Friday, July 27, 2012

Proper 11 B - Jul 22, 2012

Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
Br. Robert Sevensky, OHC
Proper 11 B – Sunday, July 22, 2012

Jeremiah 23:1-6
Ephesians 2:11-22
Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

O God, you rested on the seventh day and are still at work; in the course of this busy life
give us times of refreshment and peace, and grant that we may so use our leisure to
rebuild our bodies and renew our minds, that our spirits may be opened to the goodness
of your creation. Amen.
A Traveler's Prayer Book, p. 114
In the Customal of the Order of the Holy Cross we read: “Provision shall be made for an annual retreat of ten days and for monthly retreats, and these times must be carefully guarded against interruptions and distractions.” We also read: “Provision shall be made that each member of the Order may have an annual vacation of at least two weeks.”

I think we need to begin with the simple acknowledgment that St. Benedict, our great monastic legislator, would have been either deeply puzzled or frankly appalled at such suggestions. Benedictines have made much of the virtues of a balanced life, a life lived within the monastery in such a way that all needs—spiritual, psychological, social—are met. A life lived in such a way that there would be no need for special periods of
“retreat” or so-called vacations, that is, times away from the monastery or the monastic round, a concept that St. Benedict thought deeply dangerous to a monk’s spiritual life.

But in this, I think, we need also to acknowledge that Benedict, at least insofar as we can gather from his Rule, and Benedictines who are literalists when it comes to the Rule, simply have it wrong. At least for us. At least now. How often the monastic rhythm needs to be broken, and for how long, and where and how we spend our “free” time or time away are surely matters of debate and discernment, but that such breaks and such times are necessary seems beyond question.

Even Jesus seems to get this point. In today's Gospel the disciples return to Jesus after some very successful and exciting missionary journeys where they cast out demons and cured the sick. They excitedly report to Jesus what they had accomplished. And Jesus' response? “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” Or as Eugene Peterson's The Message has it: “Let's take a break and get a little rest.” For as Scripture tells us: “...many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.”

The whole question of “leisure” is a very loaded one for us, and “time away” or “time off” or whatever is the equivalent for you, is very complicated and profoundly culturally layered. Consider all the different words we associate with leisure: holiday, holy day, vacation, feast, sabbath, sabbatical, day off, down time, weekend, long weekend, leisure industry, leisure travel, even leisure suit...which I considered wearing as I preached this
homily, but couldn't find one in lime green.

Surprisingly, Christian monasticism has a long tradition of speaking of “holy leisure.”  And even Benedict’s Rule, though it makes absolutely no provision for retreats or vacations or days off, shapes a way of life that is regularly punctuated by the differing rhythms of the calendar and of liturgical and agricultural seasons, of Sundays and Holy Days, feasts and fasts. In a “world lit only by fire,” life in a medieval monastery in
December was very different from life in that same monastery in March or August. That is something most, if not all, of us will never again know at first hand. And add to this the opportunity for regular local fairs or market days, guests, pilgrims and crusaders, wars (which God forbid!) and the growth of towns around the always permeable boundaries of monastic enclosures, and you have a pretty rich and diverse menu of activity and rest, and of varying human experiences and encounters.

But what about us? What does leisure look like for us? What do we expect of it? How do we go about it? What do we want, say, out of a vacation? A retreat? A pilgrimage? A sabbatical? Time away? Time out? Time off?

These are often difficult questions to address, both personally and communally, because we now live in a society that values, indeed over values, busyness. Consider this from a recent edition of the New York Times Opinionator column as summarized in the latest Christian Century:
When you ask people how they’re doing these days, a stock response is “crazy busy.”  That’s “a boast disguised as a complaint,” says blogger Tim Kreider. It is not the complaint of a person who has to work three jobs to make ends meet. Their response would likely be, “I’m tired.” Busyness for professional people is often self-imposed to inflate a sense of self-worth. Kreider wonders whether keeping busy is a cover-up for the fact that much of what we do doesn’t matter. “Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets,” Kreider says.
There is of course truth in what St. Benedict recognized in his Rule, that “idleness is the enemy of the soul.” But it is at best a partial truth. There is the enforced idleness that comes from illness or disability, from unemployment or imprisonment, which can indeed be soul destroying. And there is the idleness that comes from a kind of spiritual malaise or laziness—the famous acedia of the Desert Fathers—wherein one chooses to not see what needs to be done or, having seen it, decides to not act at all, a kind of laziness or torpor or selfishness or downright greed with regard to our time and energy and gifts.

