Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Agnes Church, New York, NY
Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
June 28, 2015
Wis 1:13-15.2:23-24, Ps 30, 2 Cor 8:7.9.13-15, Mk 5:21-43
To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below:
The following text guided the homily:
Touching Jesus with Faith
The dramatic healing of the woman with the hemorrhage in today’s Gospel is one of the literally most touching of all Jesus’ miracles. Jesus was on his way with Jairus, the synagogue leader, to raise his daughter from the dead. St. Mark tells us that a large crowd was following Jesus and pressing in on him. As happens in almost any big crowd, people were bumping into him left and right. Yet in the midst of all of that commotion on the move, Jesus is touched in a different way by this anonymous woman — and Jesus immediately knew he was touched differently. The woman believed that if she could just touch the tassel of his garments, she would be cured. And she was not to be disappointed.
Jesus, upon feeling his healing power go out in response to her faith, stopped and asked, somewhat remarkably, “Who touched my clothes?” It would be like if an ambulance driver speeding to attend to a 911 call all of a sudden heard a faint, friendly tap of the horn and then slammed on the brakes trying to find out who was trying to say hello. Jesus stopped, and doubtless to the confusion and chagrin of Jairus, began to ask who had come into contact with the hem of his tunic. It shows how big the crowd must have been banging into him that he didn’t even see the woman approach him to touch the edge of his garments. “Who touched my clothes?,” he kept asking. Jesus was never interested in merely working miracles of bodily healing. Those were always a prelude to the greater miracle of healing souls, and that healing happened and happens through a personal relationship with him. That’s why he never worked “mass miracles of healing,” but always cured people one-by-one, because he wanted to have that personal bond. So Jesus wanted to meet and enter into a relationship with the person he had just physically cured.
After Jesus’ question, the woman approached with fear and trembling, fell down before him and told him everything, including how she had sought to pick-pocket a healing miracle from him without his knowledge. She was afraid not just because the stop she had caused Jesus to make was going to prove fatal for the daughter of the understandably impatient, powerful synagogue leader, but because by her touching Jesus with her effusion of blood, she was making him ritually impure according to the Jewish law and incapable without ablutions of entering the synagogue. That ritual impurity meant that she had been suffering not only physically for twelve years, but also socially and religiously: because of her bleeding, she couldn’t touch anyone and was basically cut off from human contact; she was even, in a sense, cut off from God by not being able to enter the synagogue. She probably thought that Jesus and everyone else with whom she would have come into contact trying to get to Jesus would have been furious with her. But Jesus would address all those problems. He spoke to her tenderly, called her “Daughter,” and said, “Your faith has made you well. Go in peace and be healed of your disease.” He made the miracle public so that she could be restored totally to the community, to the worship of God, and to a relationship with God-in-the-flesh.
The Touch of Life
The miracle of the healing of Jairus’ daughter likewise began with a touch. Jairus, the leader of the Capernaum synagogue where Jesus was already becoming controversial, didn’t care if the rabbis and the members of the community would criticize him for reaching out to someone who was already highly suspect in their eyes and was no longer welcome in their synagogue. He loved his daughter too much to care about his career. With fatherly abandon, he ran up to Jesus, threw himself at his feet, doubtless grabbed onto them, and, as St. Mark says, begged Jesus repeatedly to come and lay his hands on his daughter that she might get well and live. Jairus knew that there was a power to Jesus’ hands, to his healing touch, and he wanted his daughter to feel it. And at the end of the scene, after she had died and everyone was mourning her death the way anyone would weep uncontrollably at the death of a child, Jairus would see that Jesus’ healing touch was even more powerful than he had imagined, even more miraculous than he had just witnessed with the hemorrhaging woman. “Do not fear,” Jesus told Jairus, “only believe,” and Jairus did both. When Jesus arrived at the house after the little girl had died, he took her by the hand, touched her, and said, “Little girl, Arise!” In Greek, the verb is the same word used to describe Jesus’ resurrection. Like in Michelangelo’s famous scene of the creation of Adam on the vault of the Sistine Chapel when God stretches out his hand and instills life into Adam, so Jesus’ touch brings life back into this little girl. “I am the resurrection and the life,” Jesus said elsewhere, and his touch contains within it that resurrection, that life, that total restorative power. The miracle of raising this little girl from death to life was meant to show what Jesus wants to do for all of us, in this world and forever. As the Book of Wisdom tells us in the first reading, “God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living. … For God formed man to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made him. But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world, and they who belong to [the devil’s] company experience it.” Jesus came to give us a triumph over the devil. As we prayed in the Psalm, he came to rescue us so that our infernal enemies wouldn’t rejoice over us and so that he could change our mourning into dancing. As we pondered in the epistle, even though he was rich, became poor, spending himself for us totally down to the last drop of his own effusion of blood, so that by his poverty we might become rich. Jesus came to bring to fulfillment in your life and mine what the miracles in the Gospel point to.
