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Contents: Volume 2 - The Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 1, 2018


 

The 13th

Sunday

Ordinary

Time

 

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP

4. -- Paul O'Reilly SJ

5. --(Your reflection can be here!)

 

 

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Sun. 13 B

In today's Gospel according to Mark, we read/hear about the healing of the synagogue official's daughter and the healing of the woman chronically afflicted by a hemorrhage. These stories of Jesus's healings are familiar to us. While these are certainly stories of great faith in Jesus, they also tell us something important about Jesus and give us some direction in our lives.

Both of the people who approached Jesus were desperate. They faced hopeless situations. Jesus recognized their situations and was more than willing to help each of them. He did so by allowing a ritually "unclean woman" to touch him and also by touching a child who was "dead", and therefore, also "unclean". His love and care for the people, regardless of the consequences for himself, provide a striking example for us.

I have spent the past week as a volunteer at my parish's Vacation Bible Camp where over 100 children, plus scores of middle and high school aides and adults had a wonderful time learning about Jesus. We learned that "Jesus rescues" us when we are lonely, worried, struggling, done something wrong, or feel powerless. Those feelings and scenarios cover a wide range of what people in today's world, children and adults alike, experience over and over again. Yes, Jesus still rescues us, not always by taking away the problem as in these Scripture stories and others, but by being with us throughout the problem and helping us to find others that might carry or lift some of the burden of those situations.

I can probably rattle off a fairly long list of people who need Jesus's immediate touch today, several of whom live on the fringes of society. You can probably do so also. If not, then a quick look at the news can add to your prayer list rather quickly. Jesus's touch still needs to be felt in all corners of our society today, from deep within our own hearts to those places mentioned on headline news. We, Jesus's followers, can be among those who are willing to step forward, pray, and then DO something to help someone who feels abandoned and hopeless. What can and will you DO, in Jesus's name, to help rescue someone?

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Thirteenth Sunday of Ordered Time July 1 2018

Wisdom 1:13- 15 & 2:23-24; Responsorial Psalm 30; 2nd Corinthians 8:7 & 9 & 13-15; Gospel Acclamation 2nd Timothy 1:10; Mark 5:21-43

The book of Wisdom is often difficult to accept because it seems to contradict our experience. "God is not a god of death, but of life." If God is not a god of death, then how come there is so much pain and suffering in the world? It often seems we are victims of nature, of illness and disability, of the efforts of others to gain power, wealth, or status. How is it that we are crushed by gossip and calumny regarding our reputation? How is it that we suffer from cancer, undefined maladies, and incurable diseases? Why is nature which God describes as good becoming more and more violent and threatening to property and lives? Are we more focused on the hope of science to cure us than for an understanding of why God allows such evil to crush us and render our lives meaningless? So Wisdom insists in this Sunday’s reading "God is not a god of death, but of life." How do we un-pack the depth of faith contained in this ancient quote from the Hebrew Scriptures? Isn’t death the ultimate end to a future? Doesn’t death rob our human spirit of the vitality that comes from hope? Theologian Cardinal Walter Kasper writes in his book An Introduction to Christian Faith, "Absolute future-less-ness is the very nature of death." Yet Kasper insists faith is what makes hope possible. And hope is always future.

In Mark’s Gospel this week end, we observe two stories of faith. In the first story a woman suffering for twelve years with hemorrhaging has fallen into future-less-ness. She sought relief from medical professionals who failed to cure her. Literally they made her condition worse by taking all her resources in payment for their ineffective services. She could have no future because she was isolated by her disease. Flows of blood in the culture of Judaism made her unclean and unfit to participate in social and religious activities of the community. She was alone, isolated, unwelcomed, uncared for, and scorned as a victim of her own sinfulness. Disease and death itself were – and sometimes still are -- considered evidence of the sins of the one suffering. We might note that Jesus put this falsehood to rest by his suffering and death and his resurrection! Her faith was a belief in the magical power of this healer. Jesus asks, "Who touched me?" His disciples didn’t understand his question and thought it silly. They were surrounded by a crowd pushing in on all sides to catch a glimpse of this miracle worker, this preacher with strange words that touched many hearts. Were there none in the crowd who suffered like this woman? Why is she the only one cured? The woman is frightened at her boldness and overwhelmed by what she knows has happened. She is healed and will be welcomed back into community. She had been rejected by her community because of her uncleanness. Now she can find shelter and welcome in a necessary community. Jesus tells her, "Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction." What is she saved from? What is she saved for? Why does he call her "daughter?"

