04 Jul Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Homilies are never the creative act of one person. Thus, in posting these homilies on St. Mary’s Cathedral’s website I would like to state first and foremost that there will be little original in the following. My homilies are a result of my prayer, reading and study as it pertains to the particular gospel of the week. Thus, I beg, borrow and steal from the wisdom of those who have gone before me and together with the Holy Spirit acting in my own prayer considering the needs of our particular parish community here at St. Mary’s, a homily appears by the weekend. If there is something that edifies you I can take no credit for it: ‘tis the result of the work of the Holy Spirit and those from whom I have gleaned wisdom over time. If there is something that you might wish to discuss I am always available and would welcome any opportunity to speak about the Scriptures and/or the Spiritual Life.
God bless you.
We have a very complex set of Scriptures today. You will have notice that St. Paul is asking the Corinthians to be very generous out their abundance to the Church in Jerusalem that was very much in need. So I was tempted to preach on the collection … but I have resisted……
They first reading from the book of Wisdom and the Gospel deal with many facets of our physical and spiritual lives. Life and Death, Faith, Healing, …..the Nature of who Our Lord Jesus Christ is
That opening line of the first reading is a real attention grabber……. It says: “God did not make death…..” God is the author of Life…. When he created us in his image and likeness he created us for Life not death…… it’s helpful to hear the line that comes just before the first line of the First reading from chapter one of the Book of Wisdom we are instructed: “Do not invite death by the error of your life,” …. so sin brings death…… here we are talking about spiritual death…………. separation from God…….. it goes on….. “Do not invite death by the error of your life or bring on destruction by the works of your hands; 13 because God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living.” It continues: “14 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. 15 For righteousness is immortal.” (Wisdom 1:12-15) Everything God has created is good. …. wholesome…… A good life is rewarded with eternal life. This Scripture is saying choose righteousness, choose the ways of God, choose goodness and you shall live forever.
At first glance the healing miracles of today’s gospel are about Faith. Jesus says to the woman with the Hemorrhage…. “Daughter, your faith has made you well!” He says to Jairus….. “Do not fear, only believe.” But there is more here. The twelve year old girl, sick unto death, had no idea what was happening at all. So it is not her faith. It is her father’s. The woman with the hemorrhage had faith before she was healed…. Probably the same amount throughout her twelve years of illness….. and yet it is only in this encounter with Jesus that she is healed. We have to ask why did God not cure her without her having to touch him? Why the twelve years of ritual uncleanness, the twelve years of isolation, suffering and expense looking for a cure that left her impoverished?….. Why did Jesus not heal Jairus’ daughter immediately….. from a distance? Why does he allow the woman to delay him …. To the point that Jairus’ daughter dies during the delay….. “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher further?” Imagine how he was feeling while Jesus delayed to ask…. “Who touched my clothes?” Why did Jesus go all the way to Jairus’s house and take the little girl by the hand in order to bring her back to life? He could have simply performed the miracle from a distance?
What does happen? The woman reaches out to touch God……. God takes the twelve year old girl by the hand……. Our God wants to be close to us. He wants to live in friendship with us…. Near us. And since we are human beings, made up of both body and soul, that closeness, that friendship requires not only spiritual contact, but physical contact as well. This is, at its very core, the Church’s sacramental vision of faith. God doesn’t have to operate through material elements like, water, bread, wine and oil…… but he chooses to do so…. because it better fits our spiritual and physical human nature. The sacraments, the church building we gather in, the liturgy, the Scriptures, the music…. These are all places of encounter with God……. where we reach out and touch Him and He reaches out to touch us …. These places are all instruments through which he enters the very flesh and blood of our daily lives. Our God doesn’t keep his distance; he walks by our side… in the sacraments he dwells within us. The last line of the gospel of Matthew , Jesus states, “I will be with until the end of the age.”
God dwells with us in the Church.
