As some of you may know, I just returned from Illinois Friday evening after serving as a chaplain for three weeks at FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University students) Summer Training. When I returned home, I found out that in Mahwah NJ, (where the parish I help out on the weekend is located) there was a horrific tragedy (http://www.nj.com/bergen/index.ssf/2012/06/elderly_couple_dead_in_mahwah_murder-suicide.html) So today’s homily is directed towards this community.
The readings for today’s Mass for July 1, 2012 – 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/070112.cfm
Please keep this community and especially this couple’s family in your prayers. God Bless – Fr. Jim
Late Friday night, listening to 1010 WINS as I was brushing my teeth, I was stunned when I heard about the tragedy that took place here in Mahwah Friday morning. Being in the NY metro area, I suppose even though it’s not a common occurrence, we’re not surprised to hear about a“murder-suicide” on the news. But to hear that such a thing took place here in this quiet, peaceful town, 45 minutes (and seemingly a world away) from the harsher realities of the City shocked me, so I can only imagine what many of you who are residents here are thinking.
No doubt many are looking for answers or simply trying to make some sense of things. At times like this, it’s amazing to realize how our Scriptures demonstrate that they are the living word of God. By providence – listen again to those first words from the First Reading from the book of Wisdom: God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living. For he fashioned all things that they might have being… he formed man to be imperishable; the image of his own nature. The wisdom writer points out that it is through the “envy of the devil” that death, that sin, that evil entered into this creation that God had particular plans, hopes and dreams for.
That’s probably not very comforting, but it’s an important first point to remind ourselves of. It’s very easy for us to let the range of emotions people are experiencing to disturb us and trying to answer the question “how did this happen” to eventually isolate us from God. When we’re dealing with such a violent tragedy, our own humanity looks for logic where there is none. And our faith is tested to wonder, where is God in this?
Which is why the Gospel for today is so appropriate as well. We read of two of Jesus’ miracles – the first where Jarius, a synagogue figure who’s daughter is gravely ill and then this woman who has been suffering hemorrhages for 12 years. And in both cases, amazing, radical, unprecedented healings take place.
These miracles stories aren’t about Jesus demonstrating how amazing he is – what feats he can accomplish. They reveal something essential about who He is. They answer where is God. Because what we see in today’s Gospel, Jesus doesn’t hesitate to wade into the messiness the difficulty, the struggle, the sometimes absurdity of life. Jesus notices the pain of the woman suffering the hemorrhages. He hears the cries of a father for his daughter. And through Him, people experience relief, people are restored.
But an important thing for us to recognize here is that these healings didn’t erase all the pain, the trial and struggle that preceded it. It’s not like these people were transported to a time machine where the little girl had never been sick, the father had never been filled with intense anxiety and fear, or this woman hadn’t suffered for 12 years. The reality is some terrible, awful things happened to innocent people. Which is why we always have the crucifix – not an empty cross, above our altar. We know Jesus is risen from the dead and we receive Him in the Eucharist from this altar – but we never forget what preceded this miraculous gift. That Jesus himself suffered and died for us. We don’t simply have a God who enters into our messiness – We have a God who knows how illogical, how unfathomable, how incomprehensible evil wreck lives because He experienced it as well.
These miraculous healings were just one hope filled sign of what was (and is) to come. Jesus demonstrates the wholeness, the fullness of life the Lord desires all of humanity to experience as he performs these miracles. These restorations were so dramatic, so unprecedented that 2,000 years later they are remembered and treasured.
As the living word of God, Jesus still desires to bring wholeness and fullness of life and healing. And today He wishes to do that to the pain of this community, of this poor family dealing with such a horrific tragedy. Now more than ever, we as members of this community are challenged to bring His saving message and presence to life. Which happens when we truly open our hearts to Him, knowing that He who suffered such a painful death at the hands of the evil of the world and was restored to life in His resurrection has promised to be here among us until the end of time. That He does desire to bring healing and restoration and will use us to do that if we allow Him too. That He will be attentive to the cries of those who call out to Him. That He will restore us, if we but listen to his words of invitation he shares in today’s Gospel – to “not be afraid- only have faith.”
Thank you for this post! The same tragedy happened at the elementary school I work at this past spring. It was terribly sad. Your words brought a lot of comfort and understanding about suffering. I needed to read this!