Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, June 28
Mark 5: 21-43
In today’s rather lengthy Gospel selection the story of a woman who had suffered for twelve years from a menstrual disorder is sandwiched with a story of a twelve-year-old girl who appears to have died. This technique of sandwiching one story within another occurs elsewhere in Mark’s Gospel and is an attention getter. Both of these stories draw our attention to the topic of resurrection.
In the story of the woman with the menstrual disorder, Jesus deals compassionately with the feminine condition of menstruation. This perfectly normal female function was taboo in the Jewish religion of the times. Menstruating women were “unclean” and could not participate in Temple gatherings. They were regarded as sexually unclean and their husbands were not permitted to have sexual relations with them during this time. A menstruating woman was considered a symbol of idolatry. So the woman in today’s Gospel was unclean ritually, sexually and religiously. No wonder the poor dear approached Jesus “in fear and trembling” as she came up behind him and touched his cloak. The Compassionate One, of course, rather than being angry with what she had done, cured her condition and told her to “go in peace.” And now she could go in peace for she was transformed, lifted, risen, from being an ostracized woman, an unclean woman, into a woman of faith and good standing. This was certainly a resurrection for her.
The same idea of resurrection from the dead is easily seen in the other story of the twelve-year-old girl presumed to be dead. Jesus told the crowd, “The child is not dead but asleep.”And to the child he said, “Rise up!” This indeed is a story of resurrection – one that is an anticipation of Jesus’ own resurrection from the dead and also of our eventual resurrection too. In our Gospel for today death becomes a temporary and reversible condition. Life returns to the child.
The Gospel for today might well dispose us to reflect on our own ideas of death. Is death for us a time of finality, a time of weeping and grieving, or is it also a time of celebration that our loved one has passed into the company of the Saints to be with God forever in peace and rest? Yes, all things are possible with God, even overcoming the seemingly final power of death.
Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, June 29
Timothy 4: 6-8, 13-19, Mt. 16: 13-19
This Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul is believed to have been instituted in the year 258 and this makes it a very old feast indeed. Peter and Paul were the two pillars of the early Christian Church. Peter was called by Jesus along with his brother Andrew and later chosen by Christ to be his first Vicar on earth. He was given the power of the keys of the Kingdom and told by Jesus the Good Shepherd to care for his flock here on earth. St. Peter suffered martyrdom under the Roman Emperor Nero in 64 A.D. He was buried at the base of the Vatican Hill and recent archeological excavations show his tomb to be on the very site of the present St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
St. Paul was also chosen personally by Christ to be part of the Apostolic College when Christ appeared to him on the road to Damascus, a story with which we are all very familiar. His calling was to bring Christ’s name to all peoples; Paul is regarded as the greatest missionary of all times, the Apostle to the Gentiles. He was beheaded at Tre Fontane (three fountains) on the Ostiense Road outside the city of Rome. A small chapel indicates the spot of his martyrdom and is located just a short distance from the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls where St. Paul is buried.
Let us pray: God our Father
Today you give us the joy
of celebrating the feast of the Apostles Peter and Paul.
Through them your Church first received the faith.
Keep us true to their teachings.
Grant this through our Lord, Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever. Amen.
Tuesday of the Thirteenth Week in Ord. Time, June 30
Mt. 8: 23-27
Our Gospel chosen to be read today tells the story of the disciples following Jesus aboard a boat to cross to the other side of the lake. While on the way a violent storm came up that threatened to swamp their boat. Jesus was asleep in the back of the boat, oblivious of the storm. The disciples woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” Criticizing them for their lack of faith, Jesus calmed the storm.
The violent storm of this Gospel story is understood by the commentaries I have read to have been a great earthquake. This storm idea points ahead to the great difficulties the disciples would have later on at the passion and death of Jesus. And in the Gospel we see the initial enthusiasm of the disciples to follow Jesus dissolve at the thought and fear of losing their own lives. Sometimes in our own lives we are besieged by the “storms and earthquakes” of our times that threaten to dim our initial enthusiasm at following Jesus. The glitter of worldly wealth and practices can threaten our spiritual lives. When this happens, let us cry out to Jesus with the disciples, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” This beautiful prayer of faith in Jesus will bring instant good results, as it did for the Disciples.
Wednesday of the Thirteenth Week in Ord. Time, July 1
Mt. 8: 28-34
Today’s Gospel is all about demons. The main meaning of the word “demons” is “devils.” But as we have seen before, that word demon can signify many things. It can, for example, apply to anything that takes over our lives, something we are obsessed with, or a major problem we have no control over, something that renders us powerless. The various addictions that are more powerful than our will-power and that we cannot, therefore, get rid of by ourselves, can also be called demons. Illnesses that we cannot do a thing about would qualify here too, e.g., heart disease, lung disease, the various cancers. We are so powerless over all these “demons.” And when they happen to us we become very frightened. We want to do something about it, get rid of it, have it go away – but we can’t manage this on our own.