But there is another kind of idleness that is, as Mr. Kreider says, “as indispensable to the brain [and the soul] as Vitamin D is to the body” And that is the kind of idleness to which I believe Jesus is inviting his disciples and us in today’s Gospel. It is the idleness that comes after a busy day, after work well done. The idleness that comes after responding to real human needs and claims made upon us or after waiting patiently upon
God, even if nothing obvious has been asked of us except to wait patiently in hope. This kind of resting, of taking a break, of going on neutral or catching our breath, is really miscategorized as idleness. Perhaps it might be better termed openness or availability or just being. And as Abraham Heschel reminds us, just to be is a blessing.

A contemporary monk writing about “monastic leisure” says of that strange term:
Taking each moment of the day as a gift from God I think is something that everyone can do. It's not exactly rest, but it's not rushing around trying to get too much done either. Monastic leisure is, perhaps, an attitude which is transformed into an action.  Monastic leisure is a “calm approach” toward the responsibilities and challenges of each day. We do what needs to be done at the time it needs to be done and try not to worry about what needs to be done next.
How wonderful! And if only we could all live that way every day, all the time, we would probably never need annual retreats or days off or vacations of at least two weeks.

But alas, few of us have mastered that fine art of living. So off we go in search of the right place, the right time, the right director, the right people (friends, strangers, family, ourselves), the right activity or inactivity in which and at which and with whom to spend our precious leisure time. Jesus understands. Maybe Jesus even approves. But let's remember that for us, the getting away is not an least not primarily. It is, rather, our project to come home to ourselves more fully and permanently so that wherever we are—at work, in church, in the office, at the beach, in the monastery, in the kitchen or the supermarket—we can live more comfortably in our own skin and thus be more fully God's and more fully present to our neighbors and our world. This is the happy and desired outcome of “holy leisure,” though few of us think about it or plan for it explicitly. Maybe we should.

Like the disciples in today's Gospel, we all need to come away from time to time and rest awhile. I know I do. My guess is that you do as well.

So... how was your weekend? What are you going to do (or not do) on your day off?  And where are you going on your summer vacation? However you answer these questions, remember that the Lord goes with you. That the Lord is with you.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Feast of St Benedict of Nursia - Jul 11, 2012

Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
Br. Scott Wesley Borden, OHC
Feast of St Benedict of Nursia – Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Proverbs 2:1-9
Luke 14:27-33

I want to focus this morning mostly on the life of St Benedict, for through the lives of the various saints we encounter the living Gospel in powerful ways.

And to talk about Benedict, without talking about the Rule of Benedict, would be passing strange indeed. So first let me just read a short passage of the rule...

Flowers from the garden for St Benedict's feast
Of the Porter of the Monastery: Inside near the gates of the monastery a cell is to be provided for a brother of advanced age. Posted there, let him at all times close up the monastery behind those who leave and open it for those who are coming in, and announce arrivals to the abbot. During periods devoted to reading, he must see to it that the gates are locked. In a like manner, when the signal for the Divine Office has sounded he is to lock the gates and be present in the oratory...

Those who know the Rule of Benedict will be scratching their heads a bit – for what I read is not really from the Rule of Benedict. Benedict's rule, as many know, has an evil twin: The Rule of the Master.