The question for you and me is whether in our lives we humbly reach out to touch Jesus with the faith of Jairus and the woman with the 12 year hemorrhage — or do we just “bump into him,” like all those following in the crowd, who, even though they were coming into physical contact with him, were receiving none of his healing and transformative power. When we come to Mass and approach to receive him in Holy Communion do we do so with faith, knowing that we’re touching far more than the hem of his garment, but receiving his whole body, blood, soul and divinity within? Do we recognize we’re receiving the same Jesus whose feet Jairus grasped? Or do we receive him routinely, without awe, without reverence, with hands or souls in need of cleansing? Do we approach Jesus knowing he likewise wants to reach out and touch us, that just like he did with Jairus’ little girl, so he wants to lay his hands on us, as he does on the day we’re baptized, as he does in silence in the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, as he does through the raised hands of the priest giving God’s forgiveness in the Sacrament of Penance, whereby he who is the resurrection and the life wants us to share in his triumph over sin and death. Do we allow him to transform us in such a way by our contact with him in prayer and in the Sacraments that we can in turn become the hands of his mystical body, burning with his desire to reach out and heal a wounded world in which so many are bleeding, in which so many, including kids, are dying physically and spiritually because they’re not in a life-changing relationship of faith with Him who is the Resurrection, the Way, the Truth and the Life?
If you’d permit me, I’d like to apply all of these truths we learn today to our situation as Catholics in the United States after yesterday’s Supreme Court decision. I would be guilty of the grossest pastoral malpractice if I didn’t speak about it this weekend, since we’re dealing with a subject so central to the heart of Jesus’ saving mission. As we see from the first pages of the Bible in the Book of Genesis with the Creation of Marriage until the last pages in the Book of Revelation describing heaven as the Wedding Feast of the Lamb and Bride, God’s plan for the human race is spousal. God made us in his image and likeness, male and female he made us, and he made the fruitful marriage of a man and a woman until death a reflection of his own Trinitarian communion of love. Through the prophets, especially Isaiah and Hosea, God revealed that the covenant he was establishing was a marital one. Jesus revealed himself as the Bridegroom and implied about us what St. Paul would make explicit, that we are collectively his bride, the Church. And when Jesus was asked about the nature of marriage, he brought us back to the beginning in God’s plans, telling us that man is to leave not his guardians or babysitters, not his well-meaning caring adults of whatever mixture of genders, but his father and his mother, and cling not to whomever he is sexually attracted to but to his wife, to the complementary person to whom he has made a truly lifetime commitment. Jesus tells us that the two, man and woman, will become one flesh, which refers not principally to the physical contact a man and woman have in making love but to the lasting union of their own flesh in a new child, something that is obviously possible only the union of a man and a woman. And Jesus says that what God has joined man must never divide, something that refers not merely to the union of an individual man and an individual woman in a bond of marriage, but also to the union of man and woman in marriage. Yesterday five justices on the Supreme Court put their own personal preferences not only above the Constitution — as Chief Justice John Roberts said in his powerful dissent — but above what God himself has revealed and what human history and culture has always recognized. This is not the time or the place to examine and give an extensive critique the decision. I’d encourage you to read the statements the US Bishops put out yesterday as well as the powerful dissents of the Justices.
But what I would like to ponder is how we as Catholics are going to respond as Catholics, as faithful followers of Jesus, to what was done yesterday. Jesus has reached out to us with the light of his truth about marriage. Are we just going to bump into it and ignore it, or are we going to seek to align our whole life to it? In the Collect (Opening Prayer) of this Mass, we prayed, “O God, who through the grace of adoption chose us to be children of light, grant that we may not be wrapped in the darkness of error but always be seen to stand in the bright light of truth.” Many of our contemporaries are wrapped in the darkness of error, but as faithful Catholics, we’re called to stand in the bright light of truth. We’re supposed to radiate Christ’s light. One of the reasons why yesterday’s decision, which would have been unthinkable even a generation ago, happened was because, for the most part, our culture as a whole has been wrapped in the darkness of error. We’ve lost touch with Jesus and his saving teaching about marriage. Catholics and Christians who are heterosexual have been wrapped in error and failing to stand and live in the light of Jesus’ teachings in large numbers with regard to premarital promiscuity, to cohabitation, to infidelity, to divorce, to keeping their love open to life, in such a way that holding those with same sex attractions to a different standard easily looked discriminatory. If heterosexuals aren’t going to live in a chaste and holy way, how can they credibly hold their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters to a different standard? Let’s face it, to do so appears in our culture as nothing but bias. If we’re going to call others to holy chastity, we need to be living it first and show that it is not a loveless life, but the precondition for a loving life.
