Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Laudato Si'

13 Sunday B  #98

Wis 1, 13-15. 2, 23-24
Ps 30
2 Cor 8, 7-9. 13-15
Mk 5, 21-43

Saint Mary’s Church, Marlboro, N.Y.
June 28, 2015

Deacon Tom Cornell

Our first reading from the Book of Wisdom reminds us that all creation is good, and that God created us in his own image and likeness.  We read in Genesis that at the Creation God gave man dominion over the earth and over all that is in it, not to despoil or misuse it but to till it, to make it prosper, to nurture our common home. 

The whole world has been waiting for the Holy Father, Pope Francis, to weigh in on the ecological crisis.  Is it a crisis?  Is climate change, global warming a fact or fraud?  Is it the result of human activity?  Is Mother Earth under threat?  Is it a matter of life and death?  Is the scientific evidence in?  Is it a moral question?  On June 18, the Pope gave his answer in an encyclical letter, addressed to all people living on Earth.  Its title is Laudato Si’, or Be Thou Praised, from The Canticle of the Creatures by Saint Francis of Assisi.  The answer is yes.  Yes, it’s real.  Yes, 97 percent of all scientists agree.  Yes, this is a moral, a religious question and should be addressed from the pulpit.  Otherwise, why would the Holy Father publish such a letter, almost 200 pages long?   The response world-wide has been overwhelmingly favorable.  Our Pope is seen, by Protestants as well as Catholics, by non-Christians as well as Christians, by non-believers as well as believers, as the preeminent voice of conscience in the world today.  One of Pope Francis’s major points in his letter is that environmental degradation hurts first and worst the poor.  Let us consider that in light of today’s Gospel reading.
Jairus was an official of the local synagogue, a well-respected, a wealthy man.  He didn’t have to push through the crowd to approach Jesus.  People made way for him.  Then he fell at Jesus’ feet to beseech him.  It was important in those days how one approached another person in public, especially someone he did not know, and especially if he was going to ask a favor.  Although Jairus was a leading citizen, he prostrated himself on the ground before the penniless itinerant preacher-healer Jesus and begged:  “My daughter is at death’s door.  Please, come lay your hands on her that she may get well and live!”   Mark interrupts the story abruptly.  A poor old woman enters the scene.  Jairus is kept waiting by an old impoverished woman, a woman suffering from a flow of blood.  It is not just that she is ill and poor and a woman; she is unclean, ritually unclean.  Women were considered unclean once a month, but this poor woman had been haemorrhaging for twelve years.   
Notice how the woman approaches Jesus.  The crowd makes no way for her, she does not fall before him; she is afraid even to approach Jesus face to face.  She dares only to stretch out her hand and touch his clothing, “the hem of his garment,” from behind.  When Jesus realizes that healing power has gone out of him, he demands to know who has touched him.  Then in fear and trembling she comes forward and falls before him to explain herself.  “Daughter,” he tells her, “your faith has saved you.  Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.” 

          Then Mark returns to the story of Jairus.  Word comes that his daughter has died.  Jesus tells him not to fear but to have faith.  As they approach Jairus’ house they hear the din of wailing.  Finally the touching scene: Jesus takes her hand and says, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!”  She gets up and walks around, and finally the charming detail, “Give her something to eat.” 

          What are we to take from this “miracle within a miracle,” as it is called, the story of Jairus interrupted by the story of the woman with a flow of blood?  The action stops, the powerful synagogue leader is put on hold, for the sake of a woman, a second-class citizen in those days, and worse, one who is poor and  worse than that, “unclean.”  The lesson is this:  in the economy of Jesus, in God’s economy, it’s not the big-shots but the poor, the sick, those who are pushed aside who come first, not the big-shots, but the little-shots.   Nowadays we call it “the preferential option for the poor.”  Not that any are excluded!  The Holy Father makes it clear in his really beautiful encyclical that Christian solidarity is universal friendship, no one is left out.  But those who have the means must be especially mindful and open-hearted and open-handed to the poor, as Paul tells us in our second reading today.  And everyone can do something to stem the tide of pollution.  Plant a tree, or at least a tomato.  Eat locally grown food.  No more plastic bags from the supermarket.  Take reusable cloth bags of your own.  Don’t flush for everything.  Dry your clothes in the sun and the breeze!  They’ll last longer and smell better.  Little steps like these make a difference, and they raise consciousness. 

And always give thanks for God’s great gifts to us, first for the world he has created for us and then for our Catholic faith, for our Catholic Church, and for such a Holy Father.  Long may he live!       W