There is a stereotype regarding men and women that says that men like to solve problems while women like to seek sympathy and see a problem as a way to relate. OK, there is some truth here, but it is more of a vague tendency than a strong trait, and there are exceptions on both sides. The video below depicts the stereotype quite humorously.
But there is a human problem, shared by most of both sexes, wherein people seek relief more so than healing. Healing takes guts; it requires courageous change and often involves difficult choices. Many would rather seek quick answers than face the deeper issues that often drive their struggles. Thus a person may want relief from anxiety but not want to look at his lack of faith, or the unrealistic expectations and perfectionism that may drive his anxiety and low self-confidence. Many would prefer to take a pill to solve their problems (ignoring the potential side effects) instead of looking at the lifestyle choices that often underlie their issues.
We all need some sympathy, but we also need to be summoned to examine how we contribute to our own malaise. Consider that as you enjoy this humorous video.
In the first reading for Tuesday of the first week of Advent is expressed the implicit longing of all creation for healing. Isaiah tells us of the healing that will one day come to creation when prey lie down in peace with their predators:
The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:6-9).
Hence, when Christ from His judgment seat shall finally say, “Behold, I make all things new” (Rev 21:5), and when with John we see “a new heavens and a new earth” (Rev 21:1), I have little doubt that animals will share in that recreated and renewed kingdom where death shall be no more (Rev 21:4).
In this passage, St. Paul goes so far as to “personify” creation:
For indeed, creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God (Romans 8:19-21).
Yes, creation itself eagerly awaits the day when God will say (in the words of an old spiritual), “Oh, Preacher, fold your Bible, for the last soul’s converted!” Then creation itself will be set free from its bondage to death and decay and will be gloriously remade into its original harmony and the life-possessing glory that was once paradise.
Maybe now, through the mystery of our interaction with our pets, God is giving us a glimpse of the harmony we will one day enjoy with all creation. Perhaps our pets are ambassadors for the rest of creation, a kind of early delegation sent by God to prepare the way and begin to forge the connections of the new and restored creation. Maybe they are urging us on in our task of making the number of the elect complete so that all creation can sooner receive its renewal and be restored to the glory and harmony it once had. Who knows? But I see a kind of urgency in the pets I have had over the years. They are filled with joy, enthusiasm, and the expectation of something great.
They show joyful expectation! Yes, there was a kind of joyful expectation in the dogs of my youth: running in circles around me, dashing to greet me when I arrived home, and jumping for joy when I announced a car ride or a walk. My cats have always sauntered over to meet me at the door with a meow, an arched back, and a rub up against my leg. Somehow our pets manifest the passage above: creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed (Romans 8:19).
While I realize that we humans often project what we want their behavior to mean, I am still fascinated by the way our pets come to “know” us and set up a kind of communication with us.
Dogs, especially, are very demonstrative, interactive, and able to make knowing responses. Cats are more subtle. My cat, Jewel, knows my patterns. She also knows how to communicate to me that she wants water, food, or just a back rub. She’s a big talker, too, meowing each time I enter the room. Sometimes I wish she could just tell me what she wanted!
Yes, this interaction with our pets is indeed mysterious. I am not suggesting that animals are on a par with humans intellectually or morally; Scripture is unambiguous that animals are given to us by God and that we are sovereign stewards over them. However, animals—especially our pets—are to be appreciated as gifts from Him. Scripture is also clear that animals will be part of the renewed creation that God will bring about when Christ comes again in glory.
They are part of the Kingdom! Without elevating pets (no matter how precious to us) to the full dignity of human beings, it is not wrong to think that they will be part of the Kingdom of God in all its restored harmony and beauty.
One day when Christ comes again, creation, now yearning, will receive the healing for which it longs.
The first song in this video, “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming,” takes some of its lyrics from earlier verses in Isaiah Chapter 11, from which we read this day.
This Sunday’s Gospel features the well-known story of the healing of the blind man (Bartimaeus). When listening to any familiar story, we are inclined, upon hearing its opening lines, to think, “Oh, that story,” and just sort of tune out. If we do so, though, we may miss some important details.
The story of Bartimaeus is also our story; we, too, must let the Lord heal our blindness and give us sight. One paradox of this Gospel is that Bartimaeus receives his sight as the result of hearing.
