Thursday 3rd February 2022. Thursday of Week 4 – St Blaise

Thursday 3rd February 2022. Thursday of Week 4

Optional Memorials: St Blaise, St Ansgar.

Summary: St Blaise, a fourth century bishop at Sebaste (now the city of Sivas in central Turkey, in what was then the Roman province of Armenia-Cappadocia).  During a persecution – probably ordered by Constantine’s ally and co-emperor Licinius – he was martyred in 316 AD.  This much at least seems to be historical fact, according to the New Roman Martyrology 2004.

Patrick Duffy asks who was Blaise and why he became famous for blessing sore throats. He then outlines some of the practices associated with his cult and evaluates them in the light of the Vatican’s Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy .

The ritual of the blessing of throats
n many places on 3rd February – his feast day – people gather in churches for the blessing of throats. The blessing is a sign of the people’s faith in God’s protection and love for the sick.

Using two crossed and unlighted candles, the priest (or other minister) touches the throat of each person, saying: ‘Through the intercession of Saint Blaise, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you from all ailments of the throat and from every other evil: + in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.’

Usually the blessing takes place during Mass.  It follows the homily and the prayer of the faithful.  If done outside of Mass, a brief celebration of the word of God with the scripture readings suggested in the Lectionary is recommended before the blessing is given.

1st Reading: 1 Kings 2:1-4, 10-12

Before dying David urges Solomon to be courageous and remain faithful to God in every way

When David’s time to die drew near, he charged his son Solomon, saying: “I am about to go the way of all the earth. Be strong, be courageous, and keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his ordinances, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn. Then the Lord will establish his word that he spoke concerning me: ‘If your heirs take heed to their way, to walk before me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, there shall not fail you a successor on the throne of Israel.’

Then David slept with his ancestors, and was buried in the city of David. The time that David reigned over Israel was forty years; he reigned seven years in Hebron, and thirty-three years in Jerusalem. So Solomon sat on the throne of his father David; and his kingdom was firmly established.

Psalm: 1 Chron 29:10-12, R v12

Gospel: Mark 6:7-13

Jesus sends out the twelve two by two, to preach, anoint sick people and cure them

He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

Messengers of Faith

Jesus chose twelve men (their names are listed several times, though with some inconsistencies in the names listed (Mt 10:2-4; Mk 3:16-19-19; Lk 6:14-16; Ac 1:13). Mark tells us that he named them “apostles” (Mk 3:13) and it is clear that special significance was seen in the number twelve, since they are often referred to later as simply “the twelve” (Mt 20:17; 26:14. 20.27; Mk 4:10; 9:35; 10:32; Jn 6:67-71 etc) and when Judas Iscariot dropped out of their number, another had to be chosen in his place, to fill up that sacred number (Ac 1:20ff). St. Peter declared that one of the group who were present during the public ministry of the Lord Jesus “must become a witness with us to his resurrection.” Filling the place of Judas would fulfil a prophesy, and amalgam drawn from Psalm 69:25 (“let there be nobody to dwell in their tents”) and Psalm 109:8 (“may another take his place of leadership”), but the main reason for bringing the number back up to twelve seems to be that it mirrored the twelve tribes of Israel (Mt 19:28; Lk 22:3). They were clearly to be the leaders of the new community formed by the followers of Jesus.

Over the subsequent centuries the idea of church leadership as apostolic succession has taken various forms, most especially in the episcopate, with the bishops seen as ordained successors to the Twelve. The formal episcopal functions of teaching, ruling and sanctifying are therefore linked in some direct way to the choice of the apostles. But while this structural interpretation is in some sense a valid development, it would surely be wrong to forget what was the original task entrusted to the apostles according to Mark, the earliest of our Gospels and the one most redolent of the living memory of St. Peter who (according to bishop Papias) was Mark’s patron and mentor in Rome. They were to travel around in frugal simplicity as messengers of the Kingdom of Heaven, with words of repentance and of hope and healing, and to preach a message of peace. This would be the kind of apostleship on which bishops should often reflect, along with St. Peter’s own added reflection: each bishop must be with us a “witness to the resurrection of Jesus.”

Inspired and encouraged by such a renewed sense of apostolic mission on the part of our church leaders we might resonate to the bright vision of the church sketched in Hebrews, as Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, .. the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and be gathered around Jesus, mediator of a new covenant, the One who determines our identity as children of God.

His work goes on

Mark shows how early into his ministry Jesus sent out the twelve that he had chosen to share in his work. He sent them out to do what he has been doing, to preach the gospel and to heal the sick. Jesus understood that he needed the help of others to do the work he had been sent to do. Jesus still needs us today to do his work. We are to be his eyes, his ears, his hands, his feet and his voice, his presence wherever we are. He wants to work in and through us.

St Paul understood this very clearly. He saw the church as the body of Christ in the world.  The body of Christ could not be fully functioning unless everyone plays the role they are called and equipped to play through their baptism. Each has a unique contribution to make to the life of the body and, thereby, to the work of the Lord in the world today. Each is indispensable and necessary. The 1st reading from the letter to the Hebrews puts it very simply. In the church everyone is a “firstborn child” and a “citizen of heaven.” There are to be no 2nd class citizens in the church. Each of us is a vital member of Christ’s body uniquely graced by the Lord for his work and mission in the world.

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