WISDOM 1:13-15, 2:23-24 2 CORINTHIANS 8:7, 9, 13-15 MARK 5:21-43
Last week, the gospel left us with the image of Jesus sleeping at the rear of a boat as his disciples desperately tried to keep the boat afloat when a sudden storm descended on the lake. The disciples woke him up screaming, “Do you not care that we are perishing?”
He stood up and calmed the storm and the wind. They were safe. But we left the scene with Jesus’ response to the disciples ringing in our ears, “Do you not yet have faith?” This week’s gospel develops the theme by showing us two people of tremendous faith.
There was a woman who had been suffering with hemorrhages for twelve years. She was physically worn out and financially depleted because of her doctor bills. Perhaps her greatest suffering came from isolation. In Jewish culture, any ailment involving loss of blood separated an individual from society. She was forbidden to touch people, to eat with people or to attend the synagogue.
She had heard that Jesus was a powerful healer. When she learned that he was nearby she lingered near the crowd that was surrounding him. She hoped to be able to touch him. She managed to get close enough to reach out her hand to touch one the ritual tassels he was wearing. Jesus immediately felt a jolt of power leave him. She felt his power streaming through her. She knew that she had been healed. But then Jesus suddenly shouted out, “Who touched Me?” She became frightened but approached him. He calmed her fears. “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”
This woman’s faith was so strong that it attracted Jesus’ healing energy. Besides her
physical healing she received the gift of inner peace.
The second example of tremendous faith was the president of the local synagogue, Jairus. Remember that Jesus was popular among the ordinary people but not with the religious authorities. The word was already out to be cautious of this Jesus. He was very loose in his interpretation of the law and even did public theological battle with the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Jairus, a public figure, took a big chance by coming to Jesus. His daughter was at death’s door. People were saying that Jesus was a great healer. No matter what the religious authorities were saying about Jesus, Jairus, in his desperation, had nowhere to turn but to Jesus. A father’s love drove him to humble himself before this healer. “He fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him.” Jesus immediately responded to his request. On the way to his home Jairus witnessed the cure of the woman with the hemorrhage. This must have bolstered his confidence in Jesus but only for the moment. As soon as the crowd neared Jairus’ house they heard flutes playing a dirge and mourners wailing. It was too late. The girl was dead. Jesus admonished the mourners saying that the girl was asleep, not dead. “They ridiculed him.”
Jesus then gathered a small community of faith, Jairus and his wife and his band of three witnesses, Peter, James and John. Before he entered the girl’s room he instructed them. “Do not be afraid; just have faith.”
A mere touch and a simple command was all that was needed. “He took the child by the hand and said to her, ‘Little girl, arise.’” Awe fell upon the entire crowd.
Last week’s account of the storm at sea left us with a question; “Do you not yet have faith.” This week’s stories show us the power of faith. The woman with the hemorrhage suffered for twelve years until she found Jesus. As a public figure, Jairus’ request that Jesus pray over his daughter, was a humbling experience.
What do these examples of faith teach us? The woman taught us that a person of faith never gives up. She fought her way through the crowd. Nothing would stop her from reaching out to Jesus. Jairus taught us that the foundation of faith is humility. This prominent man fell to his knees before Jesus. Faith involves trust and reliance, conviction and assurance. Faith can’t be tentative. Faith dwells deep in the heart.
I’m concluding this reflection on faith with the opening passage from a short work entitled, A RULE FOR A NEW BROTHER. It was written by an SSS Community in Holland in 1973 as an inspirational Rule of Life for a lay community. It contains a beautiful description of faith.
You want to seek God with all your life, and love him with all your heart. But you would be wrong if you thought you could reach him. Your arms are too short, your eyes are too dim, your heart and understanding too small. To seek God means first of all to let yourself be found by him. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is the God of Jesus Christ. He is your God, not because he is yours but because you are his. To choose God is to realize that you are known and loved in a way surpassing anything one can imagine, loved before anyone had a thought of you or spoken your name. To choose God means giving yourself up to him in faith. Let your life be built on this faith as on an invisible foundation. Let yourself be carried by this faith like a child in her mother’s womb. And so, don’t talk too much about God, but live in the certainty that he has written your name on the palm of his hand.