Let’s look at the Gospel in six stages.
I. The Perception of the Problem – The text says, As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind man, sat by the roadside begging.
Bartimaeus has troubles; he is both blind and poor. He is not spiritually blind, however, for he is aware of his problems. Knowing our troubles, being in touch with our neediness, is an important spiritual insight that many people lack.
We all depend on God for every beat of our hearts, yet some people are unaware of how blind, poor, naked, and pitiable they are before God (cf Rev 3:17). In their pride, those who are spiritually blind lose this insight. They fail to ask for help from the Lord; they fail to ask for grace. Jesus said to the Pharisees, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but since you claim you can see, your guilt remains” (John 9:41). In other words, physical blindness is not their problem; it is spiritual blindness. Because they think themselves righteous by their own power, they think they do not need God and do not truly seek Him. Only humility and a true “vision” and experience of our poverty can help us to call out to God as we should.
Bartimaeus knows that he is blind, so he calls for help. His pleas need some direction, though; they need to be properly specified and directed.
So, we begin by noting that although Bartimaeus is blind he has spiritual insight.
Do we have this insight? Do we understand how blind we are? We struggle to see God; we struggle to see and understand ourselves; we struggle to see others with compassion and understanding. Indeed, God is more present to us than is anything in this world. Somehow, we can see all the things of this world yet struggle to see God. Neither do we see our own dignity, or the dignity and the gifts of others, including our enemies. We do not see or understand how things work together, and we struggle to see and find meaning in the events of our day. We are also blind to our sin and seldom fully comprehend the harm our sin does.
Yes, we have a great deal of blindness; we struggle to see. Perhaps our worst blindness is not realizing how blind we are. Like the Pharisees, we think that because we know a few things, we therefore know many things.
Consider Bartimaeus’ humility: he knows he is blind, that he needs help, grace, and mercy. It is this humility that opens the door. The first stage in the journey is perceiving the problem.
II. The Proclamation that is Prescribed – The text says, On being told it was Jesus of Nazareth who was passing by, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus son of David have pity on me.”
Note the subtle but important transition here. Up until this point, Bartimaeus has been calling upon anyone passing by for help. But no mere passerby, nor in fact anyone in this world, can ultimately help him with his real problem.
It is the same with us. Though we may turn to science, medicine, philosophy, economics, or politics, none of these can really help us. At best these can serve to specify what is wrong or to provide us with temporary comfort, but all these solutions will be rooted in this world, which is passing away.
True vision can only be granted by the Lord, who opens for us a vision of glory and who alone can draw us safely to that place where joys will never end, and visions will never cease.
When Bartimaeus is told of Jesus’ presence, he directs his cry to the Lord, who alone can heal him: Jesus, son of David, have pity on me! The world and passersby can give him money or a meal, but only Jesus can give him meaning, the true vision he really needs to see.
Do not miss the fact that his seeing comes, paradoxically, through hearing. Faith comes by hearing, and more specifically, hearing from the Word of God (cf Rom 10:17). Faith is about hearing, not seeing. We sometimes doubt things that we see. Even if we see a marvel, we tend to dismiss it, thinking, “Oh, they have some way of doing that.” No, the eye is never satisfied with seeing (cf Eccl. 1:8). Faith comes by hearing, and faith is obedience to what is heard. We walk by faith, by an inner seeing, not by physical sight.
Bartimaeus hears from others that Jesus is passing by and takes up the proclamation that is prescribed: “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!”
III. The Perseverance that Produces – The text says, And they rebuked him, telling him to be silent. Yet he kept calling all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me!” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called the blind man saying to him, “Take courage; get up. Jesus is calling you.”
Those of us who put our trust in the Lord and call on Him will often experience rebuke, hostility, and ridicule from the world. Bartimaeus ignores all of this and so should we. He has heard the Name above all names, who alone in Heaven and earth can save, and calls upon Him.
Jesus does not answer him right away, but the Bartimaeus perseveres, calling out all the more. Eventually, Jesus stops and says, “Call him.”
