February 10, 2019
(5th Sunday Ordinary Time C)
Today our Church celebrates the
Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes with its associated Readings
(Link above to “The Song of Bernadette” Movie)
Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad because of her, all you who love her; Exult, exult with her, all you who were mourning over her! . . . For thus says the LORD: Lo, I will spread prosperity over her like a river, and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing torrent. Is_66:10-14c
(Brothers and Sisters), whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. 1_Cor_10:31-11:1
There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding. When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” John_2:1-11
I’m not sure where you all were, or what you were doing in 1958, but, as a grubby little 5-year old on the streets of North Jersey, aside from memories of a failed attempt at escaping kindergarten and playing ‘Tag’ in the warm summer rain, I really had no idea that something so tremendously significant to my later-life would be happening, some thousand-miles away, in a little cornfield in central Missouri. And yet, it would not only prove to be significantly important to me, but to every one of us here, and even to many who are no longer with us.
You see, there’s a thread that ties every Human aspect of our stories together, and actually our entire human existence, and it’s called WATER.
And there’s another thread that ties every divine, every Spiritual aspect of our stories together, and He’s called GOD.
And it’s only TO God, as St. Paul tells the Corinthians, that we can give the Glory for it all: the Glory for Mary, our Mother; the Glory for Jesus, our Savior; the Glory for ALL of God’s messengers in our lives; and the Glory for our world, with all of its challenges and its pitfalls, its joys and its life.
Did you happen to notice in John’s Gospel story of the wedding feast at Cana today, how the headwaiter didn’t give his kudos to Jesus for the good wine, but to the bridegroom instead? You see, Jesus never grasped for His Fame, just for our hearts. And even though we may not always know the source of life’s goodness, like the headwaiter, we should still, and always, give the Glory to God, just as John did in his telling of the story.
And then, did you also happen to notice how Mary never actually told Jesus to turn the water into wine? But she did tell the servants to DO whatever Jesus told them, the same way that she always points us back to her Son.
Water to wine.
Ordinary to extraordinary.
Thirst to refreshment.
It truly IS the thread that binds.
But now we’re getting ahead of ourselves. So lets take a little journey back to what led us to 1958, both in the Water and in the Spirit.
We might say that it all began in the very first two verses of the Book of Genesis, in the Waters of Creation. And that might even clue us in to the BIG Picture.
So we don’t really have to go back
– to Noah’s flood,
– to Moses’ crossing of the Red Sea,
– to God’s water from a rock,
– to Joshua’s crossing of the Jordan River,
– to Ezekiel’s River of Life,
– to John’s baptism,
– to Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well, or even
– to the Blood and Water that flowed from the side of our crucified Lord . .
– in order to see how this thread of Water ties us, not only through the watery womb of our mothers, but through our own baptisms, TO our Union together, in Body and Spirit – with God.
And yet, as time came and went: through the peace and the wars, through the politics and the technology, through the births and the deaths, just like the Israelites, we would often forget our ties, and we would forget our Lord, and we would turn inward in our solitude, away from the very source of our lives, save for some occasional, but rare sparks of light, offered by people like Augustine, and Francis, and Theresa of Calcutta.
And in our blindness, and in our solitude, God would also speak to us – through the lips of the poor and the little children.
You see, it wasn’t until 1854 that our great Church leaders would finally acknowledge, in an official, ex cathedra, infallible, proclamation by Pope Pius IX, the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
If you never heard or read the statement of an infallible dogma, I think you’ll enjoy hearing this little piece from the Pope’s document “Ineffabilis Deus“: He wrote,
“We declare, pronounce and define that the doctrine which asserts that the Blessed Virgin Mary,
– from the first moment of her conception,
– by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God,
– and in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race,
was preserved free from every stain of original sin
– is a doctrine revealed by God and, for this reason, must be firmly and constantly believed by all the faithful”
THE Immaculate Conception!
In the 1800’s world, without radio, or television, or internet, and especially in the poverty-stricken outskirts of rural, southern France, a 14-year old girl would NOT have had a clue as to the goings-on of the Pope at the Vatican in Italy, 4-years earlier.
And there it was, on a frigid, February morning of 1858, outside of a muddy cave called the Grotto of Massabielle, about a mile from the town of Lourdes, France; there it was that the young Bernadette Soubirous would encounter, in the gust of the Holy Spirit’s wind, a beautiful Lady with a message of God’s love.
Bernadette was, at first, so uncertain of the vision, that in a subsequent encounter, of which she had 18 in total, she brought along some Holy Water to sprinkle the lovely Lady with, in order to confirm that she was from God and not from the devil. And we’re told that the gesture brought a smile to the Lady’s countenance!
You see, that message of Love, given to Bernadette, and to the world, would manifest itself in both Word and Form.
In Word, the Lady requested prayer and penance for sinners.
In Word, the Lady requested a Chapel to be built, and a Procession to be held. Both of which are still present today.
In Word the Lady would NOT promise happiness – in a world of pride, and greed, and solitude, but, rather, only in a world of Charity, and Justice, and Love.
In Word, the Lady, when pleaded by Bernadette for her name, would finally reveal herself, as . . . THE Immaculate Conception; a Title, totally unknown to young Bernadette, but to a Church, that just 4-years earlier, formally declared the Blessed Virgin Mary with that very same name, it was the first of many unequivocal proofs of the authenticity of Bernadette’s encounter.
WE had HEARD her Word!
And, in Form, the world would witness to Bernadette’s ecstasy in the presence of our Blessed Mother.
In Form, the world would witness to Bernadette’s humility, just as they did our Savior, Jesus Christ.
And in Form, there and then, and in all the years to follow, the world would be witness to a healing spring of WATER, dug by the very hands of Bernadette herself, at the request of the Holy Mother of Jesus . . . Our Mother, who always points us to her Son.
It was truly a crowning moment in the history of the Church, as the apparition was approved ‘authentic,’ just 4-years later, and young Bernadette was canonized as Saint Bernadette in 1933.
And there again was that essential thread of Water, tying all of humanity to each other and to that unconditional and healing Love of God. Pope John Paul II would, in the years to follow, designate February 11 as the “World Day of the Sick,” in remembrance of that healing spring of Our Lady of Lourdes.
Of course, it is by no coincidence that the street upon which our Church is built is called Bernadette Drive. For it was in 1958, in the fifth year of my life, just two years after the establishment of the Diocese of Jefferson City, and in the year of the 100th Anniversary of the Lourdes apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary to St. Bernadette, that our original Church (constructed in a rural cornfield,) was dedicated by Bishop Marling as Our Lady of Lourdes Church of Columbia, Missouri.
And the waters still flow beneath us. Occasionally making their way up to the surface, of course to the consternation of our Fix-it Crew. But more often than not, that Water is used in baptizing newcomers into our Faith; building our Church, just as Jesus asked us.
And 41-years later, 20-years ago, this year, we grew to the point of doubling the size of our community and our Church building. All for the Glory of God our Father; All for the love of Jesus our Savior; And all with the comfort and the support of Mary, our ever-blessed Mother.
Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God,
. . . that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
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