01Jul 01 July. 13th Sunday

1st Reading: Wisdom (1:13-15, 2:23-24)

Whatever God makes is wholesome. We are meant for immortality

God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living. For he created all things so that they might exist; the generative forces of the world are wholesome, and there is no destructive poison in them, and the dominion of Hades is not on earth.

For righteousness is immortal. God created us for incorruption, and made us in the image of his own eternity, but through the devil’s envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his company experience it.

Resp. Psalm (Ps 30)

R./: I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me

I will praise you, O Lord, for you drew me clear
and did not let my enemies rejoice over me.
O Lord, you brought me up from the netherworld;
you preserved me from among those going down into the pit. (R./)

Sing praise to the Lord, you his faithful ones,
and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger lasts but a moment;
a lifetime, his good will.
At nightfall, weeping enters in,
but with the dawn, rejoicing. (R./)

Hear, O Lord, and have pity on me;
O Lord, be my helper.
You changed my mourning into dancing;
O Lord, my God, I will give you thanks forever. (R./)

2nd Reading: 2 Corinthians (8:7, 9, 13-15)

Paul asks his well-off Corinthians to help the Christian poor in Jerusalem

Now as you excel in everything-in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you-so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking. For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.

I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. As it is written, “The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little.”

Gospel: Mark 5:21-43 (or, shorter version: 5:21-24, 35-43)

Jesus cures the haemorrhaging woman and the daughter of Jairus

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” So he went with him.

And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from haemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” Immediately her haemorrhage stopped; and she felt in er body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?'” He looked all around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and waiing loudly. When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha kum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

BIBLE

Toward an Encounterless Society

Today people can choose who they want to interact with. Many of their contacts are through the social media. They “friend” those who share their interests and their opinions, and they “unfriend” those who disagree with them, or they “block” those whom they find irritating. The result is that there is very little space for patient discussion among people of different views.

Now people are able to create a social circle in which they feel entirely at home, and in which they experience no discomfort or friction. We avoid all those we feel uncomfortable with—people who are not attractive, who are old, or sick, or odd, or foreign, or likely to be boring, or people who are poor, or not respectable, or just people we feel we have nothing in common with.

As a result of avoiding encounters, we end up living in a cocoon, never learning anything new. This is not a wholesome, or a Christian, state of affairs.

Jesus, a specialist in encounter

Jesus lived in a world without phones or computers or radio or television. The only way to meet people was by direct face-to-face encounter. You could also write letters to people and receive letters from them; but there are no letters in the gospels. Letters do play a big role in the earliest Christian community, as we see in the Acts of the Apostles, the Book of Revelation, and the Letters of Paul, Peter, James, John, and Jude. Letters could be a big event in those days. But the world of the Gospels is a world of close personal encounters.

It seems as if God wants to meet us in Jesus only in the warmest and most physical way, taking our hand, touching our wounds, looking on us with love, and bidding us take heart with warm words of encouragement. Jesus, as he appears in the Gospels,, is a person who specializes in face to face encounter. From beginning to end of the Gospels we are in his presence and addressed directly by him. Reading the Gospels is like visiting a doctor or a spiritual director for individual counselling.

Jesus’s healing presence is a model for us to imitate. When he urges us to visit the sick and those in prison, he does so less for their sake than for ours. To visit the sick is to enlarge our world, to face reality in all its depth, and to meet Christ himself. Christ wishes for us these encounters that will bless us and make us deeper human beings.

Breaking Taboos

On his way to Jairus’s house Jesus is jostled by the crowds pressing on him. These crowds are often mentioned in Mark’s Gospel and they give us a keen sense of how strenuous Jesus’s ministry was, as people rushed to him with their diseases and other needs, so that he often has to step aside to a quiet place. Then Jesus is surprised by the woman who touches his cloak. This is Mark’s Gospel, so we are given an insight into Jesus’s own consciousness (unlike in the other Gospels): “Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?”” It’s interesting that Jesus does not deliberately work a miracle here. The woman’s faith seizes on the power of healing that is presented as something lodged in Jesus’s body. So he says, “Daughter, your faith has made you well [—not anything that I did for you].”