Why does God delay? While this is a mystery, one of the effects of His delay is to test our faith and strengthen it. In the end, it is not an incantation that saves us, but faith. Simply shouting, “In the name of Jesus!” is not enough. The name of Jesus is not some magical phrase like “Open, Sesame.” Rather, it is an announcement of faith, and faith is more than words. Ultimately, it is not words alone that save us, but the faith that must underlie the words.
IV. The Priority that is Presented – The text says, He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.
Do not miss this important detail: Bartimaeus’ cloak is probably the most valuable thing he owns. In that arid climate, the temperature drops rapidly after sunset, and it gets quite cool. In fact, so critical was the cloak that Scripture forbade taking one as collateral for a loan: If a man is poor, do not go to sleep with his pledge in your possession. Return his cloak to him by sunset so that he may sleep in it (Deut 24:12-13).
Despite this, Bartimaeus casts aside his cloak and goes to Jesus. He leaves behind perhaps the item most necessary for his survival in this world. Missing a meal might be inconvenient or uncomfortable but it would not kill him. Spending one cold night without his cloak might well cause his death by hypothermia. Yet Bartimaeus leaves it behind and runs to the Lord.
What about us? What are we willing to leave behind in order to find Christ? An old gospel song says, “I’d rather have Jesus than silver and gold.” Another old hymn says, “There’s nothing between my soul and the Savior.” Is that true? Are you willing to leave it behind? Are you free enough to do so?
V. The Permission that is Procured – The text says, Jesus said to him in reply, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man replied to him, Master, I want to see!”
Why does Jesus ask this question? Can He not see what Bartimaeus needs?
Being healed takes courage. Most of us seek mere relief, not healing. Tue healing takes courage because it brings about change and places new demands on us. If Bartimaeus is healed, it will no longer be acceptable for him to sit and beg; more will be expected of him; his life will be irrevocably changed.
Yes, to be healed requires courage. Many of us wonder why the Lord delays in answering our prayers. Perhaps we should think about a question from last week’s Gospel: “Do you have any idea what you are asking?” Often, we do not.
There is a big difference between relief and healing, and the Lord is in the healing business. Do not miss what the Lord is really saying here. In effect, he asks, “Are you sure you really want to be healed?” The Lord respects us and our free will. He wants our consent before going to work. Though many of us think we want healing, we often don’t really know what we are asking.
The Lord waits until our request makes sense. He knows that many times, though we ask, we are not really ready for what He offers. He asks us, and only when our yes becomes definitive does He go to work.
VI. The Path that is Pursued – The text says, Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus on the way.
True healing brings forth radical change. The man who sat by the road begging now sees, but he is also up and walking about. What is he doing? He is following Jesus. Faith has saved him. Faith not only gives sight but also summons us to obedience, an obedience that has us walk in the path of the Lord.
You see (pardon the pun), faith is more than an offer of relief. True faith instills real change: change in direction and change in the way we walk.
Thus, this Sunday Gospel speaks to us of a man who was blind, but, paradoxically, receives his sight and his faith by hearing. Bartimaeus had heard of Jesus and then called on Him. Yes, his sight came from his hearing, and faith grants vision by hearing. True vision is seeing Christ, and having seen Him by hearing, following Him.
I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light
1. I want to walk as a child of the light; I want to follow Jesus. God set the stars to give light to the world; the star of my life is Jesus.
Refrain: In him there is no darkness at all; the night and the day are both alike. The Lamb is the light of the city of God; Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus.
2. I want to see the brightness of God; I want to look at Jesus. Clear Sun of righteousness, shine on my path, and show me the way to the Father.
3. I’m looking for the coming of Christ; I want to be with Jesus. When we have run with patience the race, we shall know the joy of Jesus.
In the Gospel this Sunday, we see the healing of a leper (this means you and me). In Scripture, leprosy describes more than just a physical affliction; it is a metaphor for sin as well. Obviously leprosy itself is not sin, but its effects are similar. Like leprosy, sin disfigures us; it deteriorates us; it distances us (lepers had to live apart from the community) and it brings death if left unchecked.
The following passage can be seen as comparing sin to leprosy:
There is no soundness in my flesh because of thy indignation; there is no health in my bones because of my sin. For my iniquities have gone over my head; they weigh like a burden too heavy for me. My wounds grow foul and fester because of my foolishness, I am utterly bowed down and prostrate; all the day I go about mourning … there is no soundness in my flesh … My friends and companions stand aloof from my plague, and my kinsmen stand far off (Psalm 38).