The two rules share many starting points. Benedict also addresses the porter of the monastery – an older brother is to be given a room near the entrance and his charge is to deal with those who come to the door – so far The Master and St Benedict are nearly verbatim. But how the porter deals with the person who comes to the door – there is the difference. The Master's porter is more or less a gate keeper. He is to keep keep folks out and make sure those allowed in are kept in line so as not to disturb the community. Benedict's porter is there to extend hospitality to the strangers at the door – to welcome them and offer them a blessing. Two rules diverge, as Robert Frost might say...

The two rules have much in common, but whereas Benedict always seems to be focusing on devoted Christians growing in a life of faith, the Master always seems to be prepared for unwilling followers who must be kept in line at all times. Was one rule based on the other? Who knows. Were both rules based on some older, lost tradition? Scholars wonder.

So... let me sort this out for you... As Brother Andrew would say, it may not have happened exactly this way, but this is the truth...

We know the legend of Benedict's first monastic encounter. He was called to lead a monastery that was in trouble... The abbot had died, but more than that, the community was a shambles... The brothers knew they were falling apart and so they sought Benedict, a good and powerful leader, to get them back on track. And so Benedict dutifully assumed the position of Abbot and set about the work of restoring order to this community. It was certainly challenging, but this was what the community had begged him to do – this is why they recruited Benedict.

And so it should come as no surprise to anyone who knows anything about communities that the brothers of the monastery conspired to kill Abbot Benedict. What else could they do?

They put poison in his wine and waited for Benedict to drink his own death. But God intervened. Before drinking, Benedict prayed a blessing over the cup and it shattered, the tainted wine was spilled and Benedict was saved. The Brothers, who may not have been terribly devoted in their faith, were much more devoted to eliminating their Abbot. Next they poisoned his bread, but before he could eat the deadly loaf, a raven swept in and snatched it away. That must have been a mighty raven...

So here is my theory, which I know to be true... When Benedict assumed the position of Abbot at that troubled monastery, he attempted to enforce the Rule of the Master. The result, to say the least, was not life giving. But when God spared Benedict from the terrible poisons he also put it in Benedict's mind to spare future generations from that terrible rule. And so Benedict crafted his rule out of the dregs of the Rule of the Master.

Time and again The Rule of Benedict starts with the same chapter heading as the Rule of the Master, and time and again Benedict turns away from a stringent, precise, highly detailed answer to a generous and hospitable answer. How much food and drink should each brother have? The Master knows to the ounce. St. Benedict is more vague – each should have enough... but not too much... and if there is a shortage we may have to do with less... and if that is the case, we had better not complain...

The Master's rule calls us to behave. Benedict's rule calls us to live life to the Glory of God.

It is a difference of extreme importance – and one that has been part of the Christian enterprise since the time of Jesus, and part of the religious enterprise long before that.

From the very beginning of scripture we see the pattern of these two rules emerging. Starting during the life of Moses, rules (the law) become important in the way faithful people live their lives. You really can't be faithful without some sort of rule. Some of the rules, the law, define how we live with each other, in community. And other rules, also the law, call us to live in a way that is pleasing to God – one is a code of justice and the other a code of holiness.

There lies a fundamental difference between the Rule of the Master and the Rule of St Benedict. The Master is defining a code of holiness. You do what the rule says because that is what is pleasing to God. Benedict is defining a code of just living. You live according to the rule because that brings about a community where all are treated as brothers and sisters – as equally loved children of God.

Why on earth would anyone choose a rule like the Rule of the Master over a rule like the Rule of St Benedict. It is tempting to answer that no sensible, faithful person would, but that is not the truth. The reality is that the Rule of the Master, while it may seem daunting in its minute detail, is simpler to follow. You don't have to figure out what is right or wrong, you just have to figure out what the rule says. Benedict is much messier. It demands that you think and that you adapt. For someone looking for a fixed and unchanging truth, the Rule of Benedict is an unappealing destination.

Yet Benedict's rule is fully concerned with our transformation of life. And it is in the messy, confusing, sometimes frustrating, even contradictory working out of life in community under a rule that our ways are converted – that we are transformed – that God's kingdom is built in our hearts.

The Master seeks to control and manage our will. Benedict seeks to harness our will.