The trouble with words is that they lose their meaning and power from over-use. We use words like children who parrot the words of parents speaking words without understanding, often to the embarassment of parents. Words become a code that arouses an emotional response. We nod our heads in agreement or in anger or in respect. We should take a look at this word "saved" and get into the depth of what it means. What is this "saved" of which Jesus talks? If we ask, "What is this woman saved from," we’ll quickly respond that she is saved from the sickness that caused the flow of blood. Such a simple understanding misses the point of this story in Mark. This woman dares to be in a crowd following Jesus. Yet by the cultural law of the Jews she is not permitted to be among people. She is unclean and anyone who is with her becomes unclean as well. To be unclean is to be isolated, to be alone, to lack the support and social interaction of the Community in worship, in economic endeavors, and in social gatherings. Being truly alone is a frightening condition. There is discussion among psychologists and sociologists about the cruel and unusual punishment of solitary confinement. Isolation destroys what is human in us making rehabilitation impossible. This woman suffered from more than physical pain and discomfort. She suffered in her very spirit and had gone hopeless.

If we look at this woman from a theology perspective, we remember the insistent message of humanity’s creation in Genesis. "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. … God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him: male and female he created them." How often we read this narrative and think, "oh, that’s nice. God created men." And when we do we fall into the trap of missing the point of the narrative. The key thought is that humanity, male AND female, are created in the divine image, after God’s likeness. That likeness, that image is in truth a revelation of what God is. It is not by chance that the word used of God’s speaking is "let US". God is a community and because God is a community we also are created to be a community of persons. When we are individually isolated from Community because of our choices, because of illness, because of social or religious bigotry, we are denied that which makes us different from animals, from birds of the air, from fish in the seas, and from vegetation and rocks and soil. When we deny ourselves or have our humanity denied, we suffer. We suffer as this woman did from isolation. That suffering hurts and robs our existence of vitality and fullness of life.

But let’s not stop with this cured, returned-to-society woman. If we look to the beginning of Mark chapter five we read the narrative of the exorcism of the legion of evil spirits that claimed and destroyed the Divine Image and Likeness of the Creator in the Demoniac of Gerasene. This legion of evil spirits corresponds to the many and various evil movements that rob humanity of its freedom. When we are controlled by passion, by violence, by hatred, by bigotry, by denial of the humanity of others: when we deny dignity and worth to God’s creation of humanity, when we deny the wonder of God’s creation of animals, of birds, of fishes, of the order of the waters in the heavens, on the earth, and under the earth we are possessed by evil spirits. When we accept the rantings of demagogues who pit persons against persons for power, we take into our hearts the evil spirits who robbed the Gerasene man of his freedom to live in the Divine image and likeness. When we become possessed by evil our freedom as children of God is stolen from us. In the narrative of the woman with the hemorrhage Jesus calls her "daughter." Jesus recognizes her as a child of God, one who shares in the image and likeness of the Father-God the Creator. That is the source of her worth which cannot be rescinded by illness.

In the last part of this Sunday’s gospel we hear the story of Jairus’ daughter. While the Pharisees and the Sadducees and the religious leadership of the Jews worked mightily to discredit Jesus, Jairus, the leader of the local synagogue comes to Jesus for help. He sought help to restore the health of his daughter. While we have made great strides in curing disease and illness, while we have found ways of mitigating the effects of disability, while we have achieved longer life for many – we ultimately must continue to face the uncertainty of dying. What is it like to die? What happens to my consciousness? Does it hurt? Where do I go? It’s a process for which we cannot practice. We get one shot at it and there is no do-over button to mash.

If we take these three stories as one lesson we find three anxieties, fears that threaten our peace of mind and destroy hope. In the story of the man possessed by the legion of evil spirits, we see the fragility of our personalities. We can easily be tricked into thoughts, attitudes, and practices that threaten the truth of our Divine Image and Likeness. When we are isolated because of prejudice, because of illness, because of the evil actions of others, we long for and unceasingly struggle to find community, a place where we belong, a place where we are needed, a place where our dignity and worth is accepted. When we consider our ultimate and final days of life on earth, we are fearful and wonder how it is, how it works, where we go, is there a continuation of living? What would that continuation be like?

We cannot forget the words of our first reading. "God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living. For he fashioned all things that they might have being; and the creatures of the world are wholesome, and there is not a destructive drug among them nor any domain of the netherworld on earth, for justice is undying. For God formed man to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made him."

When death entered the world through the free-will choices of humanity, God began immediately to work with us to overcome that which addicts and leads to violence and rejection of the joys of living. This is the story of the man possessed. When we are isolated from others, God creates a community, a COMMUNION that forms us into the One Body of the Lord. The faith by which we are joined into Community brings us to the Table of the Lord for nourishment and for healing. And when death itself comes to us, God uses that to allow us the possibility of eternal life. The standards by which we are chosen for an eternity of Community, of Joy, of Peace, and of delight are clearly stated in Matthew’s gospel, chapter 25. "Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me,, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me."