Perhaps a brief description of leprosy might be in order so that we can further appreciate both the physical disease and by analogy how sin gradually devastates us. I have compiled this description from several sources, among them, William Barclay’s Commentary on Mark.
Leprosy begins with an unaccountable lethargy and pains in the joints. Then there appear on the body, especially on the back, symmetrical discolored patches with pink and brown nodules and the skin becomes thickened. Gradually the symptoms move to the face and the nodules gather especially in the folds of the cheek, the nose, the lips, and the forehead. The whole appearance of the face is changed till a person loses his human appearance and looks more like a lion. The nodules grow larger and larger and they begin to ulcerate, and from them comes a foul discharge of pus. The eyebrows fall out and the eyes become staring. The voice becomes hoarse and the breath wheezes because of the ulceration of the vocal cords. Eventually the whole body becomes involved. Discolored patches and blisters appear everywhere. The muscles waste away; the tendons contract until the hands look more like claws. Next comes the progressive loss of fingers and toes until a whole hand or foot may drop off. It is a kind of a terrible and slow, progressive death of the body.
The disease may last from ten to thirty years and ends in mental decay, coma, then finally death.
Yet this was not all. The lepers had to bear not only the physical torment of the disease, but also the mental anguish and heartache of being completely banished from society. They were forced to live outside of town in leper areas. Everyone they knew and loved was lost to them and could only be seen from a distance.
In the middle ages, when people were diagnosed with leprosy, they were brought to the Church and the priest read the burial service over them, for in effect they were already dead, though still alive.
This description of leprosy shows how the illness develops, how it disfigures, deteriorates, and distances the leper. At that time, not every diagnosis of leprosy was accurate (there are many skin conditions that can resemble leprosy in its early stages). If the skin cleared up or at least did not deteriorate, the supposed leper could be readmitted to the community.
What about us spiritual lepers? How are we to find healing? Today’s Gospel suggests four steps to find healing from the spiritual leprosy of sin.
1. Admit the Reality– The text says, A leper came to Jesus, and kneeling down, begged him and said, “If you wish you can make me clean.” The man knows he is a leper; he knows he needs healing. He humbles himself and pleads for cleansing.
Do we know our sin? Do we know we need healing? Are we willing to ask for it? We live in times in which sin is often made light of; confessional lines are short. We often excuse our faults by blaming others or perhaps we point to some other sinner who is apparently “worse” than we are and think, “Well, at least I’m not as bad as he is.”
All of us are loaded with sin. We can be thin-skinned, egotistical, unforgiving, unloving, unkind, mean-spirited, selfish, greedy, stingy, lustful, jealous, envious, bitter, ungrateful, smug, superior, angry, vengeful, aggressive, unspiritual, and un-prayerful. Even if everything on that list doesn’t apply to you, certainly many of them do, at least at times. And that list isn’t even complete! We are sinners with a capital S and we need serious help.
Like the leper in the Gospel, we must start with step one: admitting the reality of our sin and humbly asking the Lord for help.
2. Accept the Relationship– Notice two things:
First, the leper calls on the Lord Jesus. In effect, he seeks a relationship with Jesus, knowing that it can heal him.
Second, note how the Lord responds. The text says that Jesus is moved with pity and touches him. The English word “pity,” though often considered condescending, comes from that Latin pietas, which refers to familial love. Jesus sees this man as a brother and reaches out to him in that way. Jesus’ touching of the leper was an unthinkable action at that time; no one would venture near a leper let alone touch one. Lepers were required to live outside of town, typically in nearby caves. But Jesus is God and He loves this man; in His humanity, He sees this leper as a brother. Scripture says,
For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified have all one origin. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, “I will proclaim thy name to my brethren, in the midst of the congregation I will praise thee” (Heb 2:11).
It is in our relationship with the Lord, a relationship established by faith, that we are justified, transformed, healed, and ultimately saved. If we want to be free of the leprosy of our sin, we must accept the saving relationship with Jesus and let Him touch us.
