Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)
Deacon Rick Fisher
"God made us for life . . . and for healing."
The many tensions in the Arab world bring to mind events that took place in other areas many years ago. Among the many pictures taken in that area during the war, one was of a small girl, half clothed, and living inside a cardboard box on the city streets. She had no family, as they were either killed in the fighting or died of diseases.
Through the efforts of some people she was brought to the U.S. She was found to have a heart defect and suffering from severe malnutrition. Her picture in the papers touched the heart of a Texas woman who was a single parent with three children, having lost her husband to the war. She adopted the girl, and paid for her bodily repairs that could be done.
When the woman tried to register the girl in a school, the school refused as she had learning and hearing disabilities. The woman was not discouraged, she founded a school for the learning disabled, from which the girl graduated and now teaches there herself.
Signs … healing …raising to life. Today's readings ask us what we believe about Jesus the Christ and about his continuing presence within communities of faith. The reading state one thing very clearly: God and Jesus are about life - about healing and about human beings sharing this powerful life.
Today's story is the middle point in Mark's series of signs … it gives us not just another look at the signs Jesus worked, but also a hint about his future. Typically, this story ends with a "messianic secret" - the injunction not to tell anyone about this. This event - as would be many others - would be fully understood only after Jesus' resurrection from the dead.
The gospels were preached and eventually written down, not just to recall the past, but to make others aware that the same Spirit which led Jesus is available to believers. Indeed, his Spirit lives in persons of faith. In this Spirit, we "continue" what Jesus did.
Impossible, you say? The little girl lives today because of one woman's faith and her willingness to work for life and healing. Our ways of giving life are no less real, though often are less dramatic.
Examples: - teachers who spark the love of learning in the mind of another;
- parents whose love gives children a sense of security and belonging;
- the spouse whose fidelity offers continued love and support;
- medical personnel whose skills alleviate pain and suffering;
- teen-agers who help a friend refuse drugs and alcohol;
- neighborhood groups who work to help their less fortunate neighbors;
- Red Cross donors ..... the lists go on and on.
The opening lines of our first reading, the Book of Wisdom, states: "God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living." God gives life. We raise ourselves to life when we refuse to let prejudice and discrimination hinder another's development. When we work for just legislation and dignity in living and working situations. When we refuse to have merely token representatives of minority groups in our parish and neighborhood organizations. When we question the use of destructive weapons, in our society and the world.
In today's Gospel, Jesus calls our attention to one group of people often treated unfairly in his day - and still in our own. A woman approached Jesus, a person not always thought of as just that, a person, as women were not allowed liberties of approaching prominent people. This woman was further marked as unclean because of her illness, a hemorrhage. By Jewish law anyone touching a person with a flow of blood would also be considered unclean. The woman's faith led her to Jesus and Jesus put aside the religious laws of the time to restore her to health and to a full functioning life.
You and I are just like the people we hear about in today's Gospel. In those gathered around Jesus, some are there for the news, some for the excitement, some by coincidence, and others just because there is nothing else to do. Then, there is the woman in Texas whose faith led her to care for a foreign child as her own. There's a synagogue official, and a woman marked as unclean - all join with the large group that had gathered around a Palestinian preacher named Jesus. What a strange combination, an unexpected blend of people the authors of the Gospels show us, that show us God's life and healing, both then and now.
Many times we turn away from giving life because we don't believe we can. Maybe we don't believe we can make a difference in someone's life - or in the world for that matter. Maybe we lack the staying power of the woman in the Gospel, or the woman in the story. Maybe we feel we are just too sophisticated to pray.
But God made us for life, and God made us for healing. People are reaching out to us, just the touch of warmth for a brief moment. Helping hands, a smile, a word, a glance. Just a wave. As I work in the front yard, or even just walking around the block, … every car that goes by gets a wave and a smile. The next time they go by, I get a wave or smile back. It makes my day.
People look to us. It's our cloaks that they are trying to touch. Jesus has left us His Spirit and we now trail healing, we can be the ones to grasp lifeless hands and restore hope. Through us, the world will live.#