The woman could have shied away from encounter with Jesus. To reach him she had to push through the crowds, break purity laws — for her bleeding condition was seen as ritually unclean, expose her shameful disease, risk the suspicion that she was trying to get rid of it by passing it on to someone else. Then she had to overcome shyness again when Jesus asked her to show herself. If he was a stern teacher, he might have scolded her for her behavior. But no, he praises her for taking the initiative — not merely asking him to speak a healing word, but actually touching him.

She breaks a taboo, and so does Jesus by approving of what she has done. Indeed in very many of his encounters — with lepers, pagans, sinners, tax collectors, prostitutes, Samaritans — Jesus comes across as a taboo breaker. Every human being is precious in God’s eyes and Jesus refuses any form of discrimination.

Can we be healers too?

Do Christians have a share in the healing power of Christ? Should we be healers to one another? We should pray over the sick and pray for their healing, and Christ may let his healing power work through us. We are too shy about letting others see our need of healing and of reaching out to those we can heal or who can heal us. We miss many encounters with people who could teach us new things, or become spiritual guides to us. The happiest encounters in the Gospel are ones in which some person recognizes the healing power or wisdom of Jesus in faith, and he in turn appreciates their good qualities and especially their faith. There is a whole string of people who had such joyful encounters with him: in Mark’s Gospel, the Gerasene demoniac (ch. 5), the Syro-Phoenician woman (ch. 7), Peter (ch. 8); in Luke, Zacchaeus (ch.19): in John, Nathanael (ch. 1), the Samaritan woman (ch. 4), the man born blind (ch. 9).

To let Christ’s healing power reach us from others and flow through us to others, we need to break taboos, reach out boldly, and touch those people we fear to touch or to be touched by. This also includes letting our hearts be touched, just as Jesus lets himself be moved by pity for the paralytic and the leper (Mark 2).

(Joe O’Leary)


Friends of God

1. The Book of Wisdom echoes a key idea from Genesis, that we were made in the image of God (Gen 1:27.) But while Genesis applies image of God to human existence as such, the Book of Wisdom sees it as a quality that causes people to act in a God-like way, making them “friends of God” (Wis 7:26-27.) What could living as a Friend of God mean in practice? First of all, seeing our world as God sees it, as “GOOD” (Gen 1:10) and therefore caring for the world’s welfare rather than exploiting it selfishly, heedlessly. Today’s reading from Wisdom suggests the harm that our throwaway culture is doing to the world of created things, in which “no fatal poison can be found”. If we continue to pollute the world we will have poisoned it for future generations. How then can we be friends of the Creator-God who takes no pleasure in the extinction of the living?

2. What an asset Paul would be to fund-raising for any cause. His method is simple: first praise, then appeal and finally warn. His principles have a controversial cutting edge: we have no right to possess what we do not really need. Today’s words from Paul apply to any crisis of need in the world. Gandhi said: “We are thieves in a way. If I take what I do not need for my own immediate use and keep it, I steal it from somebody else. In India we have got 3,000,000 people having to be satisfied with one meal a day, and that meal consisting of unleavened bread containing no fat in it, and a pinch of salt. You and I, who ought to know better, must adjust our wants in order that they may be nursed, fed and clothed.”

3. The Gospels show Jesus healing either by touch or by a word. Both are present in the two miracles described today, but the healing-by-touch is poignant as it is not Jesus who touches the woman but she touches him. The stealthy approach of the sick woman in trying to touch the hem of his garment without anyone noticing was due to the notion that a woman in her bleeding condition was ritually unclean and that anyone she touched was rendered unclean. But her furtive touch does not bother Jesus. His remarkable ability to break through the taboos of his time could lead to reflection on present day taboos, especially regarding women, and what they are doing to the human race in general and the Church in particular.


The hem of his garment

A priest lived just across the street from a doctor’s surgery. The medic had such a reputation and people queued up all day long to consult him. One morning there was an urgent knock on the door of the priests’s house. When he opened it, the caller said: “Come quickly, Father. A man has just dropped dead outside on the pavement.” He rushed out and sure enough, a man was lying prostrate on the footpath; so the priest prayed and anointed him. A small group surrounded the body, which lay only a few yards from the door of the doctor’s surgery. It seemed like a cruel irony: had the man survived these few extra yards, his life might have been saved by the doctor. When one of the hushed bystanders said this a woman replied, “You have it all wrong. He was just on his way out from the surgery.” Whatever that man’s complaint was, he took it with him to the grave.

