffering. He frees those who are possessed by demons and heals those who are sick, including Peter’s mother-in-law (I facetiously find here the root of Peter’s denials: he never forgave Jesus for curing his mother-in-law). As Paul will much later tell his friends in Ephesus using an otherwise uncorroborated saying of Jesus, “There is more happiness in giving than in receiving” [Acts 20:35]. At least at the level of ministry, my own experience resonates with that quote. Yet in the course of years of ministry I have learned that I cannot keep on giving without at some point receiving. In my early years I found myself at times “drained”, empty, victim of one-sided spiritual activism.
Jesus speaks here at the beginning of His career with striking authority, not through a repetition, a simple commentary, or a refinement of the text but as a prophet, one speaking directly the words of God Himself. He knows the text that He is opening for His community perfectly well, since He is permeated with the words of the Old Testament and filled with the Holy Spirit, just like His mother: it will become apparent later in His life that He is not only a special vessel of God's word, He is God's Word. At this early point, though, His mastery of the written word and the oral delivery of it sets Him up for a special role in salvation history.
Psalm 97:1 and 2b, 6 and 7c, 9
As we enter into this New Year, we recall the resolutions that we made and the hopes we have for 2019. At times these promises can seem quite fleeting. The busyness of life as normal can overwhelm us as we bear the weight of work, study, and other duties. Yet, if we pause for a moment, we might remember how way back during Advent, we were all called to prepare the way of the Lord. We prepared ourselves to receive the refulgence of God’s glory and the very imprint of God’s being, as we hear Jesus described in the first reading from Hebrews. We opened our hearts to receive Jesus and with him the graces we needed to strengthen our faith, to renew our hope, to enkindle our love. Once we prepared the way for Jesus to enter into our hearts, we celebrated his birth at Christmas.
Presentation of Christ at the temple (left) and the baptism of Christ by John the Baptist, assisted by an angel (right). Detail of carved and painted wooden doors, c.1065, now displayed at the west end of the south aisle. St. Maria im Kapitol, Cologne, Germany. Photo by David Joyal
Luke’s version of Jesus’ baptism describes the Spirit descending on Jesus in the physical form of a dove and the pronouncement of God’s affirmation of Jesus as Beloved Child. It appears that Jesus is both one of the crowd and set apart in a unique way. Still, this blessing is not the final story or the end of Jesus’ personal and spiritual growth; he must go on retreat in the wilderness to face the temptations of his vocation. Luke’s Jesus is one of us: fully human, seeking a tangible sign of his vocation. No doubt Jesus had prepared long and hard spiritually for a day such as this.
1 Jn 5:14-21; Jn 3:22-30
“We have this confidence in him that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in regard to whatever we ask, we know that what we have asked him for is ours.”
The opening verses in today's first reading deliver a powerful promise – and also can be a stumbling block for some. Personally, I find the message encouraging and enlightening.