- The Abbey of the Genesee - https://www.geneseeabbey.org -

Homily for February 11, 2022 – Our Lady of Lourdes

Fr. John Denburger, OCSO

Our Lady of Lourdes

(1 Kings 11: 29 – 32: 12: 19 Ps. 81; Mark 7: 31 – 37)

On this day in 1858, Our Lady appeared at Massabielle outside the town of Lourdes to a young girl, Bernadette Soubirous; it was the first of eighteen appearances. The Lady spoke to the girl not in perfect Parisian French, rather in the dialect, the patois of the region, otherwise, Bernadette would not have understood her. Might it not be said that the Lady entered temporarily into the girl’s culture as an act of loving condescension, a gracious courtesy?

Whereas Our Lady entered temporarily into Bernadette’s culture, our Lord Jesus Christ in becoming man through Mary took upon Himself totally, completely our human nature as a Jew. Not just playing a part in some kind of play rather in becoming a Jew, He assumed all the customs, all the ways, all the religious practices of the people, and, of course, He spoke Aramaic.

It is interesting that in the New Testament seven Aramaic words or phrases have been kept; three of these are in the Gospel of St. Mark. Since he was not an eyewitness, obviously these were passed down to him and were to be kept with great reverence. These occur in the Gospel: Jesus’ cry on the cross: “Eloi, Eloi lama sabachthani” – “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”Jesus raises a little girl from death: “Talitha qum” – “Little girl, arise!” In today’s Gospel Jesus gives a man the ability to hear and to speak: “Ephphatha” – “Be opened!”

Why were these retained? Perhaps, it is a simple way of stating a most profound truth – the Son of God really became a man in a certain place, in a certain time, among a certain people and not just for the Jews but for all people, for us.

The Cistercian Abbot, John of Ford (+1214) has a very profound, beautiful way of expressing the Incarnation of the Lord Jesus in one of his homilies on the Song of Songs: “Eternity compressed itself; Immensity straightened itself; Omnipotence weakened itself; Wisdom emptied itself and became foolishness and all this for no other reason that we should be able to seize Jesus.” He continues: “We could not lay hold of Him in what is His own but we can in what is ours.”