13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
This past week I attended our annual gathering of the priests of the Archdiocese of Seattle. From year to year the nature of the presentations will vary. Some years the presentations introduce us to new ideas or programs for one aspect of our ministry or another. Some years, such as this one, the presentations are directed to our own spiritual growth, which ultimately makes us better able to do our work as priests and pastors. The presentations were designed to refine our focus on our own personal relationship with Jesus Christ and how we can grow in that relationship in the midst of our work. A key theme was the need for each of us to take particular actions in seeking more fruitful interaction with Jesus. Relationship with Jesus Christ is about responding to Him, but it does require us to seek and to reach out beyond ourselves.
Today’s Gospel presents two healing miracles of Jesus. These people actively sought Jesus out. They believed in Him, they made an effort to make contact with Him. The synagogue official came to Jesus to ask that he come to his home to heal His daughter. The woman who was bleeding reached out to touch Jesus’ robe. I was struck by Mark’s reference to Jesus sensing that power had gone out of Him as the woman touched His garment.
There are several noteworthy features in these miracles. They involved a touch from Jesus. The recipients already had great faith in Jesus as a source of unexplained power. He had a power that could literally reach into the person and restore them to life and health. I wonder whatever became of these people. I would like to believe that they received something more powerful than the healing or restoration of life. I would like to believe that they experienced the infusion of that life that transcends our physical existence. I would like to believe that their relationship with Jesus Christ became very personal as it touched the depths of their souls.
Judaism at Jesus’ time had developed a refined appreciation of eternal life as noted in our first reading from Wisdom. It states God did not make death; He does not rejoice in the destruction of the living. Physical death was certain, but it was the result of rebellion against God in the original sin. But the redeeming work of Jesus makes a new life possible. It is a spiritually transformed life on earth, and the future eternal life in heaven. That transformed and new life in Jesus Christ is the heart of the personal relationship with Jesus Christ. We should seek out the opportunities to grow in that relationship.
We make ourselves available to grow in that personal relationship with Jesus Christ in our conversations in prayer, especially reflections on the words and deeds of Jesus. We do so also in worship and sacraments, as well as Christian fellowship and service.
Of course, while our relationship with Jesus Christ is personal, it is never entirely individualistic. Jesus always addressed a people. He came to save a people and form a new people of God, a community within which one could enjoy personal relationship with God in Jesus Christ. It should be no surprise that our common worship should be filled with opportunities for personal interaction with Jesus Christ. In each case, like the woman of the Gospel, we reach out to touch Jesus and feel power come out from Him. Today I would like to review the opportunities during the Mass when, in the midst of our common prayer, as individuals we can act to develop our personal relationship with Christ. These are described on the Mass preparation card I prepared soon after I arrived. (and I think I need to replenish the stock in the pews)
Our opportunities begin when we can come into the quiet church, surrounded by fellow believers, and prepare with our own personal conversation with Jesus. We settle our minds and hearts and set other cares aside. We can take time to read the scriptures for Mass. Soon after the Mass begins we are asked to call to mind our sins and we should silently speak at least one sin to Jesus, from whom we then will ask for mercy. When I sing “Let us pray..” there is a silent pause so you can address a personal prayer request to God, something you want from this Mass. When the scriptures are read, especially the Gospel, we should ask Jesus: “What do you want to say to me today.”
At the offertory, as the collection is taken up and bread and wine are prepared, we should be talking to Jesus about the ups and downs of the past week. That is what we want to send to the altar asking Jesus to offer those to the Father along with His great offering of Himself.
In Holy Communion we should recognize the ultimate altar call. The saving death of Jesus Christ having been made present we come forward to say Amen. We say: “Yes, Lord, I know it is you. You died and rose to save me and now you feed me with your Body and Your Blood.” I don’t know what could be more personal than that. And those precious minutes after communion are a final time to say thank you. And then in the final prayer of the Mass, in the silence that follows the Let us Pray, we ask Him to stay with us through out the week to guide and encourage us and remain ready to hear us speak personally to Him each day.