I think the message of our Gospel today is for us not to be afraid of these things. We are not to let them consume us in fear. Maybe we can’t do anything about them, but the Lord Jesus can!! Just as he helped the two demoniacs in today’s Gospel story, he can help us with our demons, whatever they might be. When I was an active alcoholic, I was very frightened at what was going on in my life. I tried, but there was nothing I could do about the situation. When I finally caught on and turned to Jesus with the problem, he helped me. He drove out the demon and he continues to help me daily with it so it will not return. Let us again remember that nothing is impossible for God.
Thursday of the Thirteenth Week in Ord. Time, July 2
Mt. 9: 1-8
The lesson taught in yesterday’s Gospel is followed up in today’s Gospel with a practical example of our not fearing illnesses and the other “demons” we are powerless over. And by the way, let’s not fall into that ancient belief that sin and illness are connected. Any sickness we may have is not due to our personal sin.
Jesus, in the Gospel, shows that God has the power to forgive sins as well as the power to cure the paralysis the man is powerless to do anything about. The point of this Gospel might well be to keep us from underestimating the power God has over situations and problems we may consider to be absolutely hopeless. Nothing is greater than the power of God, and as we see in the Gospel it is always there for us. All we have to do is ask.
Friday of the Thirteenth Week in Ord. time, July 3
St. Thomas, Apostle
The Gospel chosen to be read on this feast of St. Thomas the Apostle is from John 20: 24-29 where Thomas refuses to believe Jesus has risen from the dead until he can actually see and touch the nail marks and the wound in the side of Jesus. It irks me a little bit that Thomas is almost always identified as the doubter among the Apostles. As we have seen several times in the past homilies they all doubted even as they worshipped Jesus.
After the resurrection of Jesus and the first Pentecost, Thomas carried the words of the Gospel to the people of India. There is also a collection of his teachings referred to as the Gospel of Thomas. On this feast of St. Thomas let’s look not just at his doubting of the Lord’s resurrection but at our own doubting. How many times have I denied and doubted Jesus by my actions contrary to his way?
Lord, increase my faith in you and your deeds.
Saturday of the Thirteenth Week in Ord. Time, July 4, Independence Day
Mt. 5: 1-12
Today the people of our nation celebrate the National Holiday of Independence Day. Hopefully we will all pause in prayer sometime today and thank Almighty God for his many blessings for our nation, the United States of America. In many parishes Mass will be celebrated today using the prayers and readings from a special Liturgy put together for this Holiday. The Gospel chosen to be read in the liturgy I saw was from Matthew 5: 1-12. This is the Gospel of the Eight Beatitudes in Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount. And it is a beautiful Gospel for us to use today in praying for our nation.
Blessed are the poor in spirit: Let us pray that our nation will surrender to the riches of God’s word and not to the riches of our materialistic world.
Blessed are they who mourn: Let our nation weep today for the violence and war and killing that are going on and for all the atrocities contrary to Jesus’ way, truth and life that are happening in our world.
Blessed are the meek: Let us pray today that our nation may make difficult decisions made gentle by love, concern and compassion for all concerned.. Let love be our motive for all we do as a nation.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for holiness: Let us strive to do away with all that keeps us from being a whole people, a complete people, a fulfilled people, a holy people, and carry the way of holiness to other people and nations by our example and actions. Let our wholeness, our holiness, reflect our reverence, awe and respect for Almighty God.
Blessed are the merciful: Let us pray that we may forgive the hurts inflicted by others, realizing that retaliation only encourages hatred and more fighting. Nothing good ever came from revenge and retaliation. Let us not be a nation of resentful people.
Blessed are the single-hearted: Let our nation reach for a priority important enough to cause us to strive for it always. Let us further pray that this priority will be to have peace, joy and love in our own hearts and that it will then spread to the hearts of all. Nothing is impossible for God if we sincerely ask him for it.
Blessed are the peacemakers: Let us all pray today for peace in our country and in the whole world. When I think of peace in the world, my mind goes to a simple phrase in the Proclamation of the Birth of Christ from the Christmas Martyrology. The full text of this Proclamation is available on-line in the various search-engines. I am only going to quote a few lines here:
In the seven hundred and fifty-second year from the foundation
of the city of Rome;
the forty-second year of the reign of Octavian Augustus;
the whole world being at peace,
Jesus Christ the eternal God and Son of the eternal Father,
……was born in Bethlehem of Judea of the Virgin Mary.
Let us pray on this Independence Day that Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace and the cause for the whole world being at peace, may come to us again and again that his way, truth and life – his peace – may rule the hearts of all. It is possible!!