Those listening to the second Reading today are
going to be puzzled: what’s Paul talking about? The text doesn’t
follow immediately from last week’s selection from II Corinthians.
In fact, it jumps three chapters! So, even if we don’t preach from
it, I would choose to say a few – but just a few – words of
introduction to help people hear it.
Paul is making a pitch to the Corinthians, who are
an economically comfortable community, to help other, less
fortunate, Christians. But he isn’t a secular fund raiser making a
skilled pep talk; instead, he is basing his appeal on faith grounds.
The Corinthians had received abundant gifts through their faith in
Christ; they were known for their charismatic gifts – tongues,
healings, knowledge, wisdom, etc.
Now Paul wants them to turn their boundless energies
toward the needs of their sisters and brothers. He bases his appeal
on Jesus’ self-offering, "the gracious act of our Lord Jesus
Christ." "He was rich," Paul argues, but became poor, renouncing his
divine perogatives for our sake. We have become rich in what lasts,
the divine gift of grace. So, Paul encourages the Corinthians to
follow Jesus’ example and share from their abundance.
The church doesn’t consist of independent
communities that practice their faith only among their own, in a
kind of monastic enclosure. Instead, the blood of Christ unites us
all and we can’t ignore the needs of our brothers and sisters – in
this case, other Christian communities in need. That’s the reason a
suburban parish adopts one in rural El Salvador and, not only takes
up collections for the parish, but sends volunteers there each
Spring to repair the church building, repair flood-damaged homes and
dig a well for the whole town’s use.
Paul says giving isn’t a one-way street: the poor
have an abundance to share with us. Which is what a group of college
students discovered after ten days in a Honduran village at Easter.
It was clear from their enthusiastic report to their campus parish
the Sunday after they returned. They told how much they received and
learned from the community they were sent to serve – about
hospitality, family values, hard work, self-sacrifice and faith in
This might be a good Sunday for similar reports to
the parish by members of the Social Outreach Committee; students who
worked on a Habitat house; the sandwich program, etc. "...your
abundance at the present time should supply their needs, so that
their abundance may also supply your needs, that there may be
Things couldn’t be worse for the woman with the
hemorrhage in today’s gospel. Mark spells out her miserable
circumstances: she has had her condition for twelve years and has
"suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors." To afford such
treatment she must have been a woman of means, but her persistent
infirmity is compounded by the fact that she "spent all that she
had." Her issue of blood makes her ritually unclean, excluding her
from community worship and contact with other people. She is
suffering physically, is financially drained and cut off from
religious practices and community. It couldn’t get any lower than
that. Plus, in her condition, if she touches anyone, that person
also becomes unclean. She is a religious outcast and, by touching
Jesus, he had become one too! Now the two are in community with one
another – two religious and social rejects.
The story of the woman stands out from others in
Mark’s gospel. Usually a miracle story focuses more on Jesus But
this one turns attention to the woman right from its opening, "There
was a woman...." Mark then describes her condition in unusual
detail. We are reminded of another woman in this gospel, the
Syrophoenician woman (7: 24-30). Unlike his usual rapid-fire, terse
narratives, Mark develops the personalities of these two women and
their exchanges with Jesus. Both women are in great need and
articulate their situations. In today’s story the woman told Jesus,
"the whole truth."
The biblical world was dominated by men. When
getting married, women left their own families, entered their
husband’s and were under his domination. A man had absolute power in
the family, over his wife and their children. Still, women are
frequently mentioned as among the followers of Jesus and the
epistles reveal the prominence of some women in the early church –
Priscus (Rom 16:3), the deaconess Phoebe (Rom 16:1) and Mary.
The woman in today’s story must have been inspiring
to women in the early church. She breaks the mold of repressed women
of the time. She takes the initiative and risks being ostracized
further as she manages to work her way through the bustling crowd to
touch Jesus. She is a woman in a hopeless situation who,
nevertheless, has hope in Jesus. She not only overcomes the physical
impediments to get to him, she overcomes the religious ones as well.
She trusts Jesus is for her, despite what others of her faith might
She is an example not only to women who struggle to
break through the "glass ceiling" in the world of business and
social standing, but also an encouragement to those women in
religious settings who feel drained because their ministerial gifts
are ignored, under appreciated, or even rejected. Still they push on
and struggle to minister and serve, educating children,
administering parishes, reaching out to families in need, training
lectors and eucharistic ministers, counseling, etc.
After the woman’s healing Jesus addresses her as
"Daughter" – she is restored to the family of God’s people, no
longer an outcast socially, or religiously. Jesus says her faith has
saved her. What does that mean in this passage? She was rejected as
an outsider, but now God has seen her need for help and healed her.
