Homilies

13th Sunday in Ordinary Times
Wisdom 1:13-13.2:23-24; 2 Cor.8:7.9.13-15; Gospel of Mark 5:21-43
Desperate?  Deep Faith, Trust, Humility . . .
Preached by Msgr Philip Heng, SJ at Cathedral of the Good Shepherd - Singapore, on 1 July 2018

If we are to summarise the events of today’s Gospel that we just heard proclaimed of Jairus pleading for Jesus to cure her dying daughter and the woman who was suffering from haemorrhage who touched Jesus, we could first of all say that both were in very desperate needs and more importantly both had very deep faith in Jesus.  Let us also reflect on how each of their faith expressions, while deep were also very different from each other. You and I are gathered here for this Mass, in faith.  While our foundational faith in Jesus as our Lord and Saviour is the same, each of us experience and live our faith, and respond to the desperations and trials of our lives very differently.  And so, I believe we have much to learn about Jesus and from the wisdom of Jairus and the woman suffering from haemorrhage in today’s Gospel. Let us first note that Jairus was a very high official of the synagogue, while the woman suffering from the haemorrhage, in great contrast was not only a poor person, but an “outcast”.  Upon seeing Jesus, Jairus in his desperation, broke the conventions of his social and religious status, and with great humility, fell on his knees and pleaded for Jesus to lay His hands on his dying daughter and “make her better and save her life.”  In seeing Jairus’ deep faith and his humility, Jesus was moved with Compassion to cure her, and even when news from Jairus home came that she died, Jesus went to raise her to life. 

However, in great contrast to Jairus the elite Jewish official, the woman suffering from haemorrhage, herself and not someone else needed the cure.  She had been suffering from haemorrhage, and is considered “unclean” in her Jewish culture.  To be “unclean” in her Jewish culture has the implication that she was on the verge of being gripped and possessed by the “unclean demonic world”.  As such, she was banned from coming into contact with anyone in the public space, as it is believed that her “uncleanliness” can be passed on if she were to touch anyone.  However, for her, contaminating Jesus was furthest from her mind.  In her very deep faith, she said to herself, “If I can touch even His clothes; (i.e. Jesus’ clothes), I shall be well again.” And so she transcended and rose above her social stigma, and with her very deep faith and courage, like Jairus, broke all the social barriers and norms, and squeezed herself through the great crowd unnoticed and finally managed to reach Jesus and touch His cloak . . . and was cured by Jesus. 

Reflecting on Jairus and the woman, we learn that a very essential way of facing the trials and desperation of our lives is: first, in faith, we must dare to believe strongly that Jesus will always respond to all our needs, if we plead earnestly for His help.  Jesus will never turn away from us, but instead He will always embrace us with His Compassionate Love and Care.  

My brothers and sisters in Christ, to reflect on and try to understand Jesus’ Compassionate Love and Care for us, it is very important to note that as we face the challenges of our lives, we have also to remember that there is the “bigger” reality that is beyond our limited human understanding and knowing.  In other words, the Truth of this “bigger reality” is that only God has the Supreme Intelligence and the unconditional Love to Know and Give us what is best for us, not only what we need in this world, but also for our eternal salvation.  Not to accept this “bigger reality” would either be our pride, blindness or arrogance.This is because humanly speaking, if we reflect on the times when we face the different desperate and painful situations of our lives, we realise that as limited and finite beings, there is very little we can do for ourselves and we have no control of our future.  We can be the healthiest and the wealthiest person on earth and can suddenly die unexpectedly from an accident.  We can be the most successful and popular personality in business, social media and politics, but all that we have of the world can come crashing down like a house of cards.  Our dreams for ourselves, our children and our future too can vanish overnight through a turn of just one event that we did not expect . . .

We note that the woman suffering from haemorrhage for twelve years, had spent all her money on many doctors and her condition was getting worse.  However, learning from her, we see that even as she was desperate, and rejected by society as an “outcast,” she did not given in the apathy, self-pity or depression, as many of us would have done so.  However, she rose above her desperation, and like Jairus, they both entrusted their desperate situations to Jesus fully and wholeheartedly. 

As I look back on my life too, I have no doubts that, if God had answered all my petitions, of what I thought I wanted and was good for me in life, I would surely never be a Jesuit religious and an ordained priest today.  What then were the biggest challenges and temptations that I faced?  When I faced challenges that were difficult and painful” the “easiest” justification was to give myself reasons to run away from our pains and to reject the crosses that God in His Wisdom allowed me to carry, like His Son.  In other words, the greatest temptation was simply wanting to “do my own will and to justify that it is God’s Will . . .”

My sisters and brothers in Christ, you and I, and indeed all believers and everyone in the world wants to live a meaningful, fulfilling and happy life.  But, the truth is that not every Christian believer is willing to entrust our lives and our future to God as fully as we ought to.  We want to seek God’s Will, but at the same time we also do not want to let go of our self-centred choices of our lives.  We want to get into heaven after we die, but meanwhile, we have the tendency to live as though “heaven” is not connected to the way we live daily, while we are on earth.  More specifically, we continue to be attached to all the blessings, including the material wealth that God has given us, and not willing to share them with others – the poor, the needy and the Church . . . and we condition ourselves into thinking that there is no “need” to share, as these blessings are solely for ours to use.  How true is this?

Imagine a person receiving a free gift of a huge lake of clean water.  Soon after that, a drought sets in, and the neighbouring rice fields are drying up and crops are dying.  Do you think it is unreasonable to expect that this person to share the blessings of the water he has for the good of the neighbouring rice farmers?  Can the person who has been so blessed to have received such a great and free gift and with such great abundance claim that he has no obligation to share his blessings with the other needs around?  A good question that you and I can reflect on today is, “How many of us can honestly say that we are not guilty of such a sin of omission, and that we have generously used God’s abundant blessings for the good of the poor, the needy and the Church?  Put it more simply and differently, if one child in a family is very successful and wealthy, Is it not his responsibility and obligation to care for the other poorer siblings in the family?  Can he assert and claim that all his wealth is solely for his personal use?

Quite honestly, I personally believe many of us Catholics are in one way or another “guilty of such sin of omission.”  As an example, I think this is one of the main reasons why our Archdiocese is finding it so difficult to raise the needed funds for the GIFT project of our archdiocese’s needs.  It is not that our Catholics don’t have the money; even if half or a quarter of our Catholics are willing to share the abundant blessings of time, talents and wealth for the needs of the Church, I have no doubts, that the $238 million that the archdiocese has been desperately appealing, could have all been raised within six months.  I honestly think that I am not exaggerating. It is just that most of us Catholics are too used to a certain culture that gives the wrong impression that to make donation to the Church is such a “big and painful sacrifice” when the truth is that actually, we who have received much blessings from God, (as symbolised by the person who received the free gift of the huge lake of water), are only asked to return a portion, with gratitude to God, the GIVER of the Blessings, for the needs and good of the poor and the Church.My brothers and sisters in Christ, let me then conclude by saying that in times of our trials and desperations in our lives, we are each called and challenged to have the strong faith to APPROACH AND TRUST JESUS as Jairus and the woman who suffered from haemorrhage did.  They are our models, and we are as such never to give in to the darkness and deceptions of discouragement and self-pity, as these can easily lead us to lose our trust in Jesus who personally wants to show us His Compassionate Love and Peace; more so when we have desperate needs, as Jairus and the woman had.

Fr Philip Heng,S.J.

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