13th Sunday OT Year – B

13th Sunday O T Year B

Wis.1:13-15, 2:23-24/ 2Cor.8, 7, 9, 13-15/ Mk.5:21-43

“A cheerful heart is good medicine” (Pro.17:22). Laughter exercises the face, shoulders, and abdomen. When the breathing deepens, the heart rate rises, and the blood takes up and transports more oxygen.

When we laugh, others laugh too. Laughter is a contagious, highly effective, non-prescription medicine. It has no side effects, and no one is allergic to it.

Have we had our dose of laughter today? We can use the tool of humor to induce laughter for our health, healing and general sense of well-being.

We can even spend time in daily practicing our laughing out loud – maybe by smiling first, then leaning into a giggle, and then in outright belly.

A deaf man, a blind man and a disabled man heard a rumor that God had come down to a Church in the village to heal the sick. They all went to find out if it was true.

God signed to the deaf man, “Can I help you, son?” The man signed back that he would be so happy if he could hear again.

God touched the man and suddenly he could hear. God then touched the blind man and he was able to see. The third man was sitting in his wheelchair with his mouth wide open in amazement.

God looked at the man and asked him what he wanted. The man drew back and yelled, “Don’t lay one finger on me! I’m on disability!”

Today’s readings speak of the gift of life, both physical and spiritual, that God has given us. They urge and challenge us to be grateful for our health in body and soul and to use God’s gifts of life and health responsibly.

The first reading, taken from the Book of Wisdom, tells us that God gave us life and health and that it was the jealousy of Satan which produced illness and death.

The reading also suggests that the goal of our lives on earth is to know, to love and to serve God here with perfect health in body and soul, and to share God’s immortal life forever.

In the second reading, St. Paul asks the Corinthian Christian community to show to their Jewish brothers and sisters in Jerusalem, who were living in poverty and sickness, the kindness and compassion which Jesus expressed in his healing ministry.

Paul asked the Corinthians to be generous in their contributions to a fund being collected for their suffering brothers and sisters.

The generosity of Jesus is the central theme here also, because Paul describes Jesus’ life, death and Resurrection as “the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Today’s Gospel describes two of our Lord’s miracles, the healing of a woman who suffered from a chronic bleeding disease and the returning of the dead daughter of Jairus to life.

These healings teach us that Jesus wills life, and wills full life, for all God’s children. The two healings also reveal Jesus as a generous, kind and compassionate God who wills that men should live their wholesome lives fully.

In today’s Gospel we have what is often called a “Markan sandwich”. One story is encased or sandwiched between the beginning and end of another.

Here, we have an unusual combination of two miracle stories, one contained within the other – a healing, and a restoration of life.

The story of the woman with the flow of blood interrupts and is sandwiched in between the two parts of the account of Jairus and his daughter.

These miracles were worked by Jesus as rewards for the trusting Faith of a synagogue ruler and of a woman with a hemorrhage.

Though the ruler may have trusted Jesus out of desperation and the woman’s Faith may have been a bit superstitious, even their perhaps defective Faith was amply rewarded.

The stories have several common features. One woman is 12 years old, and the other has suffered for 12 years. Both are called “daughter,” and both are in need of physical healing.

The girl’s father is encouraged to have Faith, and the older woman is praised for her Faith.

The two stories illustrate Jesus’ power over both chronic illness and death. In each healing, Jesus shows his marvelous generosity by giving the recipients life and salvation in addition to physical healing.

We just heard a story in the gospel that is two thousand-years-old! For two thousand years this story has been told and retold. What is its attraction?

The outline of the story is very simple. Jairus, the leader of the synagogue, beseeches Jesus to come and heal his daughter.

Jesus agrees to come to this important man’s house – but on the way, he is interrupted by an unimportant woman who doesn’t even have a name. When Jesus was irritatingly interrupted he does some unexpected actions, from which we learn five things.

First: Jesus has preference for the unimportant. Jesus showed a preferential option for the poor. Jairus, the important man, can wait while Jesus deals with the unimportant woman. Jesus will pause for us as well.

Second: Jesus has time for losers. Jesus senses that here is a woman with losses. She has lost a lot of blood, a lot of life. Having been given up by her doctors, she is a loser easily relegated to life’s sidelines.

And precisely because she is sidelined, she catches his attention. That raises the hope that he will notice me as well: that he, in fact has noticed me several times.

