Homily for Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – B
One way to engage with Scripture is to put yourself into the story– to be one of the characters, to see what they are seeing, to feel what they are feeling. Today’s Gospel gives us a wide variety of characters to help us do just that, but I want to focus on the two main characters – Jairus and the woman with a hemorrhage.
On one level, these two characters couldn’t be more dissimilar: Jairus is a man, he is prominent in the community, he is ritually pure since he is a synagogue official, and for the same reason, he is also well off. The woman, on the other hand, is, first, a woman – who were second-class people at best – she was also ritually impure because of her affliction, she was broke from paying all the doctors that didn’t help, and she was an outcast because of her disease.
But even though they are so dissimilar, when I put myself in their place, and I try to picture what they are feeling, the same one word comes to mind – desperation! Both Jairus and the woman are desperate, and to a great extent they share a desperation for something similar – their children. For the woman, it is the desperation for the children that the hemorrhage is preventing her from having, and so keeping her as an outcast. For Jairus, it is a desperation for his daughter’s very life.
Think of what lengths you would go to protect your children. Would you even perhaps break the rules if you had to? That’s what the woman did – she broke social norms and religious prohibitions – she broke the rules in order to get to Jesus, in order to be healed. Jairus, too, this prominent synagogue official, falls down at Jesus’ feet, embarrasses himself and begs Jesus to help – for the sake of his daughter. Their desperation for their children emboldens them to break the rules, to break with norms in order to save their children.
I’ve witnessed that kind of desperation first-hand. I’ve spoken to Syrian refugee fathers who have scooped up their children and taken them to a foreign land –with no plan, no guarantees, no direction – all they know is that they are doing what they have to do to save their children.
I’ve spoken to mothers in El Salvador who have sent their children north, sent them with people they hoped they could trust, just to get them away from the gangs and the violence and the threats to their lives. “It is sad”, one mother said, “that our children might become our most valuable export”. Other mothers expressed hesitation of ever being able to send their kids on their own, but were convinced that if the threats continued, they would not hesitate to take their children and to head north to save their lives.
These desperate folks land on our borders sometimes. And how do we respond? Do we approve when children are separated from their parents at the border? Do we cheer when children are sent to immigration court alone? Do we applaud when people are turned around and sent away or locked up because they were asking us to protect them from violence and gangs and abuse? And then we have the audacity to sing our opening song, “All Are Welcome”?
How should we respond? I would ask you to consider three articles that appear in this month’s issue of the WNY Catholic. The first is by Bishop Malone that talks about why we must build bridges instead of walls. The second article is one about our US Bishops’ reaction to the Administration’s “zero tolerance” policy at the border. The third is my column that talks about what the Church teaches about migration.
I think that it’s important that you listen to what the Church has to say about these issues because there are other voices out there – voices that want you to be afraid. They want you to be afraid that these desperate people are going to take your jobs or use up your resources. They want you to be afraid that these people will come and bring murder and rape and drugs and violence. They want you to be afraid that somehow what we give to them will mean less for you – as if we don’t have enough to go around. They want you to be afraid.
Maybe the words that Jesus spoke to Jairus he is speaking to us: “Don’t be afraid. Just have faith”.