3. Apply the Remedy– Having healed the leper, Jesus instructs him to follow through in the following manner: See that you tell no one anything, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.
Among the ancient Jews it was the priests who were trained to recognize leprosy and distinguish it from ailments with similar symptoms. Priests were trained to observe and then make the final determination. A confirmed leper was banished from the community. Sometimes, out of an abundance of caution, a person was expelled on suspicion of leprosy, but the condition cleared up or remained stable. It was the priest who made the decision for the community as to whether the person should be readmitted.
Of course this is a metaphor for sacramental confession. What does the priest do in a sacramental confession? He assesses a person’s spiritual condition. If he sees God’s healing mercy at work in the person’s repentance, he reconciles him. In the case of a serious sinner who repents, the priest readmits him into the full communion of the Church. It is God who forgives, but He ministers through the priest.
To us spiritual lepers, the Lord gives the same instruction: go, show yourself to the priest …” In other words, “Go to confession.” The Lord tells us that we should offer for our cleansing what is prescribed. That is to say, we should offer our penance.
Why should the leper bother to do that? After all, the Lord has already healed him. To this we can only answer, “Do what Jesus says: show yourself to the priest and offer your penance.” It is true that God can forgive directly, but it is clear enough from this passage that confession is to be a part of the believer’s life, especially in the case of serious sin.
4. Announce the Result– When God heals you, you feel that you have to tell someone. There’s just something about joy that can’t be hidden—and people notice when you’ve been changed.
That said, there are aspects of this Gospel that are perplexing: Jesus warns the healed leper not to tell a soul other than the priest.
This (and other passages in which the Lord issues similar commands for silence) is puzzling. The reason is made clear later in the passage. Jesus did not want His mission turned into a magic show at which people gathered to watch miracles occur and see “signs and wonders.” This man’s inability to remain silent means that Jesus can no longer enter a town openly and that many will seek Him for secondary reasons.
That said, commands to remain silent cannot hold for us who have this standing order: Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age (Matt 28:19).
Hence it is clear that we need to shout what the Lord has done for us and give Him all the glory. When God acts in your life, there is joy that cannot be hidden or suppressed. If our healing is real, we cannot remain silent. To quote Jesus at a later point (when the Temple leaders told Him to silence His disciples), I tell you, if they keep quiet, the very rocks will cry out (Lk 19:40).
The heart of evangelization is announcing what the Lord has done for us. An old gospel song says, “I thought I wasn’t gonna testify … but I couldn’t keep it to myself, what the Lord has done for me!”
Yes, tell someone what the Lord has done. If your healing is real, you can’t keep quiet about it.
I recently came across the following dialogue. I do not know the source, though it is in the form of the sayings of the desert Fathers:
To a distressed person who came to him for help the Abbot said, “Do you really want a cure?” And the man replied, “If I did not, would I bother to come to you?” “Oh yes” said the Abbot, “Most people do.” “If not for a cure, then for what do they come?” asked the distressed man. And the Abbot said, “They come not for a cure, that’s painful. They come for for relief.”
Yes, real cures, and substantial healing are not easy. Often true healing comes only after lengthy surgery, whether physical or spiritual. And those who have sought true healing know, and have come to experience, that it takes guts to be healed.
True spiritual and moral healing requires that we accept significant change and be willing to have our thinking and habitual practices challenged and replaced. In confronting what ails us, we often come to discover that its cause is far deeper than we thought, and that its remedies are far more sweeping and paradoxical than we had imagined.
Once, in the aftermath of a nervous breakdown, that saw me hospitalized for a week and ordered to take a month off to recuperate, I went to a priest and spiritual director who specialized in the care of priests in need of psycho-therapeutic counseling. I explained to him that I had frozen in fear, and panic, and I felt my life had gone out of control. “I never want my life to go out of control again,” I said. He said, “Until you let go of your need to be in control, you will never be well.”
Paradoxical indeed, and scary too. But I have discovered through the years how right he was. My only way “out” of my anxiety was to journey deeper toward its center and find the Lord waiting for me there. Yes, it took guts to be healed. And I’m glad the Lord didn’t let me run somewhere else for mere relief. Healing was harder than relief, but better and lasting.
