Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Homily for the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time at St Madeleine Sophie Barat Parish, Kenthurst
1 July 2018
You might have heard of a song called Another Day in Paradise which was a big hit in the late 1980s. Phil Collins wrote this song as a protest against apathy and indifference. It is a deeply spiritual song. He implored listeners not to turn a blind eye to people in trouble because, by drawing a religious allusion, “it’s just another day for you, You and me in paradise”. He even appealed to God “Oh Lord, is there nothing more anybody can do.”
The Gospel today speaks about the way God interacts with human suffering through the person and ministry of Jesus. God does not turn a blind eye to the plight of the sick, the poor and the afflicted. In Jesus, he attends not only to their physical needs of food, health and wholeness. He also raises them up at the deepest level of their humanity. To follow Jesus is to live for others.
The Gospel tells the story of Jesus who performs two healing miracles on two females. He goes with the crowd to Jairus’ house to attend to his sick daughter when he is ‘ambushed’ by a woman with hemorrhage. We are told that the woman had suffered this humiliating illness for 12 years and the doctors had failed to help her recover. She works her way through the crowd and approaches Jesus silently, stealthily and fearfully. She touches him believing that she would be healed and she was. But the story does not end there. Jesus could have walked on without embarrassing the woman and without confronting assumptions and attitudes, which give rise to her exclusion.
This is the prophetic trademark of Jesus. He doesn’t just heal physical wounds and illnesses. He forces us to confront the issues that can’t be named. The woman was already healed after touching his clothes. Jesus could have walked on to the house of Jairus. But no, he stops and asks the woman to come out and share her story publicly. He puts the victim and the issue at the centre, just as he did with the blind beggar and the woman caught in adultery. He compels his audience to ask questions like why is women’s menstruation considered impure? Why do religious laws and social customs circumscribe our behaviour towards men and women differently? Why do certain things in women’s biology render them less equal than men in society? He thus disrupts entrenched stereotypes and biases. He subverts our assumptions. A dangerous prophet indeed!
He then shows how he himself treats the woman with stigma. Jesus affirms her dignity and her faith with the words “Daughter, your faith has saved you!” In doing so, Jesus gives her something that is no less important than her health, namely her visibility, voice and status. If number 12 is a symbol of the new kingdom (see 12 gates in Revelation 21), then his healing of both the woman with 12 years of bleeding and the 12-year-old girl may be a sign that the old world where women are treated with invisibility, silence and inferiority has come to an end. Jesus has inaugurated a new world of equal citizenship. The Church has to reclaim this vision of a faith community where the less privileged are accorded full visibility, voice and status. This is the kind of Church that images Christ.
Brothers and sisters,
We live in the world where there is an increasing sense of apathy and indifference to human suffering. During the week, an Iranian asylum seeker died by suicide in Nauru. His story was tragic. He was held as a captive when he was just 10 years old in Iran. He escaped with his mother and younger brother but ended up a captive in no less degrading system created by Australia. Upon his death, his mother wrote these indicting words to our government, “For five years you incarcerated me and my innocent children in Nauru and ignored us. I know that your violence and cruelty is deeply rooted and against that I am a powerless woman”. Can we, as fellow human beings, not feel her pain?
Today is Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday. While we celebrate the rich history of stewardship of the land and culture of our Indigenous people, we cannot remain unmoved by the plight of their inequity. How can we be indifferent to the institutional failure that dehumanises the victims and makes us less than ourselves? How can we enjoy one of the best living standards in the world while some of our fellow citizens are condemned to a cycle of hopelessness, often through deep systemic discrimination?
Let us pray that we learn to live by Jesus’ passion and the pathos for the suffering, that we learn to take responsibility for a better community, a better society and a better world. We rejoice today at the beginning of a long-awaited church building project. May our sharing at this table strengthen us in our commitment to live and relate according to the values of the Gospel. May we – filled with the fullness of life and love of God – share and live out the driving passion of Christ to be men and women for others.