Jesus Comes to See and Heal Us | Homily for the 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Homily for 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Cathedral of Saint Raymond Nonnatus
1 July 2018

In the Gospel of John, Jesus says:

“If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples.
You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

The truth will set you free.

How many of you believe that?

Or, better,
how many of you know from experience
that the truth will set you free?

There are many out there, including priests, including me at times,

who try to minister,
who try to fly under the radar of God’s face,
who think they’re “okay.”

The fact of course is that we all have hurts in our hearts.
There are things that we’ve done,
that we didn’t do,
that we’ve said,
that we haven’t said,
that have happened to us or haven’t happened to us
that hurt.

The woman who came to see Jesus,
who knew that only to touch his clothes would bring healing,
had suffered from the embarrassment of
hemorrhages for twelve years.
Openly bleeding,
like many of the people whom Jesus encountered,
she would have been considered unclean and ostracized by the community.

What’s more,
she had seen many doctors and had “suffered greatly” in their care,
to the point that her hemorrhages had grown worse instead of better.

She didn’t know Jesus, she’d never seen him;
Mark tells us that she had merely “heard about” him,
and snuck up behind him through the crowd;
her fingers grazed the edges of Jesus’ cloak,
and “immediately her flow of blood dried up.”

And the comes one of the most beautiful lines in all the New Testament:
“Jesus…turned around…to see who had done it.”

Jesus turned around to see who.

That is Christianity!
The God of the universe, in his own freedom,
turning around to see the face of the one who calls him.

The craving of every human heart,
is to see the face of God,
but of course we cannot force his turning around
when we, in our embarrassment or pain, approach him from behind.

“If man is to ‘see the face of God and have life’,
it is God himself who must turn around and reveal his face to man.

No amount of human ardor, intelligence, or effort
can draw back the veil hiding…the divine countenance…
Man cannot steal God’s secrets; man cannot penetrate the sanctuary
of God’s heart unless
God himself goes out searching for man to show him his Face.”
(Merikakis: Fire of Mercy, Heart of the Word, Vol. 1, 466.)

The woman was looking to be healed of her physical ailment,
and that was achieved by brushing the cloak of Jesus.
But when he turned around, by her seeing his face and, more importantly,
his seeing her face,
she found so much more.

“The woman has said to herself, ‘If I but touch his garment I shall be saved’,
thinking only of being healed of her hemorrhage.
Jesus, however, will not let go at that: he turns to look at her,
that is, at her whole person.”

Intimacy with another does not occur as long we have our backs turned.
“The person becomes manifest only in the face, in the eyes.”

The eyes of truth were starting into her,
knowing her,
loving her,
forgiving her,
calling her closer to himself.

She healed, yes, but more beautifully: she is saved,
and she knows it.

In the midst of her pain and embarrassment
Jesus gives her so much more than she bargained for:

He heals her, but then draws close to her
and reminds her who and whose she is:

He says, “Daughter, your faith has saved you.
Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”

He sees her, and knows her, and in this knowledge he sets her free.
She knows she is loved, she has value, she has been seen and made new
by her meeting with the Truth;
the truth has set her free.

For us, we must suffer the coming of the truth into our lives.
No doubt there will be pain as we seek the truth about ourselves
and our situation in the gaze of Jesus,
the one who has turned his face to see us according to reality.

We spend so much time fine-tuning our image,
our social media feeds, our cars and houses and wardrobe,
manipulating reality so that others may think this or that way about us.
We pretend we’re fine, that we don’t need help, that we’re good to go,
and that, frankly, just isn’t true.

We are all beggars in the sight of the Lord,
completely dependent on his turning to us and seeing us and cleansing us and restoring us to freedom.

We speak so much about evangelization and spreading the message of the gospel,
of performing acts of service on behalf of the poor among us.
But atheists serve the poor,
agnostics have charities,
even St. Louis Cardinal fans volunteer in soup kitchens.

What makes Christian service truly Christian?
What makes our efforts of evangelization living and effective?
“There is no more efficient way of proclaiming the Gospel
than by putting ourselves in a position where God might have mercy on us
and save us.” (Merikakis, 467)

Why is the Christian witness effective?
Because there is something different about the people who know Jesus,
who have met Jesus, who have allowed themselves to be weak enough in his sight
to face their reality, to live their truth, and who enjoy the freedom of the children of God.

They are disciples, not merely fundraisers;
they are witnesses, not merely organizers;
they are friends of Christ, not merely socializers.

There is one thing on everyone’s heart this morning;
one thing, whatever it is, there is one thing that plagues us, scares us.

During the offertory today, while the gifts are being laid upon the altar,
ask the Holy Spirit to give you what you need
to place there among the bread and cups
the things in you that are dark,
that scare you, that make you feel unworthy in his sight.

Then, as they are offered and transformed by the power of God’s Spirit,
feel the living God turn to you, and see you, and look you in the face.

When you hear the minister say, “the body of Christ”, “the blood of Christ”,
and the sweetness of that food hits your tongue,
may you hear him say, maybe for the very first time,
“Daughter, you faith has saved you.”
“Son, your faith has saved you”
“Go in peace, and be cured of your affliction.”