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June 25, 2012 | Volume 87, Number 17

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THE CATHOLIC  DIOCESE of  RICHMOND

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» Believe as you Pray

» Family Ties

» In Light of Faith

Richard Linneberger photobelieve as you pray graphic

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle B)
July 1, 2012

Wis 1:13-15; 2:23-24
Ps 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11, 12, 13
2 Cor 8:7, 9, 13-15
Mk 5:21-43

Last week I ran into someone with whom I had been in school many years ago. We reminisced, talked about the “good old days,” and asked about classmates we had not seen for years.

At the end of our visit, we said we needed to stay “in touch.” The term seemed to capture what we had in mind about the future. In some ways we had been changed by our time together.

In today’s Gospel reading Jesus is “in touch” with two different people. First, there is the woman “afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years.” When she touches the cloak of Jesus, he asks “who touched me?”

The second person is Jairus’ daughter. In this story, Jesus touches the child by taking the “child by the hand.” Being “in touch” with Jesus changed the lives of two people.

Are you and I “in touch” with Jesus? If so, how have our lives been changed?

Are you and I also “in touch” with others? If so, how have our lives been changed?

When we were baptized, the saving waters touched us and welcomed us into the Body of Christ. The life of the Trinity entered into us and we became adopted sons and daughters of God.

We were “in touch” with the very life of the Trinity. We were changed. How has that change marked your life?

When we were confirmed, sacred Chrism touched us and we were anointed. The Holy Spirit came upon us and gifted us to bear witness to our faith. We were “in touch” with the very person of the Holy Spirit. We were changed. How has that change marked your life?

Every time we come to the Table of the Lord to receive the Eucharist, we reach out to touch the Sacred Elements. In doing so, we are touched by the very presence of the Lord Jesus. Bernadette Farrells’ hymn, Bread for the World, reminds us:

Lord Jesus Christ,

you are the bread of life,

broken to reach

and heal the wounds

of human pain.

We are “in touch” with the very person of Jesus. We are changed. How has that change marked your life?

Every day we come into contact with many different people. Farrell’s hymn also reminds us:

Where we survive on others in our human greed, you (Jesus) walk among us begging for your ev’ry need.

We are “in touch” with the very presence of the Lord Jesus in our everyday lives. Are we changed? How has that change marked your life?

Today’s Gospel reading reminds us that Jesus was not only touched by someone, but he touched two people and changed their lives. We have many opportunities to touch and “stay in touch” with Jesus. May our lives be changed!

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family ties graphicmary hood hart photo

We remember deployed fathers on Father’s Day

It was after 1 a.m. when I drove (my son) Jimmy to the airfield for his departure to Afghanistan. At least a hundred soldiers gathered in a large hangar where their family members had congregated to say their goodbyes. Later in the hour a “departure ceremony” would include a final farewell. Families were talking in hushed tones, as if gathered for a wake.

Although I was focused on my own sadness at my soldier son’s going to war, I couldn’t help but notice the number of small children present at that terrible hour.

They were in their footed pajamas pressed against Daddy’s shoulder or resting in Mommy’s arms. Older children were sipping on the hot chocolate provided.

How much could they understand of what was happening? How do you prepare a toddler or a young child to say this kind of goodbye?

I couldn’t fathom what the next year would be like with my son in Afghanistan. What kind of impact would such an experience have on a child, missing her dad?

When I said my goodbye, caught up in my own sadness, I was oblivious to the others experiencing the pain we shared.

However, one year later, I was back in the same hangar at the same airfield, this time to witness a homecoming from Afghanistan. I had arrived early in great anticipation of the moment my son would step into view.

While waiting with my family, I was entertained by the young children, so filled with anticipation they were beside themselves. Many were dancing to music being piped over the loud speakers.

Three mothers sat together holding their infant girls, dressed in frilly pink dresses, ribbon bands wrapped around their tiny bald heads. One infant boy wore a t-shirt with the words: “Sergeant Smith, you are now under my command.”

I imagined that, having spent the last year in Afghanistan, some of these fathers had not seen these babies except over Skype and in photographs sent from home.

While I realize that many mothers have been deployed in our two wars, I think today of the fathers who spent the year in Afghanistan with my son, deployed from Ft. Drum in Watertown, NY.

In a Father’s Day column, I want to acknowledge these fathers, as well as others deployed now and in the past, all who have sacrificed so much for their country.

Not only do they place themselves in harm’s way, in terrible conditions, they give up something many of us take for granted – ordinary days of family life.

They miss being present for the milestones of their children’s lives, the first tooth, the first step, the preschool play, the first soccer game.

They miss being present to comfort and soothe their babies, calm their toddlers after bad dreams, dust off scraped knees and offer kisses on the forehead.

They miss ordinary conversation around the dinner table, the excitement of prom night, and their teen’s getting a driver’s license for the first time.

If their children are very young when their fathers deploy, the fathers must re-acquaint themselves with their own offspring. They must re-establish bonds and re-introduce themselves to their children’s lives.

Older children and teens must adjust to their fathers returning as disciplinarians.

Even in the best of circumstances, challenges for these fathers are daunting. But what if the family unit breaks down while fathers are at war?