If the rules of Benedict and the Master were available in Jesus day, I dare say Jesus would have been enthusiastic about Benedict's rule while the Pharisees would have been far more enamored of the Master's rule. Jesus is always interested in justice – especially justice for the weak, the powerless, the oppressed. The Pharisees are interested in absolute truth and sound doctrine.

There are still Pharisees with us. I even have my own inner Pharisee – and though I can not necessarily speak for all my brothers, I dare say each has an inner Pharisee or two... There are certainly days, living in community, when I long for a strict, domineering rule – the Rule of the Master. Of course, I really want that rule applied mostly to my brothers...

We tend to overlook that Jesus was a trouble making revolutionary who was interested in disturbing the status quo – because the status quo is designed to give all the advantage to the rich and powerful. Following Jesus meant then, and still means today, standing against the culture.

And so too with St Benedict, we tend to have in mind a very domesticated, tamed sort of Monk. But Benedict was also a revolutionary and a trouble maker. He wanted people to live in a community rather than as hermits, and not only a community, but a community where all were equal – where a child of a slave could be senior to the child of nobility... where all would have access to education, to books, to state-of-the-art medicine... where all would eat the same food and drink the same moderate amount of drink... where all would have a voice – even the newest member of the community was to be consulted before a major decision was made. Imagine how uncomfortable that could make the rulers of nations and of the church...

We may not think of Benedict as particularly revolutionary, but think what it would mean if the world as it is now were transformed into the community Benedict has in mind... it would be wildly revolutionary. It will be wildly revolutionary.

Benedict, through his holy and inspired rule, has given us a plan for conversion of our ways of life to the monastic way – that is to say a plan not for safety, not for comfort, but for revolution.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Proper 9 B - Jul 8, 2012

Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
Br. Julian Mizelle, OHC
Proper 9 B – Sunday, July 8, 2012

II Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10
(Ezekiel 2:1-5)
II Corinthians 12:2-10
Mark 6:1-13

Preaching the “Gospel?”

“A time is coming,” said the desert dweller St. Antony, “when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him, saying, ‘You are mad, you are not like us.’”

St. Antony didn’t fit the mold for his time and certainly didn’t grow into the expected vocation of his day. He was an uneducated Copt born in 251 AD into a Christian family of peasant farmers. When he was eighteen, his parents died, leaving him to care for his younger sister. Six months later he heard the gospel reading of Matthew 19:21: “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” Antony put his sister into the care of nuns, sold all of his possessions, turned away from the corrupt and decadent society of the time and went to live a life of solitude, prayer and fasting in the Egyptian desert. Athanasius, who knew Antony personally and wrote the story of his life, tells us that people thought he was mad.

I was well into my own process of discernment for a vocation to monastic life when I decided I needed to let my parents know what was on my mind. Circumstances didn’t allow for a face to face visit so it was by telephone that I first broke the news to them. “Mom, there is a monastic order that I have gotten to know and I feel God’s call to be a part of them. I have begun the process to join them and become a Benedictine monk.” Silence... “Mom, are you still there...?” “When did you become a Roman Catholic she exclaimed!” I realized I had a LOT to fill her in on. Some months later when I was well into the process of selling everything I owned I noticed a change in attitude about my new vocation. So I asked her about it. And her answer knocked me back. She said, “I was waiting to know if you were really serious about this. And now I know you are.” In the beginning she too thought I was mad.

Jesus’s family thought He was mad. They tried to take custody of him. “He’s lost His senses,” they said. John writes that his brothers didn’t believe Him. The villagers said he was insane and demon-possessed. Boyhood friends in Nazareth tried to kill him. The religious experts said he was a glutton and drunkard who partied with sinners. Many of his closest supporters stopped following Him. And after only 3 short years of ministry, political pundits complained that he told people not to pay their taxes. Then He was executed.

