“Whatever villages or towns or countryside he entered, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak; and as many as touched it were healed” (Mk 6:56).
The people of Jesus’ time were in need of healing, hungry to draw closer to God, often searching, wandering, and wounded. This is still true today. Though Jesus is not as visible to us as he was to those at Gennesaret, he is just as present if not closer. We who receive Jesus in his Word proclaimed and we who receive his Body and Blood, we who receive his healing, mercy and grace are sent forth to bring Jesus to others. This is true for our Protestant brothers and sisters as well, who have received his Word proclaimed.
We are not to go home as if nothing of any significance just happened in our gathering as the Mystical Body of Christ, we are not to walk around with an air of superiority over others, we are not to judge and condemn people as other, we are not to refuse to help people because we feel they deserve the condition they are in, that they are illegal, that they choose their lifestyle, that they are lazy and just need to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. We are not to be indifferent to the plight of others.
We acknowledge the ministry of the saints throughout the history of the Church because they encountered the Resurrected Jesus still present in the world, through the Eucharist, through his Word, and through their seeing him in the distressing disguise of the poor and one another. They did as Jesus did when he got off the boat at Gennesaret. They met those in their realm of influence, were present to them in their need, and brought them to encounter Jesus.
Pope Francis was asked in an interview by Fr. Antonio Spadaro, S.J., in 2013, “What does the church need most at this historic moment?” And Pope Francis answered, “that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle.” We need to be “near”, in the same “proximity”. He did not say that the Church is to prevent others from coming to Jesus, but we need to bear Christ to one another: “The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all.”
Jesus, the Apostles, his disciples, and those who have followed him through the ages, saints canonized and not: St Lawrence, St Elizabeth of Hungary, St Martin de Porres, St Peter Claver, St Elizabeth Ann Seton, St Vincent de Paul, Dorothy Day, St Charles de Foucault, and St Mother Teresa, have done just that. They have made themselves present, come near, and brought the healing power of the love, mercy, and forgiveness of Jesus to those in their midst. They have resisted to make someone as other, they have refused to be indifferent to the needs of those in their midst. We are invited to do the same.
May we too, in the words of Pope Francis, go out to “heal the wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful” by being willing to be near to accompany others in their sorrows, anxiety, trials, and tribulations. People are really hurting, so let us embrace the significance of encountering the Mystical Body of Christ in our worship, to go forth in humility willing to serve our brothers and sisters. Let us repent from and be willing to change our defensive postures of indifference, judgment, prejudice, and condemnation. Let us be willing to have a heart and mind of compassion and so be present, offer support and guidance, allow God’s mercy, love, and forgiveness to flow through us as we assist those that are vulnerable, outcast, shunned, and on the outside looking in. Not to prevent people from coming to Jesus, but by providing a means to encounter him.
Photo: Class of 2017 expressing nearness and proximity!
Spadaro, S.J., Antonio. “A Big Heart Open to God: An interview with Pope Francis”. America Magazine. September 30, 2013 Issue. https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2013/09/30/big-heart-open-god-interview-pope-francis
Link for Mass readings for Monday, February 4, 2018: