Sunday, July 1, 2012

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Touching and Being Touched by God.

The First Reading of this Sunday, from the book of Wisdom, allows us to consider once certain fact about the created world: having been created by God, having come out of his hands, it is good, creation is wholesome, and not a destructive drug is among it. The whole of creation participates in the goodness of the One who created it. As the saints, like Francis of Assisi and Bonaventure, would realize and point out, creation manifests the love and goodness of the Lord; his creatures likewise provide another doorway through which the intellect could enter into the appreciation and contemplation of the goodness, love and wisdom of God, as we may find in the teaching of Thomas of Aquinas. We would likewise discover that all of creation is imbued with life, and perhaps this is at the core of the reading, as it is expressed right from the very start: God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living. His creation is one whole hymn of life. That creation was made for life is most certainly true concerning man, who is at the center of creation. 

Man has this vocation to life most especially. For God formed man to be imperishable: he was made to live. However, this life is not merely a matter of biological and chemical processes and reactions. At the center of creation, man is not merely called to life like a plant or an animal, far from it. The book of Wisdom says that the Lord had created man in the image of God’s own nature: the image of his own nature he made him. Man is called to the highest kind of life, one that finds its fulfillment in communion with God, who is Love. The vocation to life that man has is none other than to love. This is what is referred to by the fact that he was created in the image of God: the fact that man is able to love, to give himself, and to receive the offering of the other person, for love can merely be possible between persons, who are free beings.

However, while creation was intended to fulfillment because of the life and perfection that God had gifted it with—man most especially, the readings do not ignore the fact that death has made its mark in creation as well. It is precise to point out that it was not God who willed death to be present; it is rather through the envy of the devil that death has entered the world. Once again, most especially in the case of man, by death we are not merely talking about the cessation of biological activities and processes, nor the annulation of any chemical reaction within the organism, necessary for it to subsist and survive. Death here has a deeper, more profound meaning. It is the loss of life that is grounded on the fundamental refusal to love. This death is nothing else but SIN. We may remember the words of St. Paul which point out that the wages of sin is death (cfr. Rom 6:23). Through sin, death entered into the world (Rom 5:21): the original harmony characteristic of creation is distorted, a mere reflection of the chaos that sin has been able to wrought deep within the heart of man, because of that first disobedience. Sin is the refusal to love in the way that God has created us to love. By ignoring God’s invitation, by turning in on ourselves in our refusal to love as God loves, we die from within, and this death becomes even more evident from without, in the measure that sin has buried its roots in our innermost being. Sin is destructive, and it takes down the wonderful plan of life that God has had for us. It retards our growth as human persons called to a life that is full.

The Gospel reveals to us a ray of light, however. In Christ Jesus, the Father of mercies not abandoned sinful man to everlasting death. Through the humanity assumed by the Son, God continues to touch man, while allowing himself to be touched. Thus, in the Lord Jesus, God continues to bring about the new creation of man and nature, something that would come into full maturity in the end times, the Parousia. The Gospel according to Mark presents us with two stories: the raising of the daughter of Jairus, and the healing of a woman heavily burdened with a hemorrhage for twelve years. One was dead, the other was not far from it. The Lord touched one, not merely by his hand, but also by his word; the other was able to touch the Lord, not merely by reaching out to grab the hem of his clothing, but also importantly through her strong faith. Two different approaches, yet both came out of the experience of being with the Lord strengthened and with their life regained.

The experience of these two persons show us the fact of death and suffering in the world; a deeper reflection would guide us to consider the consequence of sin in man’s life as something that sucks man’s life dry from him, very much like a hemorrhage. Sin sucks the life given to us by God away from us; eventually it would leave us like corpses, corpses who talk and move, but corpses nonetheless.

When we touch and are touched by the Lord, life is regained by us, and we are strengthened to walk once again in the path that the Lord has wanted for us in the first place: life. Choose life, and not death, as the book of Exodus enjoins us. It is in the sacraments that the Lord continues to touch us, and that we continue to touch Jesus. In the Eucharist we partake of his Body and Blood; in confession we feel the weight of his healing hand freeing us from the burden of our sins. God is not a concept, that you could just need to understand and reflect on; he is a reality, a personal reality with whom we need to relate with; one who could touch us, and whom we could caress with our lives. Through word and sacrament the experience of Jairus’ daughter and the hemorrhagic woman is duplicated in our lives, and its results for us are greater, because we touch Jesus through faith.

Touching and being touched by the Lord not merely frees us from the death of sin in our lives; it also ought to spur us to touch that of others with the very hand of God. The Second Reading, from the second letter to the Corinthians, enjoins Christians to be concerned for others as well. Grounded on the example of Christ’s own generosity, who shared his own life to us that we may have life, Paul was enjoining his brethren in the faith to aid others in need: your abundance at the present time should supply their needs, so that their abundance may also supply yours, that there may be equality. Note that helping out doesn’t mean become bereft of what you yourself would need (“..Not that others should have relief while you are burdened..”); it means that others may have what need, basing on what you could offer them. In this way, sharing is not a burden, rather, it becomes an avenue for communion. This should apply not merely what pertains to the material needs of others, but also importantly the spiritual needs. For not all of us may be materially needy of things, but surely, all of us are needy of that which feeds the spirit.

Called to live a life of communion with God, we should seek this encounter with the Lord in our lives, primarily in His Word and through the sacraments. It is an encounter that should make us be concerned also for the welfare of our sisters and brothers, not merely for their material needs, but most especially for that which truly fills the heart and gives life to the spirit. AMEN.

FIRST READING: Wis. 1:13-15; 2:23-24
SECOND READING: 2 Cor 8:7,9, 13-15
GOSPEL: Mk 5:21-43

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