Yesterday’s decision is a type of rock bottom for our culture. It was the harvest of what so many of us have been sowing or allowing to be sown for a long time. We have to face it honestly, do reparation, repent, believe and start to live according to our faith, according to how Jesus is calling us to live, and becoming the salt, light and leaven our society desperately needs. We need to start standing in the bright light of truth and showing that it’s not just words. The same Jesus who healed the woman in today’s Gospel and raised the little girl from the dead comes into our Church today, he comes into Catholic Churches all across this country, and he wants to heal us and raise us from the dead. He wants to help us to become his faithful Bride and learn from our relationship with Him how to pattern our love according to the faithful, fruitful, indissoluble and truly loving spousal union between Bride and Bridegroom that is consummated on the marriage bed we call the altar. And he wants to transform us by the light of his truth, the warmth of his love and the healing touch of the sacraments, to become his hands that he will extend throughout our country to bring to life and true chaste, unselfish love all those who are in any way caught up in the death of sin and the slavery of lust.
Today as we prepare now to act on his words, “Do not fear, just believe,” and proclaim with fervor our Profession of Faith; as we get ready to fall on our knees before him as he enters not Jairus’ house, and not only this house of God, but enters under the roof of each of us and makes us a true temple, let us ask him for the grace to “arise!,” to be raised up to the fullness of life with him, both individually and as a family of faith, that filled with a contagious amazement like all those in Jairus’ house after the miracle, others, in seeing our awe, might hunger to follow us here to where Jesus wants to touch and change them, too. Jesus has indeed rescued us and will rescue us again. He loves us too much to leave us in the pit, hemorrhaging and dead. He’s teaching out to us now. Let us reach back and receive his grace never to leave his restorative embrace!
The readings for today’s Mass were:
Reading 1 WIS 1:13-15; 2:23-24
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.
But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world,
and they who belong to his company experience it.
Responsorial Psalm PS 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11, 12, 13
I will extol 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. I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.
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. I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.
Hear, O LORD, and have pity on me;
O LORD, be my helper.
You changed my mourning into dancing;
O LORD, my God, forever will I give you thanks.
R. I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.
Reading 2 2 COR 8:7, 9, 13-15
As you excel in every respect, in faith, discourse,
knowledge, all earnestness, and in the love we have for you,
may you excel in this gracious act also.For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that though he was rich, for your sake he became poor,
so that by his poverty you might become rich.
Not that others should have relief while you are burdened,
but that as a matter of equality
your abundance at the present time should supply their needs,
so that their abundance may also supply your needs,
that there may be equality.
As it is written:
Whoever had much did not have more,
and whoever had little did not have less.
Alleluia CF. 2 TM 1:10
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Our Savior Jesus Christ destroyed death
and brought life to light through the Gospel.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel MK 5:21-43
When Jesus had crossed again in the boat
to the other side,
a large crowd gathered around him, and he stayed close to the sea.
One of the synagogue officials, named Jairus, came forward.
Seeing him he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, saying,
“My daughter is at the point of death.
Please, come lay your hands on her
that she may get well and live.”
He went off with him,
and a large crowd followed him and pressed upon him.
There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years.
She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors
and had spent all that she had.
Yet she was not helped but only grew worse.
She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd
and touched his cloak.
She said, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.”
Immediately her flow of blood dried up.
She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction.
Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him,
turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who has touched my clothes?”
But his disciples said to Jesus,
“You see how the crowd is pressing upon you,
and yet you ask, ‘Who touched me?’”
And he looked around to see who had done it.
The woman, realizing what had happened to her,
approached in fear and trembling.
She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth.
He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you.
Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”
While he was still speaking,
people from the synagogue official’s house arrived and said,
“Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?”
Disregarding the message that was reported,
Jesus said to the synagogue official,
“Do not be afraid; just have faith.”
He did not allow anyone to accompany him inside
except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James.
When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official,
he caught sight of a commotion,
people weeping and wailing loudly.
So he went in and said to them,
“Why this commotion and weeping?
The child is not dead but asleep.”
And they ridiculed him.
Then he put them all out.
He took along the child’s father and mother
and those who were with him
and entered the room where the child was.
He took the child by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum,”
which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!”
The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around.
At that they were utterly astounded.
He gave strict orders that no one should know this
and said that she should be given something to eat.