FORMED TO BE IMPERISHABLE
13th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)
July 1, 2012
A busy week up till today had me running late for this reflection, writing it just after I celebrated the anticipated Mass for the 13th Sunday.
The readings today offer, at one and the same time, an air of resignation, and a whiff of hope – hope that is tied up with faith in a God of compassion, a God who is close to the broken-hearted, the suffering, and those in any form of pain. Take it from the lengthy Gospel account from Mark … First, there is the panicky Jairus, who mustered enough humility and trust to go begging from the Lord, asking him with earnestness: “Please, come lay your hands on her that she may get well and live.”
But as if that were not enough to touch us all, here comes another heart-rending story of the woman who obviously had suffered enough, by any standard – bleeding continuously for all of 12 years! She did, not the unthinkable, but the expected – hope, even against hope – and believed with all her heart that all she needed to do was sneak from behind the Lord, and touch his cloak!
Touch the cloak, she did … and she was immediately cured!
The Lord was touched, too, in a very different way. He knew right off that “power had gone out of him.” He wanted to know who did it, and the woman, in fear and trembling, thought of the worst, and confessing, fell down before the Lord.
Who among us did not think of doing a “Jairus” during our bitterest and direst moments? Who among us did not think about risking all and doing what we thought or knew, was totally beyond our reach, beyond our ken, beyond our just desserts, and far beyond even our wildest dreams to even think we deserved?
But Jairus probably thought he was at the end of his rope. So did the woman, who had tried everything and spent everything she had, with no success. They were, to say the least, kind of hopeless!
But faith takes the better of both personages in the Gospel … Faith takes the upper hand. For both of them, their belief and faith extended whatever little hope remained in their hearts. They believed … and hoped for the best!
My thoughts go to all of my readers who are in any type of pain. Even as I write, I think about friends and people close to me at some point in my life, who have just gone through a painful experience of losing someone dear to them. My thoughts go to everyone in physical pain, or emotional torture, or psychological distress that they never expected, nor planned for, nor merited or deserved in any way. My thoughts go to all little girls and boys who can no longer enjoy what the rest of their peers continue to enjoy, all because of mysterious sicknesses that tell us about the great mystery of suffering that is, whether we like it or not, part and parcel of human existence.
But facing the issue of the mystery of suffering that the Gospel account tells us, allows us to take a second look, too, at the mystery of God’s compassion, the mystery of God’s grace, and the good news of life through death, gain after pain, and the even greater glory that comes from the cross!
Let me now address you all in pain. Let me reiterate or re-echo what the readings today tell us, and remind us of. First in my list of quotable quotes? It is this … “God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living.” Yes … God does not want pain and suffering, and He does not directly will it for anyone. God and evil are two contradictory terms that can never co-adhere in God.
But quotable quotes, notwithstanding, we do have to face bitter truth … There is suffering and pain in our lives, in our world, even in the Church we all love. The same first reading would have us remember its source – not God, but the evil one … “By envy of the devil, death entered the world.”
But there is good news for those who believe, for those who know … for those who see … “that for [our] sake, Christ Jesus became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty [we] might become rich.” (2nd reading).
Yes … we are told that there is a meaning to pain and suffering, even if we cannot see it fully at the moment of our direst need. But the psalmist, inspired and strengthened by his faith and hope reminds us, too: “I praise you Lord, for you raised me up and did not let my enemies rejoice over me.”
There is more good news awaiting us. There is more good news that we all need to unwrap or unravel … And the clue is in what Jairus and the sick woman did. They did the expected, it is true. But what was not obvious is the reason why they did what was predictable. They did so, out of faith and hope and trust in Him who is the embodiment of the God of compassion – Jesus Christ! Both went running after the Lord – despite all … despite the pressing crowds … despite the unbelief of others who perhaps were cynical right from the start. Jairus fell down before the Lord’s feet and begged in earnest. The woman ran after the Lord in the midst of throngs and showed her faith and hope, by touching the tassel of his cloak.
They did their part. They showed their faith and hope. And the Lord, proved once and for all, then and now, for all days and for always – that our God is a God of compassion. He “formed us to be imperishable.” Do we have reason to be afraid?