The Lord Jesus was journeying one day through Jericho (cf Luke 18:35ff) and a certain blind man kept calling out, “Jesus Son of David, have mercy on me!” Finally the Lord stopped and asked this blind man, “What do you want me to do for you?” A strange question, perhaps, to ask of a blind man. But consider that this man’s life will be totally changed if Jesus heals him. More will be expected of him and it will no longer be tolerated that he should sit and beg of others. All that he has known will vanish as a new world, and new expectations dawns on him. So Jesus asks what he really wants, healing or relief? “Lord I want to see!” And he not only saw, but proceeded to follow Jesus up the road. A new vision, a new path, a new destination, a new life. It takes guts to be healed.
And so Jesus asks you and me too, “What do you want me to do for you?” Careful how you answer. Remember, it takes guts to be healed. Too many want mere relief and not real healing. They want comfort rather than true change.
“What do you want me to do for you?”
As you view this video, I ask your prayers for a young man (in his late 20s) who visited the parish this week. He came back to the church of his childhood, remembering a more innocent and simple time in his life. And now that his life has become hell though drugs and other bad choices, he has a decision to make. Pray that he has the guts to accept the long healing he will need to come forth from his hell on earth. As I heard his story I thought of this song:
The maker of all humans beings (GOD) is recalling all units manufactured, regardless of make or year, due to a serious defect in the primary and central component of the heart. This is due to a malfunction in the original prototype units (code named Adam and Eve) resulting in the same defect in all subsequent units. This defect has been technically termed “Sorrow Inducing Non-morality (S.I.N.). Some of the symptoms include:
Loss of direction
Foul vocal emissions
Amnesia of Origin
Lack of peace and joy
Selfish or violent behavior
Depression or confusion in the mental component
Sometimes the units are just plain mean.
The Manufacturer, who is neither liable nor at fault for this defect is providing factory-authorized repair and service, free of charge, to correct this defect. The Repair Technician, Jesus, has most graciously offered to bear the entire burden of the staggering cost of these repairs. Some of the following procedures will be necessary in this repair:
The disk in the heart component must be scrubbed clean of all viruses.
The mental component must be overwritten with new software, (especially WORD of God 3.0)
Virus Protection software (such as Pure Eyes 2.0) must be installed to protect the unit from further damage.
Connection to the Maker of all all human beings (GOD) must be re-established through the restoration of communication software in the unit. This is done by installing COMMUNION 2.0 Software.
Communications protocols must be upgraded to make sure that the unit says “only the good things men need to hear” and to be sure the unit speaks only that which is true.
Please bring your unit to the nearest Catholic Parish for immediate service. While it is true that WORD of God 3.0 is available for immediate download, an interpretive key must be installed on site at the Catholic parish. Without this interpretive key, WORD of God 3.0 may not function properly in the unit. Further, scrubbing the disk of the heart component can only be done by an authorized technician as well as the installation of COMMUNION 2. 0 software. Jesus has personally authorized these technicians to do the work necessary to repair your unit.
WARNING: Continuing to operate the human being unit without correction voids any manufacturer warranties, exposing the unit to further dangers and problems and will result in the unit being permanently quarantined. For more information on avoiding the “Hell sub-routine” send a kneemail to Jesus at: [email protected]
Please note that emergency service is always available. For information on the location of Catholic Churches and regular service hours go to www.masstimes.org
A unique moment happens in the Gospel of Luke wherein Jesus asks a question we ought ultimately to answer for ourselves.
And as Jesus went along the multitudes thronged him. And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, who had spent all her living upon physicians, and could not be healed of any, came behind him, and touched the border of his garment: and immediately the issue of her blood stanched. And Jesus said, Who touched me? And when all denied, Peter said, and they that were with him, Master, the multitudes press thee and throng thee and yet you say who touched me? But Jesus said, Some one did touch me; for I perceived that power has gone forth from me. And when the woman saw that she was not hid, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people for what cause she touched him, and how she was healed immediately. And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace. (Luke 8:42-50)
Notice the question, “Who touched me?” Notice too how nervous the question seems to make the disciples for they are quick to deny that it was them. Bad move as we shall see. Peter finally says, in a rather exasperated tone (and I paraphrase) “Lord you see that hundreds of people are bumping up against you and yet you say ‘Who touched me!?'”