The woman with the haemorrhage in today’s gospel had suffered painful treatment under various doctors, without getting better. Of course, up to the 19th century medicine was fairly primitive. For most of history sick people prayed for a miraculous cure. In the Middle Ages, death stalked everywhere, not least in pestilence-ridden cities. War was endemic and hygiene unknown. Town and country swarmed with the deformed, the maimed, the crippled and the blind. Death ran riot throughout Europe during the horrific period of the bubonic plague, aptly called the Black Death. Nothing stood between the individual and his eternity except God. The centre of every church was its shrine containing relics of the saints. People flocked to these shrines in search of cures. Many travelled great distances to Rome, to the Holy Land, to Compostella, believing, like the woman with the haemorrhage, that it would suffice to touch an important relic to restore them to health. Compostella claimed to have such a relic, no less than the remains of St James, who had watched Christ raise the daughter of Jairus to life. One could hardly come closer to the healing power of Christ than that.

But the world has changed dramatically since then. Happily, there are cures for almost every human ailment nowadays. The few surviving holy relics serve as embarrassing reminders of our naïve past. But was it totally naive? Christ claimed nothing else for these two miracles than the faith of the participants. “Your faith has restored you to health,” he told the woman who was cured of her haemorrhage. What separates her from most of us is the depth of our faith. Even modern medicine, with its wonderful successes, can recognise the importance of the patient’s faith in his cure. Who knows? That man who went out the surgery door might not have stepped so abruptly into eternity, had faith in his doctor not faltered. That, like the doctor’s prescription, is a secret he took with him.

Christ, now as then, can cure our sicknesses. All he needs is our faith. Of that, Lourdes is proof, if proof were needed. God does trail his coat in our shabby little world. With a little faith we could find it; with a little courage we could touch it. “Do not be afraid,” he says to us, as he said to Jairus, “only have faith.”


Striking a Balance

One of the symbols of collective religion is the collection basket. From St Paul today, we heard a pep talk to boost a collection he was taking up for the Church in Jerusalem. This was in the 50s and the church was still in its early days. The interesting question is why Paul promoted a collection in Greece for the church in Jerusalem. He could have been motivated by our obligation of charity to the poor, a tradition inherited from the Old Testament. But there was surely another motive as well. The Jerusalem Christian community was composed of converts from Judaism while most of the converts Paul made were from among Gentiles. This existed a friction and distrust between the two. Paul was not insisting that his converts follow all the Jewish laws and customs. This didn’t seem orthodox, or might we say, kosher. So perhaps Paul was trying use this collection as a way to create a better atmosphere. The Christians in Greece had received a rich endowment from the spiritual heritage of the Jews and the Old Testament. Should they not be willing to share their monetary surplus with their Jerusalem colleagues?

The puzzling thing is that we do not know whether the collection was gratefully received by the church in Jerusalem. Paul makes no mention of it in his later letters. One thing this collection does tell us is that not all the problems of the early Church were from outside. It shows that there were internal problems as well. During Paul’s mission, the friction was between those Christians who clung fiercely to their Old Testament past and those who looked to the future. There is still tension today between those who hold firmly to the Church’s pre-Vatican II traditions and those who try to draw their inspiration from the Council and from the saner aspirations of society today.

Paul offers a solution to any internal conflicts in the Church. The solution is balance as opposed to extremism. He tells his readers that their efforts to give relief to others should not make things difficult for themselves. As he put it, “I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance.” Paul knew that one of the primary characteristics of our relationship with God should be balance. Shouldn’t we expect that from the creator God who is the source of our wisdom.

So we must be balanced in our relationships with God, our loved ones and our neighbours. We must be realistic in what we contribute to our relationships as well as what we expect from them. St. Paul concludes his admonition for balance by quoting a line from the Old Testament book of Exodus. Here Moses is describing how the Jews harvested the manna which God caused to grow overnight to feed them during their wondering in the desert. Moses said, “Those who gathered much had nothing over, and those who gathered little had no shortage; they gathered as much as each of them needed.” (Ex 16:18) Perhaps some of our conflicts are caused because we are unwilling to admit that our opportunities, our resources, our understand of things are a provision which God makes available to us. In our individual case, only he can judge what is in a practical sense too much or too little.