The message this Sunday is that God does not wish us or give us pain, death, or isolation. We come together in Community. Our model is the Trinity. Just as the Divine Transcendent One is a community of three persons in one God, so also we are intended to be one people, one creation in the unity of God’s love for and through us to others. God loves us. That is the bottom line of the readings this Sunday. That is why we respond to the first reading in the people’s response: "I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me." When we think on these revelations from God, we must certainly rejoice in the Lord.

These three stories in chapter five of Mark make even more sense if we look to the end of Mark’s chapter four. In that narrative we see Jesus calming the storming seas which threaten to destroy the boat taking the disciples across the Sea of Galilee. Even the threats of nature incomplete and out of order are mitigated by God’s presence. Even the uncertainties of nature discover a future of hope in our faith. It is God’s will that we have life and have it abundantly. God’s presence and our faith in his Loving Kindness make it possible to live life fully and to grow into life eternal in His Presence. May it be ever so for us as individual persons and as God’s people!

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

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DESPERATE SEEKERS AND BELIEVERS: 13TH SUNDAY B

Along the road of life we become aware of many desperately-seeking persons. How do they deal with their desperation? Over and over again we have learned of asylum seekers e.g., so desperate to escape from poverty and persecution that they risk their lives by paying people-smugglers and climbing into overcrowded leaky boats heading for lands of freedom and opportunity. So they are seeking something good for themselves and their families. But another group are hell-bent on seeking hurt and harm to others. For instance, not so long ago an Australian sporting hero got so fed-up with his marriage, that he went to the races, boozed all day, came home drunk and angry to his wife and children, and there before their eyes set about wrecking their home and furniture, including his wife’s most precious personal possessions.

In the gospel today we meet both a man and a woman in two situations of such acute personal pain that they desperately seek from the great person of Jesus, life, hope and healing. Jairus, the synagogue official and loving father of a ‘desperately sick’ twelve-year old daughter, is convinced that if only Jesus would place his hands on her ‘to make her better and save her life’ she would surely recover. The unnamed woman, suffering for twelve years from a gynaecological condition for which she has spent her life-savings on one doctor after another, has one last hope. She is convinced that ‘if she can touch even his clothes’, she will surely ‘be well again’.

The very moment this suffering and faith-filled woman touches the clothes of Jesus, she senses that she is cured of her condition. But Jesus does not let her just slink away anonymously into the crowd. He wants to meet the whole person, not just her ailment. Neither does he want to be treated like a magician or a mobile relic Turning right around he asks, ‘Who touched my clothes?’. His question and his look bring the woman forward. Trembling with fear, she falls at his feet and tells him the whole truth. Jesus has insisted on meeting her face-to-face, not to humiliate her, but to praise her for her faith and to send her on her way feeling mightily relieved and at peace.

While Jesus is still speaking, messengers come to tell Jairus that his beloved daughter has died. Jesus overhears this, and immediately says to this grieving father, ‘Don’t be afraid; only have faith.’ Taking with him his inner circle of disciples - Peter, James and John - Jesus goes into the house where he encounters mourners weeping and wailing at the top of their voices. When he tells them that the child is not dead but asleep, their mourning turns to mockery. They are no help at all. So he throws them out. Then, accompanied by the child’s mother and father and his three close friends, Jesus goes into the child’s room. Supported by this little community of faith, Jesus takes her by the hand, and prompts her to rise up. When she does so he adds the kind and touching words: ‘Give her something to eat.’

It’s worth dwelling on the details of Mark’s two stories because they give us valuable insight into the character of Jesus. They tell us of someone who feels acutely the desperate pain of others, and who does not disappoint those who approach him for help. There are mothers and fathers e.g., who keep grieving for their dead children long after others have forgotten or have moved on. To Jesus these children are just as precious as the daughter of Jairus. As the Risen Lord he will come to awaken them. We firmly believe that. That’s why Jesus keeps saying, ‘Don’t be afraid; only have faith.’

Of course there are many who mock our belief and hope in life after death. They claim say that death destroys us, wipes us out, and leads nowhere. But there’s no place for that attitude among us. After all, we are Christians. We believe strongly in Jesus as the ‘Resurrection and the Life’, and in his reassuring words, ‘Don’t be afraid; only have faith’.

The woman who came to Jesus was deeply and even desperately wounded. All of us too are wounded – some more, some less. But people can be wounded without showing it. They can carry such invisible wounds as their feelings of rejection, failure, guilt, worthlessness, loneliness, bitterness and hostility.

All of us need healing, and all of us can be ‘wounded healers’ too. Our lives are continually touching those of others. With a little sympathy we can heal a wounded heart. With a little care we can ease a troubled mind. With a little time we can relieve another’s loneliness.