Jesus’ word brings outsiders in and makes them whole. What brings us
to Mass today? Are we here reaching out to touch and be touched by
Christ? If that happens, how will it change our lives? How will our
ties with this community be strengthened? And then will we notice
those in the community who are also reaching out physically or
emotionally to touch and be touched?
The story of Jairus’ request for his dying daughter
was interrupted by the woman with the hemorrhage. Actually, both
stories are about "women" in need. Since Jairus’ daughter is twelve,
she is considered a woman of marriageable age. Just when her future
is about to open up to a new life and wider family ties, she dies.
With her death the dreams of both parents die as well.
When Jesus enters the room and touches the dead
child he, once again, has crossed over to the "other side" – this
time, not by a boat across the lake, but by being on the side with
the unclean and outcast. His compassion moves him to take on the
taboos of religion and society to help those in impossible
situations. Once he raises the girl, Jesus orders that she be given
something to eat. The child and the rest of the family are once
again whole. Death has been conquered and the community restored.
Which is what happens each time we come to Eucharist. The grip of
death caused by sin is broken, because Jesus reaches out a hand to
raise us up and says to us, "My child, I say to you too, arise."
for a link to this Sunday’s readings:
JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD
". . .for
justice is undying."
The first two words of Wisdom 1 are: "Love Justice."
When I first read it many years ago, I was struck that all wisdom
could be summed up in these two words. I am quite fond of the
"picture" that the inspired Old Testament writers form about
wisdom--a distinctly feminine voice, God’s craftsman, playful, God’s
delight. Yet, in the opening of the Book of Wisdom, wisdom gets
right to the point, love justice, and this chapter concludes with
"for justice is undying." To declare this last statement, the
inspired writer had to perceive that justice appears to be dying.
God does not make death, this chapter proclaims, so what would cause
justice to appear as if dying? Our answer is to be found in the
Back on January 9, 2015, I was listening to Vatican
Radio’s broadcast of Pope Francis’ daily Mass homily. It was the
first time that I had ever heard a homily on hardened hearts. He
states, "When a heart becomes hardened, it’s not free and if it’s
not free, it’s because that person isn’t capable of love. . .A love
that’s perfect banishes fear: in love there is no fear, because fear
is expecting a punishment and a person who is afraid doesn’t have a
perfect love. He or she is not free. They are constantly afraid that
something painful or sad will occur, that will cause their life to
go badly or will endanger their eternal salvation. . .What an
(over-active) imagination, because he or she can’t love. . .And
their heart was hardened because they hadn’t learned how to love."
Pope Francis goes on to name reasons for hardened hearts--a painful
experience in one’s life, people who are closed in on themselves
through pride, self-sufficiency, thinking they are better than
others, vanity, or religious narcissists who barricade themselves
behind laws and rules.
Hardened hearts present in the Church of the God of
love? How is this possible? And yet, I can recall, parishioners
berating a woman in a meeting because she wanted to do an offering
of letters for Bread for the World. I can remember a parish council
where a presentation for a new Habitat for Humanity project was met
with stony silence. I see the advocacy for justice on pressing
issues go largely unanswered.
"Love justice" Wisdom declares, "for justice is
undying." Don’t let your heart die.
---Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS
Social Justice Ministries
Holy Name of
Jesus Cathedral, Raleigh, NC
Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings
designed for persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough
to be posted in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.
From today’s Gospel reading:
had heard about Jesus and came up behind him
crowd and touched his cloak. She said, "If I but touch his clothes,
I shall be cured.
Immediately her flow of blood dried up....
to her, "Daughter, your faith has saved you."
The woman’s illness made her a religious and social
outcast. She was unclean, not to touch, or be touched by anyone. But
she takes a chance, reaches out and touches Jesus. He does not
recoil from her, but heals her. After her healing Jesus addresses
her as "Daughter" – she is no longer an outcast, but is restored to
the family of God’s people. Jesus has come to heal and invite the
outsiders into the community.
So we ask ourselves:
POSTCARDS TO DEATH
"One has to strongly affirm that condemnation to
the death penalty is an inhuman measure that humiliates personal
dignity, in whatever form it is carried out."
Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people
in the prison system. Each week I post in this space several
inmates’ names and addresses. I invite you to write a postcard to
one or more of them to let them know we have not forgotten them. If
you like, tell them you heard about them through North Carolina’s,
"People of Faith Against the Death Penalty." If the inmate responds
you might consider becoming pen pals.
Please write to:
Leroy Mann #0255136 (On death row since 7/15/97)
Christopher Roseboro #0352034 (8/29/97)
Roger Blakeney #0033802 (9/10/97)
----Central Prison, 4285 Mail Service Center,
Raleigh, NC 27699-4285
For more information on the Catholic position on the
death penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network:
Also, check the interfaith page for People of Faith
Against the Death Penalty:
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