In this week’s gospel, those who knew Him best “took offense at him”—literally, “they were scandalized.” He then sent out His twelve disciples in pairs, two by two, to village after village warning them in advance about what they could expect. These parallel stories are about rejection and missions. It is a story about vocation and evangelization. It is a story about  knowing ones purpose and turning it into outreach. It is the natural evolution on the spiritual journey of what happens when you are in touch with your true self. You have to share it with others. If it is by turning within that we discover our real self, it is only by turning without that we that we live into the full meaning of our discovery. It is why real transformation will not only heal us, it will heal the world. What I am talking about is the “gospel.”

“Gospel!” What a messy word in our society. Just try telling a co-worker when you’re gathered around the water cooler that you would like to share the gospel with them and see what kind of reaction you get. During this past month I made another one of my mini research polls. I asked several of my brothers plus a few of our guest to define the word “gospel” for me. No one had an instant answer. When they did answer everyone went in vastly different directions of thought. The only thing that was consistent in my polling is stating what the gospel is in a clear, concise, and succinct way is not easy. When I started my research on defining the word “gospel” I too was in the same muddied waters.

But this was not always so. There was a time in my life that I could have told you instantly what the gospel is. The plan of salvation expressed in four spiritual laws. I was taught to recite them like they were a magic formula. They boil down to you are a sinner, Jesus died for your sins, pray the sinners prayer and you will go to heaven. N. T. Wright tells us that when the non-churched are asked what the word “gospel” means the common reply is it is about how to know God and how to go to heaven when you die. Is this the gospel according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John? It actually isn’t. One need only read the Benedictus and Magnificat to know that these early proclamations of the gospel had little to do with after-life management and everything to do with God’s Kingdom in the here and now. In fact, all four gospelers are not so much telling us how to go to heaven, they are telling us how heaven has come to us.

My point is to not debate my evangelical childhood but to emphasize the post reformation hijacking of the good news of Jesus Christ into the plan of salvation. After the Reformation the gospel gradually was redefined into a plan of personal salvation. And today, the western Church is mired in what I call a salvation culture instead of a gospel culture. Some would ask, “what’s the difference?” The difference is vast. The gospel is so much larger than personal salvation. To equate them as equal is to see only a small portion of the whole.

When we adopt a salvation culture we believe that we can cure poverty by getting everyone born again. Want to put an end to homelessness? Get them born again. Want to bring Haiti out of poverty? Get everyone to pray the sinners pray and poverty will end. Want to fix the drug epidemic? Want to break someone’s addiction? Want to (fill in the blank)...just get them saved. There are a lot of well meaning Christians who think this way. They geniunely believe by getting everyone to become born again all the problems of the world will be solved. I wish it was that simplistic. But that is not the gospel. That is not the good news.

When I did my polling seeking to learn how people define what the gospel is there was one answer that stood out. The answer was clear and to the point: the gospel is about Incarnation. The answer was brilliant. Because it equates the gospel to the Immanuel principle: Immanuel means God-With-Us. God has become man and God is with us in our poverty, God is with us in our brokenness, God is with us in every detail and aspect of our humanity. When we adopt a gospel culture we work to create the Kingdom of God in the world of today. The culture of the gospel takes the secular wisdom of todays world and turns it into the sacred folly of God’s kingdom.

We need look no further than today’s lection to see that Jesus empowered his disciples and sent them out to do the work of the Kingdom. For Jesus, mission, evangelism, and outreach was to go out and change the systems that keep people in poverty, in their brokenness, and in their woundedness. For Jesus, “gospel” meant to go out and enact the Kingdom of God in the here and now.

In a gospel culture no one has to decide between buying food or buying medicine. In a gospel culture everyone gets health care. In a gospel culture we do not profitize someone’s health. In a gospel culture all relationships are recognized as sacred because all relationships are understood as a gift from God. It is also understood that our relationships with others teach us about our relationship with God. In a gospel culture life is lived in balance with nature and is always sustainable. In a gospel culture mercy and justice are the politics of the day. In a gospel culture we live the Beattitudes. In a gospel culture we live as if the Kingdom of God is already here—because it actually is. In a gospel culture we live as if we can bring Christ into the world, because we can.