JOB 38:1, 8-11 2 CORINTHIANS 5:14-17 MARK 4:35-41
This is a stormy kind of Sunday! In the first reading of the day we see Job caught in a spiritual crisis. His friends have ridiculed him for his unfailing faith and trust in God. Job has begun to wonder why God has allowed so many disasters to befall him. He’s wondering what God’s plan for him might be. What was the reason for his suffering? He’s caught in a storm of doubt.
In this passage God reveals his power and majesty to Job through a series of poetic images. “Who shut the doors of the sea, when it burst forth from the womb; when I made the clouds its garment and thick darkness it swaddling bands?” The bottom line is this. God is telling him: “Job, look and see. I created everything, and I maintain its existence! Do you think you can ever fathom the depth of my wisdom? Trust me, Job!”
The gospel passage, Mark’s account of the storm at sea, pictures Jesus sleeping at the stern of the boat when a sudden squall threatens to sink it. Terrified, the disciples wake him up. He simply tells the wind to cease and the water to calm. But he’s concerned: “Why are you terrified? Do you not have faith yet?” Jesus is reassuring them. Storms will always come. You’ll be safe. I’m with you even when you
think I’m sleeping. Just trust me.
Let’s connect these two passages using St. Paul’s message to the Corinthians. Here, he articulates the dynamic nature of redemption. Redemption isn’t an event of the past. Jesus’ sacrificial love is eternally being poured out for every person who ever was, is, and will be. Sacrificial love is redeeming love.
Today we’re being asked to trust Jesus and to fearlessly model in our lives his sacrificial love, even in the midst of our personal storms. United with him in this way, we’ll partake in his work of redemption.
trusting in your love
I consecrate myself
to your Sacred Heart.
Use me as a vehicle
of your redemptive love.
Help me to live no longer for myself
but for others.
EZEKIEL 17:22-24 2 CORINTHIANS 5:6-10 MARK 4:26-34
The key words for today are patience, perseverance and hope. The passage from Ezekiel is an allegory about a messianic age to come. Israel had been conquered by the Babylonians. The king, his nobles and all leading citizens have been deported to Babylon. A new Jewish king has been set up by Babylon but he has reached out to Egypt for help to revolt against Babylon. Terrible days are ahead when Babylon will bring retribution on Israel.
However, Ezekiel’s prophecy is looking into the future. He sees an end to the violence and destruction. In this allegory of the cedar tree he sees God re-planting Israel like a small clipping taken from a mighty Lebanon cedar. God won’t abandon Israel. In time, Israel will again flourish in a golden age to come. Patience!
In today’s second reading, St. Paul urges the Corinthians to remain strong and courageous as they navigate the daily challenges and temptations of life. He reminds them that they’re merely passing through this world. He tells them that they must rely on their faith to generate the strength they’ll need to successfully complete their journey home to God who eagerly awaits them. Perseverance!
Jesus shares an insight about the kingdom of God in the gospel passage. He uses two images: the mysterious process that evolves a seed into a grain of wheat, and the miracle of the mustard seed that grows from the smallest of seeds into one of the largest bushes. His examples tell us very little about the kingdom itself. He’s focusing on the process of the kingdom’s formation. Its growth is both mysterious and powerful. The kingdom WILL come, in its own time and in its own way. Hope!
While I was reflecting on the interpretation of these passages I realized that I live with great frustration and anger. Every day I pray, “Thy kingdom come.” Then, every day, I look at this world I live in.
I was born in 1948, four years after my 18year-old father stormed the beach at Normandy, and three years after the United States dropped nuclear bombs on two Japanese cities. I was born at the beginning of the Cold War when everyone lived in fear of a Communist take-over and an imminent nuclear war. I was in grade school when I first saw pictures of the Nazi concentration camps. I was in high school when President Kennedy was assassinated. I was in college when Senator Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. were assassinated. I marched in civil rights marches. I protested the Vietnam war. I stood by men who burned their draft cards. And every day I prayed, “Thy kingdom come.”