So every now and then let’s stop and ask ourselves, ‘What is going out from me in my words, my actions, and my relationships? How am I coming through? Am I, in fact, hurting others? Or, under God, might I as a ‘wounded healer’ myself and an agent of God, be actually healing them, putting them back together again?’

"Brian Gleeson CP" <bgleesoncp@gmail.com>

 

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Year B: 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time

"‘Talitha, kum!’... ‘Little girl, I tell you to get up.’"

This morning I went to say Mass at Holloway prison.

And as I was walking up the path to the Chapel, I passed through the rose gardens they have there. And those gardens are as beautiful as you might imagine would be the only place that women who have been there for years can plant their love.

And as I passed, one of the prisoners was in the garden dead-heading the flowers and throwing them out.

I picked up this one off the path and asked the gardener if I could keep it.

She said "fine", but asked what I wanted it for.

I told her that it reminded me of someone.

She smiled and asked if that someone was a little lady.

I told her: yes it was.

She gave an enormous wink and gave me this flower.

You see, about fifteen years ago, when I worked in a mission hospital, a twelve-year-old girl called Marissa came to see me in my office.

And she had a very serious heart valve disease which was making her very ill. But we knew that there was an operation available in another country, in Trinidad, which could make her better and save her life. But we also knew that she would have to wait three months to get the operation. So, we had three months in which we had to try to keep her alive.

So she came to me in my office, held my hand, looked into my eyes and said: "Please doctor, I am afraid to die and I want to feel well. Please help me. Promise me you’ll do your very best."

I promised her that I would indeed do my Very, Very Best.

After that I saw her nearly every day. And every day she brought me a flower – always red – quite a lot like this one. All that time, I watched her blood tests like a hawk and I carefully changed her medicines and we did everything we possibly could to keep her in the best possible condition for the operation.

And, for two months she did very well.

Then, three weeks before the operation was due, she started getting worse.

We tried everything we knew.

But nothing worked.

And she died.

- Under my care

- In my hospital

- On my ward

- On my watch

- With my name on her head-board.

I don’t know how her parents felt, but I was devastated. It was the lowest point in my medical career. The day she died I cried for the first time in thirty years. I wanted to give up medicine right then. All I wanted to do was go home and cry.

So, that is my justification for thinking that I know a little bit – a small part - of what Jairus must have gone through in this Gospel passage – what he must have felt watching his little girl get sick and dying and knowing there is not one thing that he can do about it. To misquote Bob Dylan, I wish that for just one minute we could all stand inside his shoes.

So when he comes to Jesus, he may be a synagogue official. Maybe he has all sorts of good professional, religious and political reasons to be opposed to everything that Jesus stands for. Maybe even his job is on the line. But he is not thinking of any of that. He is thinking of his daughter. And he is thinking that maybe this man just might be his little girl’s last chance. So he comes to Jesus and he falls at his feet and - according to the gospel of Mark - he "earnestly begs" Jesus. Now, with all due respect to the disciple who may very well have been there at the time, but as I imagine the story, I think Jairus probably does a little more than "earnestly beg" him. This man is desperate. And Jesus responds. And he begins to hope.

So then, what does it feel like when, as you walk along, someone else jumps in and takes the magic power away to heal herself? Just how angry do you feel? And then how do you feel when your officials come to tell you that your daughter has now died. There is nothing more to hope for. I don’t know how that feels - to tell you the truth I would rather not think about that because I remember Marissa.

But Jesus tells Jairus to have faith. "do not be afraid. Only have faith." And Jairus is going to have Faith. Because Jairus right now does not have another option. Jairus is desperate. Right now Jairus will stake his life on this man. More than that, much more, he will stake his daughter’s life on this man. He has no other choice.

Talitha Kum.

"Little girl, I tell you to get up."

So what is the message of all this?

First, that Jesus’ healing power is not a magic or a scarce resource; it is not a commodity or a currency to be bought, bargained or fought over. It is God’s love for all created people and there is plenty for everyone.

Second that faith it is not ultimately a head thing - a belief, a thought, a well worked out position, or a manifesto commitment. No, it is the love that people have when the chips are really down - it is where you place your bottom dollar. It is who you trust when your little girl’s life is on the line.

That is the Faith of the Church. We are proud to profess it in Christ our Lord.

Let us stand and profess that faith in the God in whom we trust.

Dr Paul O’Reilly

<fatbaldnproud@opalityone.net>

 

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Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections, and insights on the next Sundays readings can influence the preaching you hear. Send them to preacherexchange@att.net. Deadline is Wednesday Noon. Include your Name, and Email Address.

-- Fr. John
 


 

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