Proper 7 Year A
Fr. Dominique Peridans
There is too much in this gospel with which to wrestle.
And, it seems to spill out in no logical order.
Jesus, all over the map:
from foreboding and fatalistic to sweet and supportive
to harsh and hard.
On first hearing, someone unfamiliar with Jesus might be inclined to think that He is emotionally unstable or has quite an ego.
Well, we are familiar (enough!) with Jesus, to know, to presume
that all that spills out of His mouth—really, His heart, is loving.
This too, somehow, is a revelation of divine love.
This is a revelation of the urgency and the absoluteness of divine love--
which brought us into existence, sustains us and awaits us at the end.
If revelation of divine love,
then we must be willing to engage Jesus “de face” (“head on”),
for love is the fitting response to love and love is receptive.
We must, of course, also probe
beneath the unpredictable unevenness and the apparent courseness.
A revelation of divine love that includes things not easy to hear:
Jesus: the master at messaging and marketing!
There indeed is too much in this gospel with which to wrestle.
Let us thus focus on one aspect.
This may seem like an easy out, and you may be right!
Let us focus on divine love as providential, on the Lord as Provider.
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?
Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted.
So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.
St. Jerome, the 4th-century theologian, born in what today is Croatia,
a prolific writer, know for his translation of the Bible into Latin,
patron saint of translators, librarians, and encyclopedists, says,
“The hairs of your head are all counted”
shows the boundless providence of God towards man,
and a care unspeakable that nothing of ours is hid from God.
St. Hilary, also from the 4th-century, says,
That we should know that nothing of us should perish,
we are told that our very hairs are counted.
No accident then that can befall our bodies is to be feared.
God watches over us. God provides.
God provides because God is love.
Providence is easier preached, however, than believed and practiced at times,
the rough times when life throws an unexpected curve ball:
health issues, financial challenges, death, divorce or depression…
Where is Providence in all of this?
Well, if we are expecting God to be the big fixer of problems,
we may be underwhelmed or disappointed.
Through the rough times,
God is providing what we need to be in intimate relationship with Him
and to love those around us.
The rough times do not have the last word in our hearts and lives,
for Providence touches us in all that we love and live.
The 6th-century monk, St. Thalassios the Libyan, says,
Being Master, He became a servant,
and so revealed to the world the depths of His Providence.
So revealed, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, the 17th-century French mystic, says,
Do not be afraid to abandon yourself unreservedly
to His loving Providence, for a child cannot perish
in the arms of a Father Who is omnipotent.
To abandon oneself unreservedly to God’s loving Providence
is to do what Jesus says at the end of this Gospel:
to lose oneself for His sake and, in so doing, to find oneself in God.
Jesus invites absolute surrender
so that God can truly and lavishly provide for our hearts and lives.
The surrender must be absolute
because the love with which we are loved is absolute.
“Well, I am unable to surrender absolutely!” you might say.
Join the club!
It is intention and desire: “Lord, I want to surrender”.
It is not about feeling surrendered.
A word of advice from St. Francis de Sales, the 17th-century Bishop of Geneva:
In all your affairs lean solely on God's Providence, by means of which alone your plans can succeed. Meanwhile, on your part, work in quiet co-operation with Him, and then rest satisfied that, if you have trusted Him entirely, you will always obtain such a measure of success as is most profitable for you, whether it seems so or not to your own individual judgment.
Trusting in Providence makes sense if we love.
Let us trust that the Lord is providing in the midst of all that is happening,
as we seek to grow as individuals, as a Church and as a society,
seeking justice and peace for all, inner and outer freedom for all.
My prayer is that we grow in the divine love that sets us free
and enables us to trust in our Lord as Provider.
“If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)
“Do not be afraid.” (Matthew 10:31)
On Hoskin Avenue in Toronto, Ontario, Canada two esteemed institutions of theological training face one another from opposing sides of the street: Wycliffe College in the Evangelical or low-church Anglican tradition and Trinity College in the Anglo-Catholic tradition. Several years ago, a friend of mine visited both schools during Eastertide, and upon arriving at Wycliffe she discovered a large sign out front that proclaimed, “He is risen! He is not here!” She further discovered, however, that someone had taken a large marker and underneath scrawled, “He is across the street!”
While this humorous slight was surely done in jest, the reality is that we often find ourselves in truly pitched battles about the right ways and the wrongs ways to do things, and we quickly lose sight of the higher and deeper calling we have to transcend our divisions for the sake of the Gospel. Nowhere better do we see this than in today’s Gospel reading. The stories of Jairus and the hemorrhaging woman display in sharp relief the reality that God’s work in the world transcends every single constraint or parameter that we might want to put on it.
On the one hand, we find Jairus, a man of power and influence. As leader of the Synagogue, it is clear that he is a man who “should know better.” His compatriots scorning of Jesus suggests that his kind of people do not need help, do not need healing, do not need a savior. In the tragedy of his daughter’s illness, however, Jairus sees his own brokenness and is humbled in his helplessness. On the other hand, we find this unnamed woman who has suffered from twelve years of hemorrhaging. She is left destitute, and her affliction puts her in a state of constant ritual impurity according to Jewish law. Her kind of people seem beyond help, beyond healing, beyond salvation. Yet, her audacity compels her forwards. Both this unnamed woman and Jairus fall at the feet of Jesus in recognition of his Kingship, in recognition of his healing and transformative mercy. And what does Jesus do? He simultaneously names and acknowledges the faithfulness and sincerity of both the unnamed woman and Jarius, the low in this story and the high, the poor and the rich. Christ transcends all of the seeming constraints in order to respond in mercy and love. Let us pray that we too can have the same humility to recognize our own powerlessness and the same audacity to ask the creator and redeemer of the universe for the truly life giving transformation that we all desperately need.
And what do we as the Church become when we live into these principles corporately? We become a community of generosity, wholeness, and love. We become a community that incorporates the rich and influential insider and the marginalized and oppressed outsider simultaneously and seamlessly. Imagine what the Church would like today if we recommitted ourselves in earnest desperation to the heart of the Gospel, if we put aside our divisions to welcome everyone in love in the name of Christ. Imagine if the prayer on our lips every moment of every day was, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Imagine the witness that this would have in the world, in our nation, and in our very city.
At the end of the day, the sign at the beginning of the sermon was not completely wrong. Yes, Jesus is risen and not in the tomb, and yes Jesus is with us when as we gather ourselves in this congregation to worship him, but Jesus in case we forget is also across the street. Jesus is out there as much as he is in here. When we live into our mission to be a Christ-centered, Kingdom-centered faithful community, filled with generosity and love, we play our part in bearing witness to the truly earth shattering and transformative healing that Christ offers to a broken and hurting world. Let us therefore be reinvigorated in our faith, renewed in our hopes, and reoriented towards the work that truly matters. Amen.
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