Jesus sent His disciples out two by two with a mandate for mission, a mandate for evangelism, a mandate to enact the Kingdom of God. When they later returned to Jesus they were exuberant with what they saw happening. They were experiencing what happens when heaven comes to earth.

This is the call of the “gospel.” That we enact the Kingdom of God on earth “as it is in Heaven.” Two by two we are called to go into hospitals and prisons. And two by two we will go. Two by two we will build schools to bring education to the poorest of the poor. Two by two we work for health care for all, fair pay, marriage equality, immigration justice, and mercy for all. Two by two we will go into our voting booths and into our prayer closets. Two by two we will enact God’s politics on earth as it is in heaven. Two by two we will pray and turn within to the Kingdom of God within. And two by two we will turn without to stand with the hurting, the broken, the downtrodden, and the outcast. We will stand with all humanity just as God stands with us in our humanity.

Along the way there will be people who will tell us we are mad because we are not like them. And then we will know we are living the “gospel.”


Sunday, July 1, 2012

Proper 8 B - Jul 1, 2012

Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
Br. Bernard Jean Delcourt, OHC
Proper 8 B – Sunday, July 1, 2012

Wisdom of Solomon 1:13-15; 2:23-24
2 Corinthians 8:7-15
Mark 5:21-43

Jesus cares for both the privileged and the poor.  Jesus hears both of their prayers.  He responds to the faith of the one and the other.  Jesus wants us to live fully in God’s integrative love; the love that makes us One with the One.

The hemorrhaging woman reaches out for Jesus' robe

In today’s passage, Mark the Evangelist displays to us the divinity of Jesus-the-man through his Kingship over both Law and Life.

Jesus does not let the letter of the Law, or even, the spirit of contemporary purity codes, stop him from serving the poor and the desolate.

Jesus does not even let the natural course of Life stop him from ministering to those who call upon him in faith.


But before I explore Jesus’ healing of our lives with you, as illuminated by Mark’s gospel, I want to sound a word of caution.

I have faith in Jesus and I love God as best I can.  I do believe in prayer and in God’s loving involvement with each and every parcel of creation (me included).

Yet, I do not know God as God is, nor do I pretend to comprehend or understand God’s work in all of creation.

When I pray, the best of me knows that I am coming to the relationship that evokes me and builds me up.  I don’t come to prayer to cash into the power of God.  I don’t count on my laundry list of requests being the most important thing in my relationship with God.

And yet, I know God cares and so I often bring my laundry list anyway.  In prayer, I help God transform me and teach me, while he loves me as I am and for whom I am.


I say all this because today’s gospel passage could be over-simplified as: “believe strongly enough, and anything you ask for will come to pass as you intended.”

And that is a dangerous way of looking at prayer and relationship with the God who wants us to be One.

Jairus and the hemorrhaging woman believed in Jesus.  And healing beyond their comprehension touched them through the touch of Jesus.  This is important; belief in Jesus is central.  Letting Jesus touch us is vital.

But, I don’t want to sound absurdly optimistic about what our faith and prayer can achieve.  It can achieve miracles but it is rarely the miracle we thought we were asking for.  Even for Jairus and the bleeding woman, the miracle went beyond what it seemed at first.

Being enfolded in God’s integrative love is miracle enough and it often takes shapes we don’t immediately recognize.  So keep praying, cleave to your faith; by all means.

But I don’t ignore that sometimes, our most earnest prayers seem unheard, or at least unanswered.  Or was it that we didn’t believe in our own prayer to start with?  I don’t know.


Seven weeks ago, I led my best friend’s mother into the police morgue where her murdered grand-daughter lay in state.  As I caught sight of this beloved girl of 16 years, my heart went to Jesus’ words “Talitha cum”; get up little girl.  But it was not to be.

I still don’t know what miracle of integrative love is worked out in me or in my beloved friends who lost their only child.  But I do believe that their daughter is enfolded in Jesus’ love and that signs of love will continue to abound in all of our lives; even if the desire to see that young woman live her life with us here and now will not come to pass.

