Sunday, Jan. 31, is the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Liturgical Year C, Cycle II). Wednesday, Feb. 3, is the memorial of St. Blase, and it’s the day Catholics can get their throats blessed with candles at Mass.
St. Blase is a saint of coincidences. He lived at the turn of the third and fourth century in what is now Turkey. Legend has it that he was a holy man living in a cave when the bishop of Sebaste, Armenia, died. The Church called on him to take the role.
That put him on the hot seat when the Christian-persecuting emperor, Licinius, wanted to make an example of the bishop. St. Blase was marched to the prison to be tortured and beheaded in sight of the whole town.
While he was in prison, a mother brought him her child, who was choking on a fish bone. St. Blase cured the child. That happenstance sealed his place as the patron of throat problems.
A couple of further coincidences: For years, English devotees of Blase lit Feb. 3 bonfires to celebrate his feast — because in English his name sounds like “blaze.” Lastly, Feb. 3 is the day after the feast of the Presentation — the old Candlemas. It’s a day remembered by blessing and lighting candles. Thus, the practice of blessing throats with candles developed because candles were in abundance in churches that day.
Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19; Psalm 71:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 15-17; 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13 or 13:4-13; Luke 4:21-30
Today’s second reading is a favorite for weddings — but, following the advice of a friend of April’s, we like to use it as an examination of conscience.
“All you need is love,” say the Beatles, and they’re right. But love isn’t quite what the world thinks it is. Today’s Gospel shows how fickle Nazareth’s “love” for its famous hometown son was.
The Corinthians 13 reading is a great guide to giving our own love a solid foundation. Here’s one way to expand it into an examination of conscience:
• “Love is patient.” Is my love for my children true, patient love? When they have a need or a question, is my goal to neutralize them as an annoyance, or to use the opportunity to help them grow by my example and knowledge? Is my love for my spouse patient? Have I had enough of his or her foibles after all these years, or am I willing to love despite imperfections?
• “Love is kind.” How is my love for the “random stranger”? Do I judge and dismiss certain people in my heart when I see them? Do I encourage my own unkind thoughts about public figures? Do I find a particular class of people fair game for harsh thoughts or criticism — ideological or political opponents, socioeconomic inferiors or superiors, people of other religions or no religion, not to mention race, size, ethnicity and even sexual orientation?
• “Love is not jealous.” Am I ever disappointed by the accomplishments and good fortune of others because it means I’m not the best, most successful, or whatever?
• “Love is not pompous; it is not inflated.” Do I name-drop, accomplishment-drop, or boast in any way? Am I ever a “know-it-all”? Do I try to make my life, my thoughts, my problems, my stories the center of attention and interest in social situations?
• “Love is not rude.” Do I relish the biting comeback? C.S. Lewis said that being rude “as a joke” is no different in kind from being rude, period.
• “Love does not seek its own interests.” When faced with a decision, is my process: 1. Maximize my benefit. 2. Rationalize my selfishness. 3. Minimize others’ knowledge of my motives? Or is it: 1. Identify objective principles. 2. Choose the most just option. 3. Let the decision be transparent to others?
• “Love is not quick-tempered; it does not brood over injury.” Am I the kind of person people tread carefully around, like a land mine, because they never know what will set me off? Or am I the passive-aggressive version — just as bad, or possibly worse — who pretends everything is fine while I hold a grudge that eats me up inside like a corrosive acid, with which I’ll infect as many people as I can?
• “Love does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.” If I had the choice, would I like to see my enemy shamed, or see him save face while finding the right path? Do I realize the whole story of Christ is the story of his attempts to do the latter for me and others?
• “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” Do I love only when it’s easy? Do I serve only when I’ll be properly appreciated? Do I have faith when things aren’t working out right? At what point short of “enduring all things” does my love say “Enough is enough!”
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas.