Homily of 1 July 2018
Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24; 2 Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13-15; Mark 5:21-43
One day, a woman heard that one of her favorite TV personalities was making a rare personal appearance at her neighborhood mall and she was determined to see him. But when she arrived at the mall, she realized that several hundred other people had a similar idea. There was no place to park. For over twenty minutes she was driving around the mall looking for a place without success. Finally, in desperation, she raised her eyes to heaven and said: “Lord, help me. If you provide a parking space for me, I promise I will put $300 in the collection next Sunday. Then as soon as she turned into the next row, there, miraculously, was an empty spot. She raised her eyes to heaven again and said: “Oh. Never mind, I already found one.”
It takes faith to recognize grace. What is grace? When we struggle to do the best by ourselves, that’s being in a race. We struggle and strive alone, sometimes even desperately. But when we invoke God and let Him get involved in our struggle, that’s grace. We are never alone, with Divine assistance.
Our Readings for today are packed with grace-moments!
We hear about the active faith of a concerned father for his dying young daughter and of a chronically ill woman.
First, Jesus agrees to grant Jairus his request to lay His hands over his dying daughter so she may be well and live. So, Jesus walks with Jairus as crowds continue to mill around them. Meanwhile, something happens.
A woman chronically ill for already 12 years was determined to get healed by Jesus. She does not just wait passively for Jesus to come to her and lay his hands on her. She herself seeks him out. She is in a race, overcoming every obstacle. With complete trust in Christ’s healing power, she is not satisfied with only seeing Him from afar and praying silently. She seeks a more direct and personal contact. She has nothing more to lose for she has already lost everything except faith and hope. She draws near to Jesus from behind, navigating through the crowd, and touches his garment. It was all she could afford to do given her circumstances. Then the healing happened secretly as she had hoped for, but Jesus wants everyone to recognize this woman’s faith.
It was not Christ who touched the ill woman the way Jairus requested that Jesus lay his hands on his daughter. Nevertheless, Christ was personally involved in the healing. Immediately he asks, “Who touched me?” He may have known who it was, but he addressed the crowd anyway, to make a point, i.e. to single out the great faith of the woman and to point out the exemplary active faith of this ritually unclean and dejected person.
After affirming the woman’s faith, people arrived to tell that the daughter of Jairus had just died, but Jesus tells Jairus not to be afraid and to just have faith. This time, Jairus is up for an upgrade in his faith, initially expressed in hope then trust. And yes, the young girl was brought back to life, not according to her own merit but her father’s faith.
Actually, our faith is only a response to the initial summons by our Lord which, in the case of our story, was occasioned by sickness. Stories they must have heard about Jesus and what he had been doing could have meant nothing had the woman not been chronically ill and the synagogue official a father of a dying child.
Paul, in his Second Letter to the Corinthians, was appealing for generosity. He exhorts them to extend assistance to the community of believers in Jerusalem, who were suffering from persecution and poverty. Faith has a social dimension. The helpless woman’s active faith was cited for everyone to emulate. The dying girl’s condition moved her father to go beyond his synagogue faith and in all humility beg Jesus, a seemingly ordinary member of the faith community.
Their contact with Jesus was transformative and radically life-giving for themselves and for others. Likewise, we are challenged today to improve and enhance the quality of our relationship with God and others and of our own lives and of that of everyone. God grants opportunities for a new lease of life to us and through us.
Over the weekend, here at Mepkin, we welcomed our first batch of Lay Monastics to our Monastic Institute. Our Monastic Institute Program may not have meant anything to these women and men who are with us now in beige smocks, were they not already on a contemplative journey themselves.
Now they reach out, so to say, to touch the fringe, the hem of the monastic life so they may be made well and live on in their own contemplative way of life.
With them, we the Mepkin monks are also on a month-long retreat as we also reach out to touch the hem of God’s presence and be made well to continue to live out our monastic vocation.
We journey together in the same God-given grace of opportunity for an upgrade in our contemplative life at this particular time in our personal and monastic history.
May we all live with the conviction that God wills the best for us, not leaving us alone in the race but abundantly filling us with his grace. Let us take up the challenge of upgrading from race to grace.