Homily for the 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B: World Day for the Sick

February 12, 2012


Lv 13:1-2, 44-46; Ps 32:1-2, 5, 11; 1 Cor 10:31-11:1; Mk 1:40-45

If you wish, you can make me clean …”

This 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time also marks The World Day of the Sick.  And whether by chance or by design, today’s Gospel passage perfectly suits the occasion.  In the episode of the miraculous cure of the leper, we receive both 1) a model for approaching Jesus when sick or in material need, and 2) a beautiful portrait of Jesus’ compassionate response.  All of which naturally leads us 3) to seek in Jesus the response to our “unanswered” prayers.

1) With respect to approaching God in prayer, the leper models for us a delicate balance between boldness and surrender.  The leper is bold in making known his real needs and in professing Christ’s power—“You can make me clean.”  At the same time, the conditional statement that precedes the request hints at an even deeper surrender to God’s will—“If you wish …”  The leper respects the fact that Jesus is not simply vending machine for miracles: He is a person in his own right, his own mysterious will, designs and plans.  “If you wish …”

Scripture everywhere recommends both boldness and deeper surrender in prayer. Read the rest of this entry »

The Times and the Living God

January 2, 2012


The New York Times recently published one author’s rather positive experience of a five-day silent retreat at the Jesuit Center in Wernersville, PA: “In Pennsylvania, a Quick Shot of Peace, On a Budget”.  I naturally perk up at any sympathetic encounter with Catholicism that makes the Times, especially if it involves a work of the Society of Jesus.  Since such pieces are almost invariably written from the perspective of the slightly bemused “seeker,” moreover, they at least suggest what kind of “first impression” we make.

What seems to have struck Susan Thomas (the article’s author) is actually what she would have been hard-pressed to find in the spas or Ashrams or organic farms that also received honorable mention in the “budget spirituality” section: encouragement to discover the living God.  As is the case with most distressed people who have sufficient sophistication to write for the Times, unremitting introspection and pop psychology seem to be the very air that Susan breathes.  She found, however, a perceptibly different approach recommended at the Jesuit Center.  At the first meeting with the nun who directed her, says the author,

I told her about my stress-related illnesses, which had hospitalized me twice earlier that year; about my sparkly-minded children; about watching my Lear-like father die in front of me; about my divorce, subsequent remarriage and unexpected conception of my son; about my dip into poverty; my husband’s unemployment; my darkest fears; of aloneness.

Bracing herself for psychological platitudes, the author is surprised by her director’s reply: Read the rest of this entry »

Homily for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God: A God Who Has a Name

January 1, 2012


Nm 6:22-27; Gal 4:4-7; Lk 2:16-21

For the folks at Gesù in Miami …

Jan. 1, the octave day of Christmas, is a bit of a liturgical casserole.  Presently we call it the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.  At different points in history, however, New Year’s Day has also marked the feasts of the Circumcision of Christ and of the Holy Name of Jesus.  We still see all three ingredients in the Gospel, for example, which features Mary’s role as mother, Christ’s circumcision, and the giving of the name Jesus.  Surprisingly, however, it’s the theme of the Holy Name that ties together all our readings.  In the reading from the Book of Numbers, for instance, God teaches the priests to call upon His name, saying, “So shall they invoke my name upon the Israelites, and I will bless them” (Nm 6:27).  In the reading from Galatians we hear that the Holy Spirit empowers us to call God by the name “Abba, Father” (Gal. 4:6).  Seeing that our Church is dedicated to the Holy Name of Jesus, I’d like to dwell on this theme for a bit.

We’re probably so used to calling God by name that we hardly give it a second thought.  But many religions traditions would find the practice strange.  I’m thinking especially of two groups.  Read the rest of this entry »