The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Monday, July 9, 2018

Homily: Monday, 14th Week of Ordinary Time

Readings: Hos 2:16-18,21-22; Ps 145; Mt 9:18-26

Oh, what a gospel reading this is for us! Matthew gives us the short version, while Mark provides more detail, so I'll tap into both.

Inspired by the Sprit, Matthew blends these two events, two healings by Jesus. He sandwiches them together so you and I won't miss the point. Two people confront Jesus on this day in Galilee - two very different people.

The first is Jairus - we learn his name from Mark's Gospel - an important man, a synagogue official. Yes, Jairus was the first to know, first to have, first to shake your hand, first to be invited, the first to be served, and the last to be overlooked - a man to be noticed. He had a life filled with people who cared for him. It had probably been a good life...until now.

Because he had a daughter whom he loved, and this young girl had just died. In desperation he approached Jesus. No, that's wrong. He didn't just approach Jesus. This important man knelt at Jesus' feet and begged for his daughter's life.

On his knees, looking up, he asked Jesus to come and lay hands on the girl, to mediate God's grace and power and deliver his daughter from death - his little girl who has lived only 12 years. Moved by this father's love, Jesus accompanies Jairus. They are followed by the crowd, the crowd that always followed Jesus. And there, in that crowd, we encounter another in need of healing.

For 12 Years Jairus enjoyed his daughter's presence. But the woman in the crowd had spent those same 12 years on the outside looking in.

For 12 years, she was the last one at the well, the last one at the marketplace, the last to be noticed, and the first to turn away.

For 12 years, she lived on the fringes, avoiding people, avoiding contact, avoiding everything, everything but shame.

For 12 years a flow of blood had made her unclean according to Jewish law - 12 years without the prayers of the synagogue.

Her friends disappeared long ago, lost along with her money and her pride - 12 years of loneliness. Lonely, even in a crowd, she had learned how to be almost invisible.

There are men and women just like her today. They're all around us.

You see them at the soup kitchen and the food pantry. You see them on the streets and alleyways of our cities. You see them in your neighborhood, eating alone, living alone, always alone.

She's the one whose eyes are on the ground, the one you might notice, just for a moment, out of the corner of your eye, before she slips away.

I know you've seen her. Sometimes she's in front of you at the checkout counter, counting out her change to buy a small bag of groceries.

You see her in our cities, the one who lives her life along the edge of the curb, among the empty wrappers and the discarded cans.

But sometimes, perhaps most times, we don't see her at all. Or if we do, we wonder why they let these crazy people out on the streets.

Yes, the woman who reached out to touch Jesus is with us still.

We encounter two very different people - both in desperate need, both turning to Jesus in hope. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Matthew asks us to look at these two people, to see them together, as he nests their stories one within the other. And they're so different, these two.

Jairus, the man of importance, doesn't hesitate. Sure of himself, he goes in search of Jesus, finds Him, approaches Him directly. He's the kind of man who can say, "Jesus, help me!" and trust he'll be welcomed and heard.

But the woman? She buries herself in the crowd. Those years of hiding and shame have had their effect. She couldn't bear another rejection. Fearing public humiliation, she sneaks up on Jesus, just to touch His garment, to taste His healing power, and she can slip away silently.
“If only I can touch his cloak, I shall be cured.”
But Jesus sees her, doesn't He? He feels her presence. He sees her just as clearly as He saw Jairus. Yes, He sees them both that day in Galilee. Jesus never allows the one before Him to hide the other lost in the crowd. Unlike us, His eyes are never so focused on the obvious that He misses those who live on the fringes, those who hide just out of view. Jesus sees what you and I so often ignore.

In Mark's Gospel we're told that both, Jairus and the woman, fall to the ground as they approach Jesus. Yes, Jairus, blessed in life, is wise and knows its source. He falls at Jesus' feet and begs for one more blessing. But the woman...Jesus must call her to Him. Filled with fear and trembling, she too falls at His feet. She knows she's been healed, for God's healing power flowed from Jesus the moment she touched His garment. But Jesus wants her to know her wholeness came from faith, not fear:
"Courage, daughter. Your faith has saved you" [Mt 9:22]. 
Such kind, life-changing words. You're my disciple now. Have courage. You never again need to fear.

At the home of Jairus Jesus clears out the mourners and wailers, those who cling to a culture of death. It calls to mind what His later did in the Temple, doesn't it? - that day He sent the money changers packing.

One touch from Our Lord and the girl rises from her deathbed. You see, brothers and sisters, Jesus brings life, and because of Him death will never again be the same.
One touch from Jesus' hand...
One touch from your hand?
Maybe that's why the Spirit invites us to read about these two healings, one inside the other. Two people - one in comfort and position, another in poverty and obscurity - but both come to Jesus in faith; both approach Him humbly and hopefully. And both came away fully aware that they own nothing, that everything comes from God.

Maybe we're not supposed to wonder whose need was greater, or whose faith was stronger, or why Jesus stopped to talk with the woman when a little girl's father needed him so desperately.  Maybe it's enough for us to know that Jesus saw them both, was there for both!

That's the wonder of being a Christian, brothers and sisters. Jesus sees us too and is there for us if we approach Him in humility, in hope, and in faith.

Of course, the other part of being a Christian is recognizing Jesus in those who stand before us, those who hide in the crowd waiting for us to see them, waiting for us to love them as Jesus loves them.

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