27 June 2015

THE TOUCH THAT HEALS

XIII SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24; 2 corinthians 8:7, 9, 13-15; mark 5:21-43

a business executive was depressed. the situation at work was not good. he was bringing his problems home: every evening he would eat his dinner in silence, shutting out his wife and five-year-old daughter; then he would go into the den and read the paper... using the newspaper to wall his family out of his life. 
one evening, after several such nights, his daughter pushed the newspaper down with her little hand, jumped into his lap, wrapped her arms around his neck and hugged him tight. the father said: «honey, you are squeezing me to death!» the little girl said: «no, daddy, i’m hugging you to life!»

that’s what JESUS did!
he took people as they were—needy and hurting—and hugged them to life. that’s what JESUS does in today’s dramatic passage, where we have two healing stories rolled into one. in each situation, his touch makes the person whole: his touch stops the woman’s haemorrhage, and she is healed. his touch brings the corpse back to life, and the young girl gets out of bed. 
JESUS loves into life and wholeness these two vastly different people.

JESUS brings wholeness not just to individuals... because this story is not merely about these two daughters of israel. it’s about the creation of a new israel.
mark has seeded this story with clues. how long had the woman been bleeding? twelve years. how old was the little girl? twelve years. every jewish person reading this story would see the repetition of the number twelve as a symbol of the twelve tribes of israel.
GOD wants his people to live full lives; he wants us to share his life forever. as the first reading says: «GOD takes no pleasure in the extinction of the living.» 

all of us, in some way or another, are constantly in need of GOD’s healing. will i touch the «fringe of his garment» and will i allow him to take me «by the hand»? 
may we hear his words «talitha koum» addressed to each one of us, and experience healing and wholeness. and may we, in turn, touch others to health and wholeness.

20 June 2015

DO YOU NOT CARE...?

XII SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
job 38:1, 8-11; 2 corinthians 5:14-17; mark 4:35-41

monty had a tough life. polio had left him with severely handicapped limbs. through dogged determination, he got a degree and a government job. then he developed problems with his sight, and doctors discovered that his retinas were becoming detached. monty found himself facing blindness and total immobility. 

we can empathise with monty’s experience. there is so much turmoil in our lives. just when we think things have quieted down, more turmoil erupts; and we wonder: «how much more can i really take?» 

monty grew increasingly bitter until he noticed what was happening around him: his co-workers carolled at christmas and his neighbours held campaigns to raise funds, and an ophthalmologist volunteered his services for surgery. monty eyes were fine. he said later that he felt loved and cared for, and a deep sense of GOD’s loving care. he was in a storm but a storm in which he discovered GOD was with him.

the LORD is with us. he can and will protect us… just as he was with disciples in the boat and protected them from the storm. 
in commanding the sea: «quiet! be still!» JESUS affirms his power over the forces of chaos and evil (in jewish mentality, the sea is a reminder of the primitive chaos); he shows that he is LORD. this is emphasised by the link with the first reading in which GOD affirms that he has power over the sea.

there are times GOD seems absent or oblivious to happenings in our lives (mark puts it so vividly: «JESUS was in the stern, asleep on a cushion»)! and, like the disciples, we want to cry out: «do you not care that we are perishing?»
we’d do well to recall the opening phrase of the first reading: «the LORD addressed job out of the storm». the same LORD addressed the disciples during the storm on the sea of galilee. the same LORD addresses us during our storms—within and without.

during the storms in my life, do i believe that JESUS is on board with me, and can i hear him address me? 
to journey with JESUS is to journey through storms, not around them! these will  disturb the peace of our galilees, but will not overcome us because the LORD is with us saying «quiet! be still!» to the storms… and to us. so then, why am i afraid??

13 June 2015

SMALL BEGINNINGS AND SILENT GROWTH

XI SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
ezekiel 17:22-24; 2 corinthians 5:6-10; mark 4:26-34

jeff bezos started an online bookstore in his garage in bellevue, washington in 1994. since he couldn’t have meetings in a garage, he held meetings at a nearby barnes & noble store! today amazon.com is the world’s largest online retailer.
stanford graduates, larry page and sergey brin, started a search-algorithm project in a garage in 1998. since their the project was interfering with their schoolwork, they tried to sell it to excite for $1 million, which rejected the offer. now google is the most trafficked site in the world.
in 1976, two twenty-year-olds—both named steve—hand-built fifty computers in a garage in cupertino, ca. today, apple is the most valuable tech company in the world.

everything starts small. everything—and everyone—has humble beginnings... including the kingdom of GOD! 
in the gospel, JESUS gives two images of the kingdom.
the first image emphasizes that the building of the kingdom is GOD’s work.  it goes on whether we are aware of it or not... we know not how! our task, like that of the farmer, is to scatter the seeds of the kingdom: love, joy, encouragement...
in the second image, JESUS compares the kingdom to a mustard seed. the tiny mustard seed grows into a large shrub, and provides shelter for birds; likewise, the kingdom emerges from tiny beginnings, and gives space for people of different races and regions. a similar image in the first reading speaks of the seed growing into a mighty cedar. 

in a world where we face numerous difficulties and challenges, as individuals, families, communities, and churches, and it’s so easy to give in to discouragement, these are parables of hope! 
bezos, the two steves, page and brin didn’t begin by trying to create amazon, apple, and google; they started an online bookstore, a computer, and a search algorithm. the mustard plant didn’t start from a shrub; it started from a small and insignificant seed.
will i begin from where i am, scatter the seeds of love, joy, encouragement, support... and leave the growth of the kingdom to GOD? where and how will i scatter the kingdom seeds?

06 June 2015

LIVE THE EUCHARIST

THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST
exodus 24:3-8; hebrews 9:11-15; mark 14:12-16, 22-26

some years ago, some theology students, during a break from class, were standing at the entrance of their college of theology. a woman, dishevelled and visibly distraught, came running and pleaded with them to save her. she had escaped from a nearby quarry where she was a bonded labourer; she had been beaten and branded. incredibly, her «master» was a devout catholic who came for the eucharist every sunday; he was esteemed in the church and a noted philanthropist.


this is an extreme case but it is indicative of the disconnect between our worship and our life as if the LORD of the eucharist were different from the LORD of life!
yet scripture and tradition are clear that worship and life must be related, and the gospel indicates likewise.

first, the last supper was not something that happened by chance or in isolation. it was part of the passover meal... the most important jewish celebration. further, mark tells us that JESUS took the bread «while they were eating». in its original form, the eucharist had a place in people’s ordinary lives.
second, at the last supper, JESUS gave his disciples his body and blood. he gave himself! this was a continuation of what he had done right through his public ministry; and a prelude to what he would do at calvary.
third, soon after JESUS gave his disciples the bread and the cup, «they went out to the mount of olives»... to resolutely complete his mission.

we need to link what happens at the eucharist with the reality of our lives. we need to live the eucharist in our lives.
will i make the eucharist and what it signifies a part of my life? how will i give myself to my brothers and sisters? will i draw strength from the eucharist to carry out my life’s mission?