Greetings, SBT Readers!
The horrific collapse of Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Fl, has left the country reeling in shock. This was no "act of terrorism" nor was it an "act of God"; rather, an upscale condo building that was only 12 stories high and 40 years old pancaked without warning, burying many of its residents beneath the rubble. Even as the "search and rescue" efforts continue, civic leaders, engineers, and the general public are trying to come up with answers: "How could this have happened in America?"
Already, a variety of answers have surfaced: rising sea levels caused by climate change; excessive weight on the roof; a foundation weakened by nearby construction; poor building management... No doubt, more "answers" will surface, but one thing remains clear: What one individual does or fails to do impacts everyone.
Let's look at each possibility. If climate change is at the root of this disaster, then --wherever we are in the world-- all our "unsustainable" choices contributed to making this tragedy happen. If poor building management allowed problems to slide by, then those who failed to perform their jobs are accountable. If building developers were granted permission to excavate their site too close to Champlain Towers South, then those who issued the permits are responsible...
It has become commonplace to say that we are all "interconnected," and it is true that we are. Every choice, every thought, every action, every failure to act -- all these can impact countless others, even people across the globe and generations not yet born. In writing about the sinking of the Titanic, journalist Senan Molony attributed the disaster to "fire, ice, and criminal negligence." Sadly, when the final word is in as to why the condo building collapsed, it will most likely be phrased in a similar manner: "unstable marshlands, rising sea levels, and criminal negligence."
PS Please note my new address at the bottom of this e-letter!
There was a woman who had been afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years. She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors but though she had spent all that she had, she was not helped but only grew worse. Having heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak.
She said, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.”
Immediately, her flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction.
Jesus, aware that power had gone out from him, immediately turned around in the crowd, asking, “Who touched my clothes?”
But his disciples replied, “You see how the crowd is pressing upon you, and yet you ask, ‘Who touched me?’”
And he looked around to see who had done it.
The woman, realizing what had happened to her,
approached in fear and trembling. Falling down before Jesus, she told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you.
Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”
Mk 5: 21-43
There are two healing miracle stories interwoven in today's Gospel: the first, the story of the synagogue official's daughter; and, the second, the story that interrupts it--the story of the woman suffering from hemorrhages. Given the length of the Gospel, many preachers may focus on the first story which is simple, requires little contextualizing, and is "less messy" than the second. After all, how many preachers feel comfortable discussing menstrual disorders in their homilies? Certainly, since most Catholic preachers tend to be celibate males, the healing of the Jairus' daughter will be the likely focus in Catholic churches!
The healing of a child is, of course, a wondrous event and
Mark's narrative invites us to journey with her parents, in faith, from grief to joy. From the outset, Jairus -- a representative of the religious establishment-- firmly believes that all Jesus has to do is lay hands on the child and she will recover. In contrast, the woman with the menstrual disorder doesn't ask Jesus to lay hands on her; instead, she reaches out to touch his clothing, in effect, taking power from him. In Mark's Gospel, she touches Jesus' cloak but in Luke 8:44, she touches the tassels on his outer garment which represent the 613 mitzvot or commandments found in the Torah-- in other words, she touches a symbol of the Law even though she herself is breaking the Law by mingling with other people while being "unclean."
The story of the woman with a hemorrhage involves more than a miracle of healing; it is not only a story of faith but a narrative of audacity. This woman -- socially isolated, ostracized by her community, labeled as polluting-- still believes that her life, in God's eyes is worth something. She reaches out to touch Jesus not only because she has the faith that merely touching his clothing will be "enough," but because she refuses to accept the labels others have placed upon her. Moreover, she has not allowed 12 years of poverty, abandonment, and shunning to break her spirit. She believes in God, in Jesus, and in herself and allows neither social constraints nor fear of punishment to stop her. Her audacity is both remarkable and inspirational, especially when she steps forward to identify herself as the one who touched Jesus' clothing. Given Jesus' response, it seems that Jesus thinks so, too:
“Daughter, your faith has saved you.
Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”