So with this word of caution about faith and prayer, let us re-visit the healing power of Jesus.


In this gospel we read today, Mark the Evangelist weaves a brilliant narrative to reveal the nature of Jesus’ person and the depth of his ministry.  There are actually two stories, of course.  And one is inserted in the middle of the other.

There is the story of Jairus.  There is the story of the hemorrhaging woman.  The two stories are intertwined for a reason.  And we are invited to contrast and compare them for insight.


Jairus is an honored religious leader.  He has means (servants, a house, paid mourners).  Yet he, a leader of the synagogue, recognizes Jesus’ authority and demonstrates it by kneeling in front of this traveling carpenter from Nazareth.

In the second part of Jairus’ story, you can nearly hear the sneer in his servants telling him it’s no use bothering “the Teacher” any further.  And then there are the professional mourners who actually laugh at Jesus’ assertion that the child is not dead.  Clearly, Jairus is giving honor to Jesus against the flow of his entourage’s thinking.

Yet, upon hearing Jairus’ plea in all its genuineness, Jesus immediately follows him to his home, followed by a pressing crowd.


The suffering woman, on the other hand, is a pariah in her own society.  Her constant bleeding has ailed her health and financial situation.  Her bleeding makes her ritually unclean.  People would move away from her if they saw her coming.  Her touch would make them religiously unclean themselves.

That no male intercedes in her stead indicates that she probably is a widow without male heir.  Such women were very vulnerable to start with whether pure or not.

She too recognizes Jesus’ authority.  But she knows that only stealth will get her close to him.  The crowd is so focused on Jesus that no one even notices her sidling up to him.

Yet she does not presume being allowed to address him and make a plea.  Instead, she ardently believes that touching his robe will cure her, and so it does.

But Jesus is aware of her and demands to know who touched him.  This is a moment of jeopardy for the woman; according to the codes of purity, she has just defiled a holy man.  She might be even more deeply shamed and shunned now, than she already has been.

But the woman does not escape and acknowledge Jesus’ status by kneeling in front of him and confessing to him what has just happened.

Contrary to all expectations of their society, Jesus acknowledges the woman.  He honors her as kin of choice by calling her “Daughter.” 

In so doing, he uses his great authority to restore her to full participation in her community.  Honorable belonging to the community is the apex of what this society would have called healing; well beyond the curing of a physical condition. The woman is fully healed.


Is Jairus on pins and needles while all this happens?  Or is he further mesmerized by the charisma emanating from this man?  The text doesn’t say and he might experience both.

In delaying his visit to Jairus’ home to re-integrate the woman in the people of God, Jesus shows us another lesson we keep trying to forget.  It is what the Roman Catholic social teaching of the 20th century called the preferential option for the poor.

In our own lives, how do we stand by the poor, be with them, advocate for them and love them?  Where does my preferential option for the poor express itself?


Yet those favored with ample resources are not forgotten nor ignored.  Jesus chooses his closest disciples to accompany Jairus and his wife to the deathbed of their daughter.

After a public demonstration of his standing beyond the scope of the Law, Jesus offers a private glimpse of his standing beyond the scope of Life and Death as we usually experience them.

Another daughter, Jairus’ own, is given back to her community.  She had lived 12 years up to then; just as the woman had hemorrhaged 12 years up to then.  Twelve years, as a repeated symbol of the wholeness of the People of God, to whom these females are rehabilitated.


God loves us, engages with us and with our prayers.  Often, it looks nothing like we asked.  Will we move on disgruntled and ungrateful?  Or will grace open our eyes to the even better gifts we have received?  Those gifts that the Spirit, searching our hearts and the heart of God, knew we needed above all?


Beloved Lord, give me the courage to reach out and touch the hem of your robe, to kneel before you.  Give me the faith to receive and nurture what you know is best for me.  And if there are items on my laundry list that you really like too, so be it.  So be it, Lord.  Amen.