Third: Jesus has time for affirmation. So far, this woman has been identified only by her bleeding. But Jesus takes time to see her. He calls her “daughter”. And furthermore he affirms her by giving her credit.

“Your faith has made you well.” This raises the hope that he will see me not as a face in the crowd but as who I am, and call me by my name.

Fourth: Jesus ignores the ‘no’ sayers. I can hear the complaints at his demand to know who touched him, “No, Jesus, we cannot dawdle here. We have job to do. Let us go.”

How can you ask this crowd who touched you? Let us move on.” This raises the hope that the people who put me down, who are always negative toward me, who laugh at me and see me alive and not dead as they think.

Fifth: The story reminds us of a deep truth that Jesus came to raise the sick and the dead. In the stories of Jairus and hemorrhaging woman, nobody does anything except cry out in face of death and sickness.

The only qualification for the gift of healing is to be sick or dead and cry out to him.

We need to accept God’s call to health, wholeness and holiness. Jesus accepts us as we are. Hence, let us bring before him our bodily illnesses and spiritual wounds and ask for his healing touch.

As Christians, we believe that Jesus continues to heal us through his instruments in the medical profession like doctors, nurses and medical technicians.

Hence, when we go to a doctor, we need to offer a prayer to Christ the Divine Healer, that we may choose the right doctor, and that he or she will make the correct diagnosis, prescribe the correct treatment and give us the right medicine.

Let us not forget the truth, that Christ still works wonders of healing. Let us also thank God for the great gift of health and use it for helping those who are sick.

Be Blessed and Be a Blessing. Amen.

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                        The Nativity of St. John the Baptist – 18

                       Is 49:1-6; Acts 13:22-26; Lk 1:57-66, 80

 Mother Teresa relates this incident from her life. Once a man came to the home for the dying in India, and just walked straight into the ward. Mother Teresa was sitting there. 

A while later the man came to Mother and said to her, “I came here with so much hate in my heart; hate for God and hate for man. I came here empty and embittered.

 John the Baptist, as foretold by the prophet Isaiah was the voice that was making the way straight for the Lord. He facilitated the coming of Jesus. He paved the way for Christ’s coming by his austere life, preaching and death.

 We celebrate the feast of the Birth of John the Baptist this Sunday instead of the Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time because of John’s prominent role in the history of salvation as the forerunner of the Messiah.  

 Some might wonder why the birth of Saint John the Baptist is such a big feast-day, and why it is celebrated on just this date in June.

 The date for the feast is quite easy to explain. Just three months ago, on March 25th, we celebrated the feast of the Annunciation, when Mary, our Blessed Mother, conceived the child Jesus in response to the word of God.

 That same day she also heard about the pregnancy of her elderly cousin Elizabeth, and quickly set out to visit, so as to be of help to Elizabeth at that special time. 

Having stayed for about three months in the house of Elizabeth and Zechariah, that is, until John was safely born, Mary returned to her own home in Nazareth.

 The joyful importance of John’s birthday can be linked to the meaning of his name in Hebrew. “Yeho-hanan,” means “the Lord is gracious”. 

And as Luke’s account underlines, in sending John the Baptist God had shown great favor, not just to the childless couple, Zechariah and Elizabeth, but to the whole of humanity.

 Before the Baptist came on the scene, the prophetic voice in Israel has been silent for 400 years. When John came into the desert near the river Jordan, he breathed fire and preached repentance and renewal.

 All four Gospels agree that it was he who prepared the way for Jesus the Christ, the Anointed One of God. So, the whole Christian traditions honors John the Baptist as the precursor, the one who ran ahead as herald of the graciousness from God which came through Jesus, filled with grace and truth.

 There is an apt comparison of John’s birth with that of Jesus in this text from St. Augustine:

“John, it seems, has been inserted as a kind of boundary between the two Testaments, the Old and the New. That he is somehow or other a boundary is something that the Lord himself indicates when he says, The Law and the prophets were until John.

 So, he represents the old and heralds the new. Because he represents the old, he is born of an elderly couple; because he represents the new, he is revealed as a prophet in his mother’s womb.

 You will remember that, before he was born, at Mary’s arrival he leapt in his mother’s womb. Already he had been marked out there, designated before he was born; it was already shown whose forerunner he would be, even before he saw him.

