11 February 2012

TOUCHING HIM WHO HANGS ON THE GALLOWS


6th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lv 13:1-2, 44-46 / Ps 32 / 1 Cor 10:31-11:1 / Mk 1:40-45

Last Sunday, the Lord has spoken to us on the mystery of human suffering.  His life-giving word today continues to unravel this great mystery.  Indeed, He is the Healer and the very Healing of the brokenhearted.  Thus, we respond to the Psalm today with “Tu es refugium meum, gaudio salutis circumdas me” (“I turn to You, Lord, in time of trouble, and You fill me with the joy of salvation”).


In our reflection last Sunday, human suffering confronted us with a face that had a name: Job – a righteous man yet a man who suffered unto the last straw of his faith.  He was an example that ran counter to the common view of the people from the Old Testament that suffering was a punishment from God.  He was a loud and distressing cry of the biblical question, “Why do the righteous suffer while the wicked prosper?”  Today, Job still echoes the eternal questions “why suffering” and “why me”.  But despite his unwavering faith in God, Job was never graced with a satisfying answer to his questions.  His fortune simply turned for the better when his hour of testing was over. 


Neither did the Gospel last Sunday nor do all the Gospels in the entire liturgical year answer the nagging questions concerning suffering in general and our own sufferings in particular.  During His earthly ministry, Jesus was confronted with more than one Job.  Evidently in the Gospels, the seemingly endless suffering around Him disturbed Jesus very deeply.  He, too, grappled with the reality of suffering people.  And when His own passion turned into suffering, Jesus prayed with Psalm 22, questioning His Father: “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Cf. Mt 27:46 and Mk 15:34). 


But did God, His Father, answer Him?  Yes, He did, but not on Calvary.  The Father did answer the prayerful but disturbing question of His Son yet not without allowing Him to die first so as to be raised up on the third day.  Easter is the Father’s answer to Jesus’ questions on suffering.  Thus, because Jesus, God’s own Son, entered into our experience of suffering unto death, human suffering finds itself in a totally new situation (Cf. Salvivici Doloris, Apostolic Letter of Bl. John Paul II, 11 February 1984): it gains more than new meaning; it can now also become a wellspring of unfathomable grace. 


The book “The Brothers Kamarazov”, by Fyodor Dostoevsky, narrates a scene at the concentration camp at Auschwitz, where three bodies hang on the gallows for all the people to see.  Among those three bodies is that of a little child whose agony is such that a spectator is prompted to cry out: “Where is God now?”  And Elie Wiesel, one of the characters in the novel, feels a voice from his deep within replying, “God is here.  He is hanging here on these gallows.”


The Lord heals the brokenhearted?  Yes, but often not by suspending the laws of nature or by waving a magic wand to cast suffering away.  The Lord heals the brokenhearted by allowing Himself to be broken too.  Is this not what we proclaim when we break bread every Sunday?  Is this not what we celebrate whenever we gather for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass?  While, indeed, Jesus suffered and died once and for all (Cf. 1 Pt 3:18), in every Mass He is, as it were, being broken over and over again for you and me and for all suffering humanity.


Our following of Jesus challenges us to do as Jesus did.  He did not wallow in pity for people who suffer.  Yes, He had His own questions on human suffering, even on His own suffering, but He did not only question.  He moved.  He acted.  He cared.  He did whatever He could to alleviate people from their sufferings even as He Himself was suffering.  Jesus did not allow His own sufferings to imprison Him, much less to make Him love less.  He shared in their sufferings even as He had His already.  He touched not only the untouchables but also those whom the world even today still teaches us we should not touch at all.  Whatever Jesus did so must we also do.  Like St. Paul the Apostle, may we be able to say, in all truthfulness, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”


Will we, like Christ in the Gospel today, touch a leper?


It strikes me that Jesus deliberately touched the leper who begged for healing.  He certainly could heal him by simply uttering a word.  But instead Jesus touched the leper, saying, “I do will it.  Be made clean.”  I believe it is that touch that healed the leper more than the words.  I believe that touch healed more than his body.  Jesus’ touch restored the leper’s psycho-emotional well-being as well.  Jesus touched him just when even the Law itself prohibited everyone from making any contact with lepers, for he who touches a leper becomes unclean. 


The Old Testament view on suffering as punishment for sins committed, regards leprosy as more than a physical disease.  For the Jews, leprosy is also an outward sign of moral decay.  Thus, the Law prohibits contact with the leprous not only for hygienic reasons but also for preservation from contamination of moral defilement.  But Jesus broke that Law!  He touched the leper, and His touch, more than His words, healed him.


We may not often share the same space with a physically leprous person.  But, still, there are many spiritually, psychologically, and emotionally leprous among us.  Up to what extent are we willing to touch them?  What if they take the initiative and, instead of us touching them, they touch us – are we willing to be touched?  Is our touch like that of Jesus’ and, therefore, heals them?  What does their touch do to us?  Does the touch of a leper also heal us in a way?


For the last two Sundays, we have been reflecting on the mystery of human suffering and on the grace of a Healer, Jesus, who Himself is broken.  Our reflection today still do not give satisfying answers to our questions on suffering.  Certainly, they also do not erase sufferings – ours and others – at all.  But as human suffering is not a problem to be solved but a mystery to be enlightened on, we continue to beg Jesus, who is the Light of the world, to enlighten us and make us see Him, love Him, and serve Him in the person of anyone who suffers even as we ourselves have our own sufferings to bear.


“Where is God now?” cries a spectator who can bear no longer the horrifying sight of a little child dying, hanging on the gallows.  “He is here.  God is here hanging on the gallows,” a voice replies coming from the deep recesses of our hearts.  But will our touch reach for Him who hangs on the gallows?

1 Comments:

At 10:42 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Fr. Bobby,

I feel so blessed being one of the many who got the time to purposely visit your website, though not so often, but I get there.

In this Homily, I could fully understand why people experience sufferings..... sufferings when you turn to Him means Enlightenment,, He is our Light,He is our guide , He is our companion, our friend who is ever ready to listen to our long winded stories in this journey. He is the complete figure whom we can freely express our all.

Moreso, His touch in our lives makes us closer to Him.

Thank you Fr. Bobby for burning your midnight oil everytime because of your great Love for Jesus . Your Homilies that changes spirit.

God bless you and family !

-rory

 

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