Homily for 13th Sunday in Ordinary time 2012 [year B]
(In Australia: Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Sunday)
Last night, I attended an Ordination to the priesthood in Melbourne. This young man was in the seminary with me in Corpus Christi Seminary in Melbourne for about two years, before he was sent to Rome for further studies or to study further. So I was excited to attend considering also that I could now lay my hands on him as all priests present at priestly ordination would do. What got me was the moment when the Archbishop laid his hands on him. I said to myself: Wow! How simple is that ‘touch’ of the Bishop but it leaves an indelible mark to the very essence of the person ordained. In fact, that laying on of hands, that simple gesture of touch marks a significant change in the life of that young man, now my Brother Priest Fr. Michael. That simple touch marks another ‘life’ or ‘lifestyle’ that the ordained person is expected to live out from that moment on.
Friends, I am telling you this because it reminds us of our identity and mission as followers of Christ. When we are baptized we have been touched by God personally, and thus also called to touch other people’s lives. Our baptism leaves us an indelible mark of the touch of God that can be more concretely expressed by our love and care for one another as sons and daughters of God. Our Gospel today also reminds us that by touching other’s people’s lives, we are giving life to others, as we can see from the woman who touched the clothes of Jesus and of the dead girl who had been touched by Jesus.
You might have heard during the last few weeks of the arrival of many asylum seekers to Australia. We heard that many lives of men, women and children have perished. We also heard of some who are lucky enough to survive and reached shore. This situation is a concrete eye-opener for us that Jesus wishes that we can be the instruments of his touch for this people. This people are the modern version of the woman in the gospel who is suffering of haemorrhage for a long time. Like the woman, they are just wanting to touch ‘Australia’ because they assume that once they got here, their lives would be better, or they would be living in peace here. And maybe many of us here can agree with them in their assumption.
Friends whether we like it or not, we can’t deny the truth that part of our being a Christian is to touch the lives of others. We are called Christians for a reason and the reason being we’ve got the duty and responsibility to take care of humanity. We have the task not only to promote life but to choose life because our God, as our First Reading today would remind us- [his people], ‘takes no pleasure in the extinction of the living.’ ‘Death was not God’s doing’ says the Book of Wisdom. Therefore, we can’t just act or react like the Apostles in the gospel, who just said to Jesus: ‘You, see how the crowd is pressing round you and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’.
We might ask: What can we do then?
Let’s follow what Jesus did in the Gospel. Because of his love and care for us, he has gone beyond any cultural barrier. See, in the Jewish cultural and religious practice, a woman is not allowed to touch any Jewish male, even more so to any Jewish religious leader. And even worst, the woman who touched him is suffering of haemorrhage, thus considered to be impure by the Jewish standard. But what did Jesus do? He wanted the woman to stand out by asking publicly who has touched him. What he really wants from the woman is to stand out for her faith in him.
The other cultural barrier that Jesus has broken into is regarding dealings with the dead body. According to the Jewish religious standard of purity a religious leader is not allowed to touch either a dead body, or a marriageable girl, least he commits impurity. But Jesus touched the dead girl and even addressed her ‘talitha kum! ‘Little girl, I tell you to get up.’ How sweet of him.
Like Jesus we are therefore called to touch others even to the point of breaking into our own cultural barriers. This is to be so, because we are called to choose life. And to choose life, according to Blessed John Paul II, ‘involves rejecting every form of violence: the violence of poverty and hunger, which oppresses so many human beings; the violence of armed conflict, which does not resolve but only increases division and tensions; the violence of particularly abhorrent weapons such as anti-personnel mines…and the violence of mindless damage to the natural environment.’ [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel– 27 January 1999).
Our Second Reading today also offers us another practical way of touching others’ lives. St Paul lauded the Christians in Corinth to have possessed the most of everything. But St Paul added that with great blessings comes great responsibility and that is to share their richness to others who need them. He urged them to imitate our Lord, who stripped himself of all his riches and became poor like us to make us rich out of his poverty. And he offers here a very practical suggestion: ‘This does not mean that to give relief to others you ought to make things difficult for yourselves: it is a question of balancing what happens to be your surplus now against their present need…
Let’s welcome these asylum seekers in our shore. With faith in Jesus, we don’t really have to worry so much? How many spare bedrooms have we got, while these people have no more homes to live in because of bombs and violence in their country? How full is our fridge and pantries of food that are well past beyond due dates? How many times we have a nice decent meal in a week when this people would be lucky enough to have one meal in a day?
So as we continue our celebration today let’s pray for those people who are less fortunate than we are. Let’s also pray for the leaders in our Country, and for our Religious Leaders that all will one in promoting, preserving and choosing life over death. At the same time let’s also do something to aid the needy. ‘We’ve got many Channels for this work: Caritas International, Catholic Mission, Red Cross, and many others. We have the means, so why don’t we allow Jesus touch us and use us as his instruments in the world today? Let’s always remember that if Christ is in us and is working through us, the way we touch the lives of others, no matter how simple and insignificant it might seem, would not only change lives but really give life to others.