I look at the world today and my frustration and anger twist in my gut. But I can still close my eyes, and I can see a beautiful world – a world at peace – a world where children don’t starve – a world without concentration camps and prisons. I see a world with clean skies and pristine oceans. I see a world where people care for one another. I see a world where love isn’t laughed at.
Ezekiel taught the Jewish people a lesson. St. Paul taught Christians a lesson. Jesus taught humanity a lesson. Of all the people in the world who carry heavy burdens, the person of faith has the heaviest burden to carry – the burden of hope. Hope in the midst of war. Hope in time of famine. Hope during a pandemic. Hope when the very structures of our society are in peril.
This Sunday is the first Sunday when the liturgical color green has been used since February 17 th , Ash Wednesday. Green, the color of new life, the color of hope. Today, I’ll adjust the heavy burden on my back. I’ll straighten up as much as I can. I’ll pray, “Thy kingdom come.”
Today we’re going reflect on the feast of the Body of the Body and Blood of Christ through the prism of Covenant. The Jewish scriptures note a number of covenants – legal agreements between God and the people. The three most important were with Abraham, Noah and Moses.
God called to Abraham asking him to leave his home and his people. He promised him that he would be the father of a great people who would be as numerous as the sand of the seashore. The covenant was ratified in the context of a sacred sacrifice. Abraham slaughtered a number of animals as God had directed him. He then cut them in two and separated the parts placing them a few feet from each other. God put Abraham into a trance and then appeared as a column of fire. Walking between the sacrificial animals God consumed them in the fire. This ratified the covenant between God and Abraham. Abraham and his children would be faithful to God and, in turn, God would make Abraham a great nation. The sign of this covenant was circumcision.
After the great flood God made a covenant between himself and creation. Leaving the ark, Noah slaughtered a number of animals and burned the carcasses as a sacrificial offering pleasing to God. God promised that he would never again destroy the world by a flood re-establishing his relationship with creation. He made the rainbow the sign of this covenant.
During the great theophany at Mount Sinai God entered into a covenant with the Jewish people. He renewed the covenant he made with Abraham and gave them the law that they were to follow. Moses built an altar and gathered the people before it. He slaughtered a number of bulls and drained their blood into basins. To ratify the covenant Moses poured some of the blood onto the altar. The remaining blood he sprinkled over the people. This was a sacred covenant between God and the Jewish people – it was ratified in the blood of a sacrifice. Having a sense of the sacredness of these blood covenants we can move to a deeper understanding of the account of the Last Supper that we’ve read in today’s Gospel.
The passage begins with these words: “On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples said to him, ‘Where do you want us to go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?’” This Passover will be Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples. In a matter of hours, he will be sacrificed on the cross. There, he will be the priest offering the sacrifice, like Abraham, Noah and Moses, and the sacrificial victim. His blood will ratify the covenant. At this meal Jesus will establish the everlasting sign of this covenant. “He took bread, said the blessing, broke it, gave it to them and said, ‘Take it. This is my body.’ Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, ‘This is the blood of the covenant which will be shed for many.’”
In this meal, this Eucharist, Jesus offered the bread of his body. They accepted it. They ate it. He offered the wine of his blood. They drank it. In this Eucharist they entered into the most sacred ever imagined. It was sealed in the blood of Christ.
Today, the Feast of the Body and Blood of the Lord, we take our place at the table of the Last Supper with him. Today, we stand at the foot of the cross. We see him poured out in sacrifice. Today, we remember his words, “Do this in memory of me,” and re-affirm the terms of this most sacred covenant. We eat his body, broken. We drink his blood, shed. We sing out, “When we eat this bread and drink this cup we proclaim the death of the Lord.” In each Eucharist we accept to follow his new law, to love one another as he loved us. We seal this covenant in the blood of the Lamb.