14Feb Monday in the 6th Week of Ordinary Time

Saints Cyril and Methodius, Patrons of Europe

Saints Cyril and Methodius were two Byzantine brothers born in Thessalonika, northern Greece, in the 9th century They became missionaries of Christianity among the Slavic peoples of Great Moravia and Pannonia (modern Czech Republic and Hungary). Through their work they influenced the cultural development of all Slavs, for which they received the title “Apostles to the Slavs”.

From a Homily of Pope Benedict XVI at Sunday Mass in Czech Republic (Brno – Airport, 27 September 2009)

“Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” These words of Jesus, written in large letters above the entrance to your Cathedral in Brno, he now addresses to each of us, and he adds: “Learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Mt 11:29-30). Can we remain indifferent in the face of his love? Here, as elsewhere, many people suffered in past centuries for remaining faithful to the Gospel, and they did not lose hope; many people sacrificed themselves in order to restore dignity to man and freedom to peoples, finding in their generous adherence to Christ the strength to build a new humanity. In present-day society, many forms of poverty are born from isolation, from being unloved, from the rejection of God and from a deep-seated tragic closure in man who believes himself to be self-sufficient, or else merely an insignificant and transient datum; in this world of ours which is alienated “when too much trust is placed in merely human projects” (Caritas in Veritate, 53), only Christ can be our certain hope. This is the message that we Christians are called to spread every day, through our witness.

Proclaim it yourselves, dear priests, as you remain intimately united to Jesus, as you exercise your ministry enthusiastically, certain that nothing can be lacking in those who put their trust in him. Bear witness to Christ, dear religious, through the joyful and consistent practice of the evangelical counsels, indicating where our true homeland lies: in Heaven. And you, dear young people, dear lay faithful, dear families, base on the firm foundation of faith in Christ whatever plans you have for your family, for work, for school, for activities in every sphere of society. Jesus never abandons his friends. He assures us of his help, because nothing can be done without him, but at the same time, he asks everyone to make a personal commitment to spread his universal message of love and peace.

May you draw encouragement from the example of Saints Cyril and Methodius, the principal patrons of Moravia, who evangelized the Slavic peoples, and of Saints Peter and Paul, to whom your Cathedral is dedicated. Look to the shining testimony of Saint Zdislava, mother of a family, rich in works of religion and works of mercy; of Saint John Sarkander, priest and martyr; of Saint Clement Maria Hofbauer, priest and religious, born in this diocese and canonized one hundred years ago, and of Blessed Restituta Kafkova, a religious sister born in Brno and killed by the Nazis in Vienna. May you always be accompanied and protected by Our Lady, Mother of Christ our Hope. Amen!

First Reading: Acts 13:46-49

Then both Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken first to you. Since you reject it and judge yourselves to be unworthy of eternal life, we are now turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, ‘I have set you to be a light for the Geniles, so that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'”

When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and praised the word of the Lord; and as many as had been destined for eternal life became believers. Thus the word of the Lord spread throughout the region.

Gospel: Luke 10:1-9

After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’

The ordinary readings for Monday of Week 6 are:

Gen 4:1ff. Cain kills Abel out of envy and becomes a restless wanderer, but even then God put his mark of protection on him.

Mark 8:11ff. Jesus refuses the Pharisees’ demand for a sign. He gets into the boat and goes to the other side.

Saving Faith

Faith is at the heart of today’s word from God. In two of the most theological writings of the New Testament, the Epistle to the Romans and Hebrews, faith becomes both the basis and the conclusion of the Christian life on earth. In Romans 1, Paul writes:”The just person lives by faith”; and Hebrews 11 summarizes not only its own understanding of Jesus but the entire Old Testament by stating: Faith is the confident assurance concerning what we hope for, and conviction about things we do not see. Because of faith our ancestors were approved by God (Hebrews 11:1).

Twice, the letter to the Hebrews refers to the incident of Cain and Abel, the subject of the first reading : By faith Abel offered God a sacrifice greater than Cain’s, and because of this he was seen to be just. Later we read about where faith has brought us: “You have drawn near… to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood which speaks more eloquently than that of Abel” (Hebrews 12:24).

Faith, indeed, is the centrepiece of biblical religion, so we must inquire further to see what is the heart of faith. Negatively, we learn from the gospel that faith does not revolve around miracles. When jealous and suspicious people test Jesus and look for some heavenly sign, he sighs heavily about the weakness of their faith. The Epistle of James points out another direction, not to seek miracles to overcome our difficulties but to find a way to retain our joy even amid “every sort of trial.” He says: “When faith is tested this makes for endurance. Let endurance come to its perfection so that you may be fully mature and lacking in nothing.” For him, faith is linked with loyalty and steadiness. It is not self-confidence but rather confidence arising from God’s fidelity. Faith enables our love for God and for others to survive the darkness and see hope and new life.

Cain might run away from his family but he could not run away from God. “The Lord put a mark on Cain,” a mark of divine protection, a pledge of the Creator’s fidelity to all he has made. When some people responded to Jesus with suspicion and envy, he left them and went off. Such dispositions do not keep Jesus in our midst; he remains only with people of faith, compassion and forgiveness.

First Reading: Genesis 4:1-15, 25

Now the man knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have produced a man with the help of the Lord.” Next she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a tiller of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel for his part brought of the firstlings of his flock, their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.”

Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let us go out to the field.” And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” He said, I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” And the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen; your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground! And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it will no longer yield to you its strength; you will be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear! Today you have driven me away from the soil, and I shall be hidden from your face; I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and anyone who meets me may kill me.” Then the Lord said to him, “Not so! Whoever kills Cain will suffer a sevenfold vengeance.” And the Lord put a mark on Cain, so that no one who came upon him would kill him.

Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and named him Seth, for she said, “God has appointed for me another child instead of Abel, because Cain killed him.”

Gospel: Mark 8:11-13

The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, asking him for a sign from heaven, to test him. And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to this generation.” And he left them, and getting into the boat again, he went across to the other side.