A lawyer acquaintance told me the story of a Marine whose wife decided to divorce him while he was deployed. When he returned from Iraq, in a bid for full custody, his ex-wife used the Post Traumatic Stress he suffered, mild though it was, as a way to prevent him from seeing his children.

He had to prove to the court that the trauma he experienced after being in a war would not make him a danger to the ones he loved most.

Not only are fathers placed under tremendous stress when separated from their families, many have been deployed three and four times since our nation went to war in 2001. Even the strongest families suffer under these conditions. Relationships that are fragile to begin with are likely to break.

Every devoted father deserves respect and appreciation, but these deployed fathers sacrifice so much. We mustn’t forget them or their families, especially on Father’s Day, when what they would like most of all is to celebrate at home.

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barbara hughes photoin light of faith graphic

Opposites as Instruments of Grace

When liaisons occur between two unlikely people, be it through marriage, friendships, or professional partnerships, the explanation that opposites attract is often cited.

The reason is obvious: one person’s strength fills a void created by another’s deficiencies.

Consequently, not only do different perspectives and approaches to life situations keep life interesting, but they provide balance, offer a more comprehensive approach and ultimately allow for a more a holistic outcome. That’s not to say that reconciling opposites is not without its share of challenges. However, when the talents and views of each party are mutually respected, great things can happen.

On June 29 the Church celebrates the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul. The fact that these two great pillars of the Church have a shared feast provides a lesson in itself. Needless to say, the two saints who were very different in temperament and talents and qualifications were called and formed by the Lord in very different ways and for good reason.

Peter, the first to be chosen, walked with Jesus for three years. He was there when Jesus performed miracles. He listened to him teach. He was affirmed when he proclaimed Jesus the Messiah, Son of the living God and was chastised when he tried to dissuade Jesus from going to Jerusalem with the prospect of certain death.

Peter’s impulsiveness was on display when he walked on water, only to find himself sinking once he took his eyes off Jesus.

His lack of understanding was evident when he cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant, thinking he could respond to violence with violence. And his lack of self knowledge was apparent when he swore he would never lose faith in Jesus, only to deny Him when put to the test a few hours later.

Paul, on the other hand, came to know Jesus only after the Resurrection. Unlike the other apostles, he was called through a supernatural encounter with the Risen Lord.

Paul had been persecuting Jews who were followers of the Way, but once chosen, he embraced his mission and never looked back.

Scripture would suggest that Paul was as strong as Peter was weak, as thoughtful as Peter was reckless, and as committed as Peter was irresolute.

And yet, it is Peter’s failures that encourage us to hope. We see ourselves in Peter’s stumbling and bumbling and we find strength because through it all, Jesus never lost faith in him.

Peter was an ordinary fisherman, an uneducated man who lived his faith, albeit imperfectly as we all do. His missteps were undeniable, but he never gave up and that was all that Jesus asked of him.

The opposite can be said of Saul of Tarsus. He had letters to prove he had been educated as a Pharisee and his zeal was unwavering.

He was a man on a mission, a mission that would change dramatically once he encountered the One whom he had been persecuting.

Together the two men provide a wonderful portrait of what it means to be saint and sinner. They are who we are and who we are called to become.

In studying the New Testament, we realize Saints Peter and Paul had their share of disagreements, but with God’s grace they were able to reconcile them. Both men had a history of not getting it right and perhaps that’s what allowed them to set aside personal ideologies about such practices as circumcision, kosher foods and the multiplicity of Jewish laws and traditions.

The Spirit of the Lord was with Peter and Paul and they continued to learn as they traveled teaching and sharing the Good News.

In the end, both men ended up in Rome where they were martyred. Many modern Scripture scholars believe that a faction of Christians who were at odds with the teachings of Peter and Paul acted as informants to the Romans, thereby delivering Peter and Paul to persecutors to be put to death.

Shocking yes, but then the people of God have a long history of brother fighting brother, beginning with Cain and Able, Esau and Jacob.

Moses was threatened by a fellow Israelite and Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers to name a few. Finally there was Jesus, who was betrayed by one of his own.

Sadly, factions have been part of Christian history as well. Heresies and in-fighting began almost as soon as Christianity began to take root.

The great schism between the Catholic Church of the East and the West, the Protestant Reformation and numerous inquisitions continued the scandal.

Today we could point to differing ideologies among Catholics who are identified as having a pre- or post-Vatican II mindset. While we may abhor the labels, the suspicion and sense of superiority of one group over another continues and is an impediment to grace, thereby convicting both.

When we engage in self-righteous thinking, regardless of our stand, we are like Peter, who began to sink when he took his eye off Jesus.

Therefore, we do well to reflect on the words of Paul who wrote, “Let there be no faction among you; rather be united in mind and judgment”. (I Cor. 1;10)

When the Corinthians were wrangling about belonging to Paul or Apollos or Cephas, Paul’s question, “Has Christ then, been divided into parts?” (I Cor.1; 13) still rings true today.

In anticipation of the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, I propose a fast from derogatory remarks and judgments about fellow Christians.

Let us ask Sts. Peter and Paul to intercede for our Church, indeed, for the entire family of God that we may come to appreciate the Spirit of God, whose love is all inclusive and ever invites us into communion with Him and with all that is good.

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