11 Feb – Memorial for Our Lady Of Lourdes; World Day of Prayer for the Sick
Today is an optional memorial for Our Lady of Lourdes. The apparitions concerned began on Feb 11, 1858, when St. Bernadette Soubirous, then a 14-year-old peasant girl from Lourdes admitted, when questioned by her mother, that she had seen a ‘lady’ in the cave of Massabielle, about a mile from the town, while she was gathering firewood with her sister and a friend. Similar appearances of the ‘lady’ took place on 17 further occasions that year. Most Catholics believe that the ‘lady’ concerned is the Virgin Mary.
It was on the ninth appearance on Feb 25 that Bernadette was told by the Lady to dig under a rock and drink the water that she found. A day later, a spring began to flow from it. On Mar 1, the 12th appearance, Catherine Latapie reported that she bathed her paralyzed arm in the spring, and instantaneously regained full movement. This was the first of the scientifically unattributable events to take place.
On the 13th appearance on Mar 2, the Lady commanded Bernadette to tell the priests to “come here in procession and to build a chapel here”. The priests would not do so until they knew who the Lady was. On the 16th appearance on Mar 25, the Lady, with her arms down and eyes raised to heaven, folded her hands over her breast and said, “I am the Immaculate Conception.”
To ensure claims of cures were examined properly and to protect the town from fraudulent claims of miracles, the Lourdes Medical Bureau was established. About 7,000 people have sought to have their case confirmed as a ‘miracle’, of which only 68 have been declared a scientifically inexplicable ‘miracle’ by both the Bureau and the Catholic Church.
Because the apparitions are private revelation, and not public revelation, Roman Catholics are not required to believe them, nor does it add any additional material to the truths of the Catholic Church as expressed in public revelation. In Roman Catholic belief, God chooses whom He wants cured, and whom He does not, and by what means. Bernadette said, “One must have faith and pray; the water will have no virtue without faith.”
The Lord God called to the man. ‘Where are you?’ he asked. ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden;’ he replied ‘I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.’ ‘Who told you that you were naked?’ he asked ‘Have you been eating of the tree I forbade you to eat?’ The man replied, ‘It was the woman you put with me; she gave me the fruit, and I ate it.’ Then the Lord God asked the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’ The woman replied, ‘The serpent tempted me and I ate.’
Then the Lord God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this,
‘Be accursed beyond all cattle,
all wild beasts.
You shall crawl on your belly and eat dust
every day of your life.
I will make you enemies of each other:
you and the woman,
your offspring and her offspring.
It will crush your head
and you will strike its heel.’
To the woman he said:
‘I will multiply your pains in childbearing,
you shall give birth to your children in pain.
Your yearning shall be for your husband,
yet he will lord it over you.’
To the man he said, ‘Because you listened to the voice of your wife and ate from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat,
‘Accursed be the soil because of you.
With suffering shall you get your food from it
every day of your life.
It shall yield you brambles and thistles,
and you shall eat wild plants.
With sweat on your brow
shall you eat your bread,
until you return to the soil,
as you were taken from it.
For dust you are
and to dust you shall return.’
The man named his wife ‘Eve’ because she was the mother of all those who live. The Lord God made clothes out of skins for the man and his wife, and they put them on. Then the Lord God said, ‘See, the man has become like one of us, with his knowledge of good and evil. He must not be allowed to stretch his hand out next and pick from the tree of life also, and eat some and live for ever.’ So the Lord God expelled him from the garden of Eden, to till the soil from which he had been taken. He banished the man, and in front of the garden of Eden he posted the cherubs, and the flame of a flashing sword, to guard the way to the tree of life.
A great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat. So Jesus called his disciples to him and said to them, ‘I feel sorry for all these people; they have been with me for three days now and have nothing to eat. If I send them off home hungry they will collapse on the way; some have come a great distance.’
His disciples replied, ‘Where could anyone get bread to feed these people in a deserted place like this?’ He asked them, ‘How many loaves have you?’ ‘Seven’ they said.
Then he instructed the crowd to sit down on the ground, and he took the seven loaves, and after giving thanks he broke them and handed them to his disciples to distribute; and they distributed them among the crowd. They had a few small fish as well, and over these he said a blessing and ordered them to be distributed also. They ate as much as they wanted, and they collected seven basketfuls of the scraps left over. Now there had been about four thousand people. He sent them away and immediately, getting into the boat with his disciples, went to the region of Dalmanutha.
“How many loaves do you have?”
There is a wonderful symmetry in today’s readings. In the first reading, Adam is exiled from Eden for eating the fruit from the tree of life. He does so despite the fact that God had already provided him with everything that he needed in Eden. Convinced by Eve, who was in turn convinced by the serpent, Adam took the fruit because he wanted to. In contrast, we see Jesus multiplying the bread and fish for the crowd. In other words, he was giving them what they needed. This symmetry is anything but a coincidence.
Indeed, don’t we see this symmetry played out in our everyday lives? Everyday, we are torn between our needs and our wants. Sometimes, our wants lead us to desire things that we should not. In other words, they lead us to sin. Such wants could be anything at all, from the latest designer clothes to a fancy meal, from a desire for accolades to sexual gratification. It seems that once our appetites are whetted, our wants are almost endless. But should we pare down on these wants, we will find that we need very little to live a good life.
Yes, we need the basic components of food, air, and water. But more than that, we also need purpose in our lives. This purpose cannot be found in material objects, nor can it be bought off the shelves of stores or bartered for online. Like the crowds in our gospel readings today, we can seek out our purpose in life, along with all our other needs, simply by asking the Lord for it. We are told that Jesus was filled with compassion for the people, fearing that they would starve and collapse.
In the same way, Jesus is filled with compassion with us, fearing that we may starve from a lack of spiritual food, or collapse from the existential turmoil that many of us find ourselves embroiled in. It is in these times that we must really get down on our knees to pray, and to ask Him for what we truly need. What we truly need as children of God, and not what the TV advertisements, fashion magazines or social media ‘influencers’ think we need.
Today, as I celebrate 33 years of life, I reflect on how truly little we need (materially), but how abundantly God gives (spiritually). On this day, I also cannot help but reflect on how Jesus celebrated His 33rd year on earth – through His passion. And now, we continue to celebrate with Him at Holy Mass with the Eucharist, for it was on that fateful night that He gave us His love, hope, and salvation.
(Today’s Oxygen by Jacob Woo)
Prayer: O God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference – Reinhold Niebuhr
Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for always giving us what we need, for supplying us with His abundant love and blessings and, most importantly, for breathing life into our souls.