Reflection on Sunday’s Readings
Before I was a bishop and was serving as a priest in Newark, N.J., sometimes I’d watch the news on the Spanish channel when I wanted to practice my Spanish. An Argentine journalist did the sports segment and would end his segment by saying, “Nos vemos mañana, se Dios lo permite”. Sometimes we say that too, “see you tomorrow, God willing.” We say this too in Portuguese, “ Até amanhã, se Deus quiser ” and in Italian, “Ci vediamo domani, se Dio vuele”.
What do we mean when we say these words? Are we really trusting our lives into God’s hands? Are we surrendering ourselves in hope to the loving hands of God to allow him to lead and guide us? The Mass Readings for Sunday (February 13, 2022) challenges us to consider this very thing. Jeremiah does not spare any words, as he says very firmly, “Cursed is the one who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in flesh, whose heart turns away from the LORD” (Jeremiah 17:5-8).
In the Gospel, Jesus will use the words, “woe to you;” however, both Jesus and Jeremiah will teach that those who hope and trust in the Lord well are blessed. In our world, we see people distrusting in everything. What does that leave for them? Only themselves, and if all we have to trust is ourselves, woe to us.
The Prophet Jeremiah provides a beautiful image that should encourage us to place our trust or hope in the Lord. Those who trust in the Lord, whose hearts are in the Lord, their God, are like a tree planted by the water where its roots grow, find moisture, and use that nourishment to grow leaves, flowers, and bear fruit. The one who does not trust is like the tree planted in the desert, which finds no water, does not grow, and will not turn green, blossom, or bear fruit.
The Psalm used for last Sunday’s Responsorial Psalm tells us: “ Blessed are they who hope in the Lord”. Some other translations use the word “trust”, instead of hope. While we need them both, I believe in order to hope, you must first trust.
As you may know, there are two sets of Beatitudes in the Gospels. In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus is on a mountainside and uses the third person, “they,” to teach the large crowd gathered. In Luke’s, Jesus comes down to a level stretch of land, a plateau, Jesus speaks directly to his disciples. He lifts his eyes, looks to the disciples, and addresses them in the second person, “Blessed are you.” Jesus tells them those who hunger, thirst, or suffer will be blessed. But why would Jesus want us to suffer? That is not what he is saying; instead, he is teaching us when we let go and free ourselves from worldly things, that is when we allow God to come into our lives, that is when we open the doors of our hearts to let him in; that’s when we are truly blessed.
Wedding Anniversary Mass
For many years, the Diocese has hosted an annual Wedding Anniversary Celebration Mass. It was a joy to be able to celebrate it last Sunday to coincide with World Marriage Day, observed yearly on the second Sunday of February. Weather is risky in February and sure enough, it was a snowy day. Despite that, we welcomed to St. Mary’s Cathedral 34 couples who were observing from 25 years of marriage all the way to up to 65 years! For one couple, the event fell on the actual date of their wedding 52 years ago. After the homily, I ask the couples to turn towards each other and join hands for a renewal of their marriage vows. To see this witness to the sacrament of marriage, to enduring love and commitment is always such a moving part of the celebration. My congratulations, prayers, and best wishes to them all! The video of the Wedding Anniversary Celebration Mass is posted on the Diocesan YouTube channel.
World Day of the Sick
Last Friday, February 11, was World Day of the Sick, an annual observance introduced by Pope St. John Paul II in 1992 to offer prayers for those who are ill and to call attention to the important work of caring for them. It was my pleasure to celebrate Mass for that occasion in the chapel in St. Anne’s Hospital in Fall River with some of the staff able to attend. Among those present were members of the pastoral care team at the hospital including chaplain Father Leonard Kayondo who concelebrated the Mass with me along with Father Patrick Magee. Patients were able to view Mass from the chapel through the hospital’s internal TV channel.
Along with the importance of praying for the sick, I also used my homily in the Mass as an opportunity to thank all those who work in health care. I acknowledged that for them, regardless of their position, it is not simply a job but a calling and a ministry. Their care for the sick and suffering recognizes and reinforces the dignity of every person. They provide critical healing and comfort day after day, and for that they deserve our gratitude. I reminded all at the Mass that it is important for those who are sick to know of our continued presence with them, to hear us, to see us, and to know they remain in our prayers.
February 11th was chosen as World Day of the Sick because it is also the Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, a title given to the Blessed Mother following her appearance to St. Bernadette Soubirous in a grotto in Lourdes, France, in 1858. The Marian Shrine erected there each year draws millions of pilgrims who are seeking the intercession of the Blessed Mother for healing and consolation in the face of illness and affliction.
Yours in Christ,
Bishop da Cunha