Homily: A Gospel View of the Bishops' Meeting
I do not normally get political. Anything I say today, please do not take as a political endorsement.
There was something rather fascinating that happened last week. I would call it a collateral blessing.
You may have seen in the media that the United States Catholic Bishops held a debate on composing and releasing a document about the Eucharist. Some reports indicated that the Bishops would put together a national policy on whether or not the president of the United States can receive the Eucharist in light of his support for abortion. They have stated they will not do that but instead put together a catechetical document instructing on the meaning of this sacrament that will be used to create policy in each diocese separately.
You may expect some backlash to this action and in a sense there was but there was something else that happened that I certainly did not expect. Catholic members of the Democratic Party released a statement of principles asking the Bishops not to come up with a national policy based on what they describe as one issue.
What is important in this is that these Catholic politicians publicly announced that they recognized the central importance of the Eucharist and all the sacraments. Now there are some disagreements I had with the statement but they are not theologians. However, we cannot miss their embrace of the Sacrament and publicly saying it to the nation.
This just opened a door where a door was closed; a door to a deeper understanding of the Eucharist.
That may have been the spirit moving.
In fact, The statement of principles does have the effect of offering input into the issue as well.
Let us look at it in light of today’s Gospel.
We see a woman suffering from a severe bleeding disease for twelve years. Scripture scholars estimate that her age may be around the mid to late twenties. John R. Donahue and Daniel Harrington in Gospel of Mark for the Sacra Pagina Series describe the symptoms in this way:
"The type of disease she suffers, according to Soranus of Ephesus, is a “grievous calamity” that left its victims weak, pale, and often unable to eat (Gynecology 3.40). It would also prevent their bearing children and would place the woman in a state of enduring uncleanness. "
They also point out that she violated every rule in the book to reach out and touch his cloak. She is a woman, she is ritually impure, considered unclean, yet she lets none of this stop her. She is reaching out to touch the one she sees can cure her after twelve years of one failed cure after another.
I have a special attachment to this reading. My mother who was handicapped and eventually ended up only able to move one hand talked about how important that verse was to her. She used to say: “if only I could touch his cloak.”
This story is in the middle of the story of Jairus’ daughter a synagogue official so desperate for the healing of his dying daughter that he falls to the feet of the man leaders want dead which Donahue and Harrington also point out is violating all protocols.
What is happening here? Jesus has presented himself as the Lord of Life. By raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead and by healing the woman who violated all forms of rules to touch his cloak, he shows himself to have life over death. That is who Jesus is.
As Church, we are the body of Christ as well.
If we return to the abortion debate between the bishops and the Democrats we can ask what is the issue. Some will say the nature of the Eucharist, others will say canon law, others will say political positions. The real issue is who is the source of life?
What is the abortion issue all about? it is about fetal tissue being used to create technologies for life. Embryonic stem cell research, cloning and the associated industries which lead into economic systems as well-meaning people make money off of these technologies. So, it is about using technology for healing. Something I do not believe the Bishops addressed in their dispute.
Who is Jesus? the source and summit of life. Who are we, we are the body of Christ today called to be signs of the source and summit of life. What is the Eucharist? the body of Christ the source of life.
What is the debate about?
Who is the source of healing power? What did Jesus do? He responded to a need that no one could fill. No one else could raise Jairus’ daughter and no one else could heal the woman who touched his cloak. Why? Because he is the source of life.
The democrats who signed that statement including our own James McGovern are raising the policies they are addressing for the benefit of the common good. They are working in the political sphere. Now let us look at it this way. What is at the bottom of all of this? What is the first temptation? You will be like gods. Technology used improperly can make us all like gods. Look what is going on in China? Who is god in China? The Chinese Communist Party, period. Who is god in North Korea? Kim Jong-um, Period. How many world problems have they solved?
You and I have a mission to represent Christ to our world here in the United States, ironically that also means all the local institutions as well as the Allston Brighton neighborhood.
We as humans make for really inferior gods, in China, in North Korea, In Russia, In Great Britain, Canada, Brazil, India, Burundi, Nigeria and even the United States and everywhere else, we make for really inferior gods.
What is the ultimate call beyond what the bishops are saying and beyond what the democrats are saying? Who is our god? Who is our source of life in all its meaning?
Is it technology, Is it the University System, The Communist Party? Big Tech? The abortion medical-industrial complex or is the mystery what is beyond all of that combined. The one whom we learned through Jesus, the very source of our being who is indeed God.
He calls us to be open to what he is doing in our lives so that we can be channels of his source of life for others. We cannot do that if we do not first recognize who we truly are. We learn that only from Jesus.
The Bishop’s meeting began with the Papal Nuncio teaching the bishops that they must first understand we do not follow a moral system but a person who is Jesus.
A good illustration is what we see in today’s gospel. Jairus and the woman broke all the rules and customs to approach the one who is the source of life. Humbly reaching out and saying bring us life. That is where all of us from the most senior Cardinal to the most junior Catholic representative must begin and pursue that relationship so that life can spread where technology even in its most advanced form is really impotent or just focused on healing some but unable to heal all.
We testify to the one who offers true life more than technology can and life to the full.