Our Lady of Lourdes         

            Today’s memorial in honor of Our Lady of Lourdes remembers the apparitions of the Blessed Mother to Bernadette Soubirous in Lourdes, France. Mary appeared eight times from February to July in 1858. During one of these appearances, Bernadette was directed to remove some dirt to release a stream of water that brought healing to people then and continues to do so today. These were the healing waters of Lourdes.

            These healing waters are probably the most dramatic of the events surrounding Mary’s apparitions to Bernadette but not the most important. More important was Mary’s identification of herself as the Immaculate Conception and the message of conversion. So often, in hearing of Mary’s apparitions, we tend to focus on the elements that are most striking and visual. Their purpose is to draw us to the message but they can divert us from what Mary wishes to convey to the human race. Again, the message of Our Lady of Lourdes is the most important. The message of Our Lady of Lourdes is a call to personal conversion, prayer and charity. Ito rin ang panawagan sa atin ng Kuwaresma. Isa-isahin natin…

            First, CONVERSION. Sabi natin: Conversion goes to the heart of the matter. And the heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. Ang Kuwaresma ay dapat maging panahon ng paglilinis, pagsasaayos, pagtatama, pagtutuwid, paghuhungkag, at paghilom ng ating puso. We must cleanse our hearts with God’s mercy and forgiveness. We must fix our hearts by prayerfully listening to God’s word. We must set right our hearts by following what Jesus commands. We must straighten our hearts by forming them with the gospel values. We must empty our hearts of sinful things and fill them with God’s grace. We must let our hearts be healed by God’s love.

            Second, PRAYER. Ang pananalangin ay hindi pagsasabi lang sa Diyos ng nais natin, at kung paano niya tayo matutulungan. Rather, it is asking God to tell us what he wants for us – confident that he always grants us what we need for our own good. It is learning to accept his way – trusting that “in his time, he makes all things beautiful.” It is discerning God’s will for us – believing that his will is always the best for us.

            Third, CHARITY. Ang hinihingi sa atin ng Birhen ng Lourdes ay practical charity. Practical charity is described by St. Augustine this way: “Love has hands to help others. It has feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of others. Ang hinihingi sa atin ay pag-ibig na naisasalin o naipapakita sa pagtulong sa mga nangangailangan, paglilingkod sa maliliit, pagpapadama ng awa at habag sa mga naghihirap at pinapahirapan.

            Charity also urges us to do the works of mercy. In his Lenten Message for this year, Pope Francis tells us, “God’s mercy transforms human hearts; it enables us, through the experience of a faithful love, to become merciful in turn.” The Holy Father exhorts us to devote ourselves to the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. Sabi niya: “These works remind us that faith finds expression in concrete everyday actions meant to help our neighbors in body and spirit: by feeding, visiting, comforting, and instructing them.” Bakit daw kailangan natin itong gawin? Sabi ng Santo Papa: “to reawaken our conscience, too often grown dull in the face of poverty.” “Let us enter more deeply into the heart of the Gospel where the poor have a special experience of God’s mercy.”

            Let us end with this short prayer: Our Lady of Lourdes, help us to respond to the call to constant conversion, personal prayer, and practical charity. Amen.

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