 These are divine matters and exceed the measure of human frailty. Finally, he is born, he receives a name, and his father’s tongue is loosed.

 Zachary is struck dumb and loses his voice, until John, the Lord’s forerunner, is born and releases his voice for him. What does Zachary’s silence mean, but that prophecy was obscure and, before the proclamation of Christ, somehow concealed and locked up?

 It is released and opened up by his arrival, it becomes clear when the one who was being prophesied is about to come. The releasing of Zachary’s voice at the birth of John has the same significance as the tearing of the veil of the Temple at the crucifixion of Christ.

 If John were meant to proclaim himself, he would not be opening Zachary’s mouth. The tongue is released because a voice is being born — for when John was already heralding the Lord, he was asked, who are you and he replied I am the voice of one crying in the desert.

 John is the voice, but the Lord in the beginning was the Word. John is a voice for a time, but Christ is the eternal Word from the beginning.”

 Now do you remember the person I was referring in the beginning who came to see Mother Teresa’s convent. That man said to Mother Teresa.

 “And now I am going back because I saw a Sister giving her wholehearted attention to that patient there and realized that God still lives. Now I go out a different man. I believe there is a God and he loves us still.”

 That sister paved the way for God in that embittered man’s life. As the Baptist pointed the right way for his people, each of us in quiet ways can do for people in our time. We can help tell our neighbors about the graciousness and the favor of God.

 The name John means God is gracious, or God shows favor. We too have a significant name, for being Christians implies that we are sharing in the mission of Jesus. It means that we are to be like other Christs to the world.

 May we be blessed with the grace of God, to fulfil our mission as faithfully as John did his.

Be Blessed and be a blessing. Amen.  

 

Corpus Christi – Year B

                                Corpus Christi Sunday, Year B

               Ex.24:3-8 / Heb.9:11-15 / Mk.14:12-16, 22-26

One of the greatest threats to Europe during the 5th Century came from Eastern Asia.

The Huns led by Attila had swept through Asia and in the year 452 was on the verge of invading Italy. 

The Huns were savage and barbaric in every aspect, killing men, women and children, plundering, sacking and destroying.

Attila the Hun was especially and utterly cruel in inflicting torture, greedy in plundering and famous for ripping apart his enemies and drinking their blood.

Rome which was then the seat of the crumbling Roman empire waited in helpless terror for utter destruction.

The pope at that time, Pope Leo knew he had to defend his flock and so he decided to go and meet Attila the Hun at the risk of his life and try to negotiate for peace.

Before he set off, Pope Leo celebrated the Eucharist.

As he ate and drank the Body and Blood of Christ, he thought to himself: If Attila were to rip me apart and drink my blood, then he would also be drinking the blood of Christ and that might convert him.

So with that, the venerable and simple old man went forth to meet the merciless young destroyer who only knew how to kill and plunder.

It was a tense meeting as the Pope pleaded with Attila to stop the bloodshed and spare Rome and the innocent people, and at the same time wondering when he was going to lose his life.

Then in a spectacular and surprising turn of events, Attila ordered his army to stop attacking and return to their base camp.

Many speculations were offered for this sudden and unexpected change in Attila the Hun.

It would be that a sum of money was given to him to stop him from attacking.

Or that his army was short of supplies and worn out, and there was a famine and plague in Italy at that time.

But another story has it that when Attila’s servants asked him why he suddenly changed his mind, he told them this:

While the Pope was talking to him, there appeared above the Pope’s head, two figures with drawn swords, and they seemed to threaten Attila unless he consented to do as Pope Leo had requested. Those two figures were said to be St. Peter and St. Paul.

Well, the fact was that Attila and his savage hordes turned back and Rome was saved at the mitigation of Pope Leo.

The interesting point in all this is that although Pope Leo knew that he could lose his life, he also believed in the power of the Eucharist.

He believed that Christ was in him and that the Blood of Christ flowed in his veins.

This is also what St Augustine taught us: the Eucharist is the only food that changes us to become like what we eat. We partake of Christ’s Body and Blood, and we become like Christ.

Indeed, Jesus the Lord gives us His Body and Blood so that He can live in us and we in Him.

Today, we the Church celebrates the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ.

It is not just about the bread and wine becoming the Body and Blood of Christ after it is consecrated.

It is also about us who receive the Body and Blood of Christ at Holy Communion.

