13th Sunday B – Healing and Peace
In the Delta Saloon, Virginia City, Nevada, there’s poker table called the Suicide Table. It is so called because, back in the 1800s, three gamblers are reported to have committed suicide at it because of heavy financial losses. These were desperate men who had staked their all on the turn of a card, and lost. There are many such legends around the old saloons of the gold rush days in Nevada and California. Investors have been known to have lost their all on the strength of a fake promise or false hope. If they are desperate enough people will do anything and stake everything, money, property, even family to find the pot of gold. Many ordinary people live lives of quiet desperation, but the desperation of these gamblers belonged in another league altogether.
Two people approached Jesus in desperation. One a woman with incurable haemorrhaging; the other a man whose twelve year old daughter was dying. They were in a bad way, and Jesus may have been their last resort. The woman’s condition had rendered her ritually unclean for twelve years, obliging her to live apart from the community – a social outcast. Having spent everything she had on doctors she was now impoverished, forlorn and uncured. Suffering and loss often bring out reserves of strength in people which they didn’t know they had. By reaching out in her condition and touching the cloak of a man to whom she was not married this woman took a leap in the dark, running the risk of even further vilification and social ostracism. It was, so to speak, the last turn of her last card. But Jesus saw more. Beyond the human desperation he saw her faith. He granted healing and offered the peace promised to the community of his followers – cf. John 14: 27.
I read something recently in which the writer spoke about people who were no longer Catholic because they couldn’t believe X, Y or Z. For many people, to be Catholic is to have the right set of beliefs and accept what amounts to be the ‘policies of the party line’. But there is another and more basic focus that’s often missed. Christianity, especially Catholicism, is about belonging. It’s a home where I can live meaningfully with others, share a vision, reach out and be reached out to, and affirm with others all that is part and parcel of my humanity and theirs. We are social animals. We need to belong. If I don’t belong somewhere my humanity is enfeebled and, cut off, I’ll wither away into the grave…. To belong is to become an intentional part of the lives of others – to know, accept and support others as I find them rather than ignoring or merely tolerating them because they are different, believe things I don’t accept or fail to measure up to my personal standards.
“Go in peace,” said Jesus to the woman who had been healed. He invited her to a place where there would be no more strife and struggle, to a condition of completeness where there would be no more aching for something that’s missing. Simultaneous with her desperate reaching out to touch his garment was his reaching inside to touch her faith. Her healing was the portal to a whole new life with others who would care and to whom she would belong. The woman in the Gospel is a metaphor for all who have died in baptism and seek to live the new life of the Kingdom together with the risen Christ. As we look at her we can see ourselves as recipients of the healing and life-giving touch of Jesus’ mercy and love.
Fr. QQ – 6/25/2021