A WOMAN OF FAITH

(José Antonio Pagola)

The Gospel presents an unknown woman as a model of faith for the Christian community. From her we can learn how to seek Jesus with faith, how to have a healing contact with him, and how to find in him the energy for a life of peace and health. Unlike Jairus, who is identified as «the president of the synagogue» and an important man in Capernaum, this woman is a nobody. We know only that she suffers a hidden sickness, typically feminine, that keeps her from living her life as a woman, wife and mother in a healthy way. She suffers much both physically and morally. She’s been ruined going around seeking help from doctors, but no one’s been able to heal her. However she resists living always as a sick woman. She’s alone. No one helps her come close to Jesus, but she will know how to get to him.

This woman doesn’t wait passively for Jesus to come to her and place his hands on her. She herself seeks him out. She will go about overcoming every obstacle. She will do everything she can and knows how to do. Jesus will understand her desire for a more healthy life. She completely trusts in his healing power. She isn’t satisfied only with seeing Jesus from afar. She seeks a more direct and personal contact. She acts with determination, but not thoughtlessly. She doesn’t want to bother anyone. She draws near from behind, among the crowd, and touches his cloak. In that delicate gesture her complete confidence in Jesus is realized and expressed. The healing has happened secretly, but Jesus wants everyone to recognize this woman’s faith. When she confesses what she’s done, frightened and trembling, Jesus says: «My daughter, your faith has restored you to health». This woman, with her capacity to seek and welcome the gift that comes to us in Jesus, is a model of faith for all of us.

Who is helping the women of our day to encounter Jesus? Who tries to understand the obstacles they find in today’s Church to live out their faith in Christ? Who values the faith and the efforts of the women theologians who, with little or no support and facing all kinds of resistance, work tirelessly to open ways for women to live with more dignity in the Church of Jesus? Women don’t always find among us the welcome, appreciation and understanding that they find in Jesus himself.  However, frequently they are also the ones who most sustain the life of Christian community with their faith in Jesus and their Gospel spirit.

 


Machtnamh: Tionchar an teagmháil pearsanta (Encounters are important)

Is féidir go mbéidh tionchar dearfach ag éirí as gach teagmháil, fiú amháin iad a tharlaíonn gan phleanáil. Nuair a thárlaíonn a leithéad de briseadh isteach ar ár bpleanaí is féidir go gcuirfidh sé sinn díreach san áit ar chóir dúinn bheith ann. Tá briseadh-isteach de’n chineál sin I dtrácht i soiscéal an lae inniu. Iarrann fear arbh ainm Jairus are Íosa teacht chun beannacht a thabhairt d’á h’iníon a bhí go dona tinn. Nuair abhí Íosa ar an mbealach chun cuairt a thabhairt ar an cailín, bhuail sé le duine breoite eile, bean abhí ag fulaingt ó fuiliú trom, agus chuir an teagmháil sin moill ar a theacht go dtí theach Jairus. Cailleadh roinnt ama luachmhar, cé ná’r theastaigh leis an mbean breoite ach teagmháil le éadaigh Íosa. Ba é Íosa féin a rinne an teagmháil a iompú ó rud súarach, nóimeatach le rud éigin eile, teagmháil pearsanta a d’athraigh saol na mná. Spreagann an scéal seo dúinn féachaint ár teagmháil le daoine eile i solas níos dearfaí. Más rud é nach n-oibreoidh ceann dár bpleananna, is féidir leis an spás a chruthú le haghaidh rud nach raibh pleanáilte againn ach a thagann chun cinn níos fearr. I scéal Jairus, bhain Íosa maitheas as an bhriseadh-isteach, agus thug leigheas do’n bhean idir anam agus chorp.


CANDLE

(Saint Oliver Plunkett, bishop and martyr)

Oliver Plunkett (1625-1681), of an Anglo-Irish family from Loughcrew, County Meath, studied at the Irish College in Rome during the height of the Penal Laws. He taught theology in Rome until returning to Ireland in 1670 as archbishop of Armagh.After the Popish Plot (1678), when Titus Oates and others plotted to kill Charles II of England, Plunkett was arrested in 1679 and imprisoned in London, where after a show-trial he was hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn, 1 July 1681.

One Response

  1. Bertin Miller OFM

    Blessings on your contribution to the homilists who continue to break open the Scriptures for the people of God. A great and holy ministry you should be proud of.

    Bert


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