Sunday, June 28, 2009
Image: Daughter of Jairus by Joseph Brickey (Click on image for larger version)
Homily for the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Scripture readings for today's liturgy)
The superstitious say, “trouble comes in threes”
and many have applied that to the deaths this past week
of Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson.
But the rule of three is upset now
by news of the death of the daughter of Jairus!
(The scripture fails to give us this young girl’s name,
so for our purposes here, let’s call her Rachel.)
It may seem anachronistic to include Rachel
among this week’s more recent obituaries
but her status as a biblical celebrity spans two millennia,
a record today’s stars still have a long way to go to challenge.
Rachel’s fame, of course, is based not in her talent or popularity
but rather in her relationship to Jesus.
Had Jesus not entered her life as he did,
it’s likely we would never have heard of her.
But Jesus did come into her life, not at her request,
but at the pleading, the prayer of others
and he entered Rachel’s life when she was at least in a deep coma
-- if not dead.
And there’s a message for us.
Nothing can impede the Lord’s desire to be in our lives,
nothing can keep him out: not sin, not even death.
Jesus even enters the lives of those who are not looking for him,
who are not conscious or aware of him or his love for them.
Curiously, Jesus instructs Rachel’s family to "tell no one"
what he has done for them.
Obviously, they didn’t do a good job of keeping his secret:
if they had, we would not be hearing this story today.
Jesus told them to keep quiet about what he’d done
because he understood that its full meaning
would not be revealed or understood
until he himself rose from the dead.
We know of Rachel because Jesus entered her life
and her story is still with us not on its own merits
but because the story of Jesus is still with us:
her story is part of his story,
just as our story is part of his story, even today.
Jesus raised Rachel, Lazarus,
the widow's son in Naim and others from death
as a sign, a preview of his own rising from the dead.
In the light of Jesus rising on Easter
we see that the gift of life-after-death given to Rachel
is the gift of life Christ offers all of us,
even if we are unaware, not eveconscious, of his desire
to enter our hearts, to share his life with us.
I wonder if anyone here who does believe that trouble comes in threes
was miffed because I referred to that as superstition?
Well, I won’t retract that but I will point out
that the other unnamed woman in today’s gospel
(and let’s call her Rebecca) had her own superstition
which didn’t keep her from Jesus -- or Jesus from her.
Rebecca superstitiously believed that there was healing
- in Jesus’ clothes.
She also appears to be afraid of Jesus;
fearful of coming face to face with him
she approaches him from behind
to get what she so desperately wanted.
And Jesus did heal her -
but the healing didn't come from his clothes.
He makes this very clear when he tells Rebecca,
“Daughter, your faith has saved you.
Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”
As with Rachel, we know Rebecca’s story not on its own merits
but because her healing enfolds her in the story of Jesus.
Jesus works through Rebecca’s fear, her shyness,
even through a superstitious faith to enter her heart and life
-- just as he worked through Rachel’s sickness and death
to enter her life and the hearts of those around her.
In my life and yours, today,
through what is Jesus working
that he might reach us and bring us
healing, mercy and the gift of life?
Of course, sometime later, in events not recorded in the gospel,
Rebecca died… and Rachel died… again:
and then was revealed to them the fullness of healing and life
of which Jesus had already given them a taste.
What began in Rebecca’s healing, what began in Rachel’s rising
came to fulfillment in the risen Christ.
The stories of our sisters Rebecca and Rachel are still with us
because they are part of the story of Jesus.
And every week at this altar,
Jesus invites us into the same story of love and healing,
and offers us, in the Eucharist,
a glimpse of what is yet kept partly secret,
yet to be fully revealed.
In the bread and cup of this sacrament:
he heals us;
he gives us a taste and a sip of the peace that will be ours;
he invites us to become part of the life of his story,
the story of the One who will never forget us.
Posted by Austin Fleming at 11:03 AM