Yes, it is a true fact the hundreds of people bumped up against Jesus that day. But only one woman authentically touched him. Do you see the distinction? It is one thing to bump up against the Lord, to physically have contact with him. It is quite another to really touch him.
Amazed – The disciples seem to perceive Jesus as annoyed at being touched. He is not annoyed, he is amazed. Some one has actually touched him, touched him with faith. And that faith was enough to send healing power forth from him. Hundreds may have bumped up against him but now someone has actually touched him. He insists to look upon her, to see her, for she has faith unlike the others. She has a real faith, a faith that heals and saves: Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace!
Who touched me? …..Have you touched Jesus? Jesus is not asking if we have bumped up against him. We have all handled him in the Eucharist or at least come into contact with him. But have you touched him? At Mass are you among the hundreds who bump up against Jesus or have you touched him?
The Proof is in the Healing – It is easy to say we have touched him, but the truest proof is in the healing we have experienced through the sacraments. To truly touch the Lord with faith is to be made well: to see sins put to death and grace come alive. To see courage replace fear, compassion and forgiveness replace bitterness and revenge, to see chastity replace lust, generosity replace greed….Have you touched the Lord?
We can be so mindless in our reception of Holy Communion. Many people put more faith in Tylenol than they do in the Eucharist. Why? Because when they take Tylenol, they expect something to happen. But too many who approach the altar of the Lord expect nothing from the Holy Communion they receive. Perhaps it is just a ritual to them. But one woman long ago said “If I but touch him I will get well” (cf Matthew’s version at 9:21). This is real faith, faith that touches Jesus. Faith that expects healing and results.
Wednesday of Holy Week is traditionally called “Spy Wednesday” since it is this day when Judas conspired with the Temple Leadership to hand Jesus over. He would accomplish his task the evening of the next day, but today he makes arrangements to hand Jesus over.
One way to reflect on this terrible sin is to reflect that Judas was among the first priests called by Jesus. We see in the call of the Apostles the establishment of the ministerial priesthood. Jesus called these men to lead his Church and minister in his name. But one of these priests went wrong, terribly wrong, and turned against the very one he should have proclaimed. Among the other “first priests” we also see great weaknesses evident. Peter in weakness denied Jesus, though he repented later. All the others except John fled at the time of the passion. And so here we see the “sins of the clergy” made manifest. Christ did not call perfect men. He promised to protect his Church from officially teaching error but this does not mean that there is no sin in the Church and among those who are called to lead. The story of Judas shows that even among those who were called, one went terribly wrong.
In recent years there has been much focus on the sins of Catholic Priests who went terribly wrong and sexually abused the young. The vast majority of priests have never done such things, but those who did so inflicted great harm. There are other sins of the clergy that have nothing to do with sexuality that may also have caused great harm. Maybe it was an insensitive remark. Perhaps it was the failure of a priest to respond at a critical moment such as a hospital visit. Whatever it might be that has caused you harm or alienation please don’t give up on God or the on the Church. If a priest or Church leader has caused you grief or to feel alienated please know that there are other priests, deacons, and lay leaders who stand ready to hear your concerns and offer healing. Let the healing begin. Ask among your Catholic family and friends for recommendations about helpful and sensitive priests or Church leaders who can listen to your concerns, address them where possible, and offer another opportunity for the Church to reach out to you with love.
On this “Spy Wednesday” pray especially for priests. We carry the treasure of our priesthood in earthen vessels. As human beings we struggle with our own issues. We have many good days and some less than stellar moments too. The vast majority of Priests are good men, though sinners, who strive to do their very best. But some among us have sinned greatly and caused harm to the Body of Christ, as did Judas. Some of us may have casued harm to you. Please accept an invitation to begin anew. If you have stayed away through some hurt or harm caused by any leader of the Church strive on this “Spy Wednesday” to still find Christ where he is found. Among sinners and saints too, in the Church he founded: Perfect in her beauty as the Bride of Christ but consisting of members who are still “on the way” to holiness.
As usual, after all my verbiage, a music video offers this message better than I ever could. Allow this powerful video to move you if you have ever been hurt or know someone who has.