Yes, it is Holy Communion. We are receiving something very sacred. We are receiving Christ the Risen Lord.

And that’s why we must prepare ourselves worthy to receive Christ.

There is that mandatory Eucharistic fast before receiving Holy Communion. We should know that.

There is also the necessity to go for the Sacrament of Reconciliation if we have committed serious sins.

Because St Paul teaches in 1 Cor 11:29, that we must receive the Lord Jesus worthily, otherwise we eat and drink to our own judgment.

To receive Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin is desecration; it’s one serious sin upon another serious sin.

The sacred and the sinful cannot co-exist in us.

When we receive Holy Communion worthily, Christ abides in us and makes us His Body, and His Blood flows in us, giving us life.

We become a holy and consecrated people. That is His covenant with us.

We become His people; He will protect us just as He protected Pope Leo from the ruthless and blood-thirsty Attila the Hun.

And all this is happening at the Eucharist, at the Mass. And it is happening every day, and happening all over the world, because there is not just Sunday Mass but there is also weekday Mass. Yes, there is Mass every day.

And if we really believe what is happening at Mass, and if we really believe that we are receiving what Jesus is giving us, His Body and Blood, then we would be coming for Mass, not just on Sunday, but every day.

The following true story was related to Sr. M. Veronica Murphy by an elderly nun who hear from the lips of the late Reverend Father Stanislaus SS.CC. (The Order of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary)

In a little town in Luxembourg, a Captain of the Forest Guards was in deep conversation with the butcher when an elderly woman entered the shop. 

The butcher broke off the conversation to ask the old woman what she wanted. She had come to beg for a little meat but had no money. The Captain was amused at the conversation which ensued between the poor woman and the butcher:

“Only a little meat,” the elderly woman pleaded. “But how much are you going to give me?” the butcher asked her.

“I am sorry,” the woman responded, “I have no money but I will hear Mass for you.” Both the butcher and the Captain were very indifferent about religion, so they at once began to scoff at the old woman’s answer. 

“All right then,” said the butcher, “you go and hear Mass for me and when you come back I’ll give you as much meat as the Mass is worth.” The woman left the shop and returned an hour later. 

She approached the counter and the butcher, seeing her, said, “All right, then, now we will see.” 

He took a slip of paper and wrote on it “I heard a Mass for you.” He then placed the paper on the scales and a tiny bone on the other side but nothing happened. Next, he placed a piece of meat instead of the bone, but still the paper proved heavier. 

The Captain, who had decided to stay on at the shop to see how the small drama would end, looked at the butcher. Both men were beginning to feel ashamed of their mockery. 

The butcher placed a large piece of meat on the balance, but still the paper held its own. The butcher, exasperated, examined the scales, but found they were all right. Placing an extremely large piece of meat on the scale, it still favored the weight of the paper. 

Removing both items, he again checked the mechanism of the scale and then weighted several other items, and the scale proved to be exactly accurate. 

Exasperated, the butcher said kindly to the woman, “What do you want my good woman, must I give you a whole leg of the goat?” 

At this he placed the leg of the goat on the balance, but the paper outweighed the meat. An even larger piece of meat was put on, but again the weight remained on the side of the paper. 

This impressed the butcher so much that he converted, and promised to give the woman her daily ration of meat. He kept his promise and the business flourished more than it ever had before. 

As for the Captain, he left the shop a changed man, and became an ardent lover of daily Mass. Because of that incident, he became a daily attendant at Mass and his children were trained to follow his example. 

Peace and happiness in the home increased as the love of God grew in the family. Two of his sons became priests, one a Jesuit and the other a Father of the Sacred Heart. 

Later when his sons became priests, the Captain advised them to say Mass well every day and never miss the Sacrifice of the Mass through any fault of their own. 

Father Stanislaus finished by saying “I am the Religious of the Sacred Heart, and the Captain was my father.”

This story is often called “The weight of the Mass”. And indeed what we receive at Mass outweighs anything that we can ever have or achieve on our own.

Pope Leo believed in the power of the Mass and that outweighed the terror of Attila the Hun.

Our faith in the Mass and in the Body and Blood of Christ will certainly outweigh all challenges and difficulties that we will ever face.

We just need to believe that we receive Christ and that He lives in us.

Be Blessed and Be a Blessing. Amen.