The woman with the hemorrhage is a model for approaching Jesus. While crowds of people were bumping into him as he walked along, she touched him. Her faith brought her into living contact with Jesus, and as a result she experienced a dramatic healing. The difference between the crowds and this woman prompts the question: Why weren’t others healed? It begs the reflection: “How often do I merely bump up against Jesus when he is present?” …… for example…. When we receive Him in Holy Communion? Am I like the crowds that surrounded Jesus that day?……Do I half-consciously bump against him, allow the other preoccupations of my day jostle with Jesus’ reaching out to me?….am I kind of present but not entirely… or do I receive Him determined to touch him personally, and allow him to touch me personally…. Do I receive him fully aware that He has come to me, body, mind, soul and divinity…. In His entirety when I receive Him in Holy Communion…. Do I receive him with a lively awareness of the grace and power that can flow forth from him into my life? That is the power of Faith.
Only fully believing can that grace and power flow forth into my life. It is a very sobering reflection that in the Gospel, those who ridiculed Jesus, those who did not believe, who laughed at him when he said: “The child is not dead. She is only asleep.” He put them outside. He removed them from his presence. It is a very sobering reflection for all of us….. are there parts of our Faith that have been taught from the very beginning that I laugh at, that I ridicule, in which I refuse to participate ? In doing so, I risk being removed from the gift of the Lord’s presence.
We all know that we have prayed for loved ones who have died……they have not gotten better. We have all asked, in our great faith, for healings to take place …. For death to be delayed…. And it is not. A good thing for all of us to ponder is…. Every single person that was healed by Jesus or that Jesus raised from the dead….. death was only delayed……..eventually all of them died. The twelve year old girl in today’s gospel actually died twice. Death will come to all of us. It is righteousness, that is immortal. ….. doing the will of God and fulfilling his commands… allowing the grace of God to transform us interiorly so that in the events of our daily lives we are Christ-like……. Life giving, loving, healing……..we think, speak and act in authentic obedience (1John 3:7) as true children of God. (Matt 5:45) . Our faithful choosing to put ourselves in His presence in daily prayer and allowing him to touch us with his presence by faithfully receiving him in the Sacraments He has given us, especially the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Confession…….. these are the righteousness which go before us into Eternity…….
Those who die not only hearers of the word, but doers of the word (James 1) will be raised to eternal life,….. immortal forever. (Matthew 31:3) This is the faith and certain hope of the disciple of Jesus Christ. We will shortly say in the creed. “We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.” As our Faith and our Hope grow stronger we are able to look upon our own death and that of others from this Christian viewpoint as our birth into eternal life, our decisive meeting with God.
So often I hear people say: “Where would we be without our faith?” Personally, I can still vividly hear, just over five years ago now, my brother, whose 21 year old son had just been killed in an accident, saying: “How will I go on?” “How can I get through this?” Wrapping my arms around him….. I said: “We will get through this. The Lord will get us through this.” Faith. The power of faith…… if we choose it, if we practice it….. more and more reaching out to the Lord in prayer…… “If I but touch His clothes, I will be made well” ……. Allowing Him to touch us …. To heal us… to strengthen us….. in the Eucharist and Confession…… like Jairus saying to the Lord….. “Come and lay your hands on me and I will be made well.”
Many of you knew Lidwien Gräfe. Those of you who did not know her have heard us praying for her in the prayers of the sick for many months and the last two weekends for the repose of her soul. Lidwien had an extremely powerful faith… as one of her sons said her moral compass never wavered….. she had certain hope in the power of prayer….. she spent hours in St. James’ chapel in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament …. She had certain hope in the power of the sacraments……. The Sunday before she died she received the Sacraments of Confession, and the Anointing of the Sick and Holy Communion. As she said I’m not getting out of this world without doing it right. We said good bye that day. At the end of her last confession, a sacrament she never found easy, but received regularly……. She said with a huge smile… “There! I’m all ready” .. There was such a radiant hope, an expectant joy, in that room….. it was the palpable result of her life time of deep, strong Faith and her certain hope in that Faith….. it was something truly beautiful to behold.
A final important thought…… Jesus says to the woman with the hemorrhage….. “Daughter, your faith has made you well.” The Greek word, sozo, translated here as ‘to be made well’, also has the meaning of being saved. Stretching the meaning well beyond this life, Jesus, very powerfully, is also saying to her and to us …. “Daughter, your faith has saved you.”
Heavenly Father, grace us with such Faith!