Showing posts with label Rome. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Rome. Show all posts

How we should touch Jesus in the Eucharist

Mark 5:21-43 (13th Sunday of Ordinary Time, year B)

A young girl was becoming impatient and antsy during Mass. The homily was long and boring. The Church was very hot. All the prayers seemed to drag on. After the girl could take it no longer she turned to her mother and said, “mommy, when can we get out of here?!” Her mother told her she needed to sit still for just a few minutes longer. Frustrated, the girl slumped into her pew and began looking around the Church to kill time. As she gazed at the backs of the different interesting people at Mass, her eyes caught hold of the red, sanctuary lamp. At that moment, something clicked inside the girl’s head. She pulled on her mother’s sleeve and said to her, “mommy, when the light turns green can we go?”

We can sometimes approach our time in Church like that little girl. The only thing on our mind is when we can get out of here! It's easy to be so focused on when we can get out of the Church that we risk getting nothing out of Mass. The story we just heard about the hemorrhaging woman teaches us how we can prevent this from happening.

A central theme in the story of Jesus healing the woman is the different ways that people touch Jesus and the corresponding effect this has on their lives. Jesus is walking through a large crowd. As a result, many people are touching Him as He makes His way past them. These people, however, touch Jesus without considering who He is or what He could do for them. To them He is just an ordinary person. The people who touch Jesus in this way experience no change in their lives. As He walks along, Jesus suddenly stops and exclaims to His disciples, “who touched me?” They don’t know who to respond to this. They are in a crowd. People are bumping into Jesus at every moment. Jesus realizes that someone touched Him in a way that was radically different from the rest of the people. He wants to know who touched Him with faith. Turning around, He came face to face with the hemorrhaging woman.

This poor individual had been bleeding for twelve years. She had spent all her money visiting doctors in a vain search for a cure. In addition to her physical ailment, the woman suffers emotionally. Because of her bleeding, the Mosaic law dictates that she is ritually unclean. As a result, no one is permitted to touch her or else they too will become unclean. Eventually this desperate woman hears about Jesus and travels a long distance to visit Him. She knows that He is no ordinary man and trusts in His power. She thinks, “if only I can touch His clothes, I can be cured”.  Reaching out, she touches Jesus in a way different than everyone else in the crowd. She touches Him with faith. Because of this, she alone among the crowd is changed by touching Jesus. Power flows out of Jesus and she is healed.

In every Sacrament, and especially in the Eucharist, we have the opportunity to touch Jesus just like the hemorrhaging woman. In the catacombs of Marcellinus and Peter in Rome, there is a 4th century fresco that depicts the scene of Jesus healing the bleeding woman. The image catches the woman at the moment she has touched the cloak of Jesus with great trust and faith. Ancient Christians created this fresco in order for two reasons: 1) to depict this biblical story as well, and 2) to encourage all who look at the image to remember that each time they receive a Sacrament they take the role of the hemorrhaging woman in the story.  Like her, when we approach any Sacrament we come with some woundedness. Hopelessness. A hurt from a relationship. Captivity to sin. In each Sacrament, we touch Jesus. When we touch Him with faith and trust, power, which we call grace, flows from Jesus into us. As a result we receive some healing. We grow closer to Jesus and are strengthened as we follow after Him. The Sacrament in which we have the opportunity to touch Jesus in the most profound way is the Eucharist. When we receive Holy Communion at Mass, we touch Jesus who is truly present in the consecrated Host.

Whenever we receive the Eucharist, it is critical that we touch Jesus in the same way that the hemorrhaging woman did. Unfortunately, we often touch Jesus in the way that the rest of the crowd did. As He walked among them, they touched Him with a lack of faith and trust. As a result, they were not changed by their encounter. Receiving Communion can be like this for us. When we touch the Host, we do it without thinking Who we are touching or what we desire Him to do for us. This is a problem. When we swallow a pill, the medicine works on us regardless of what sentiments we carry in our heart. Receiving Communion does not work like this. Our disposition matters greatly. Unless we approach Jesus in the Eucharist with the faith and trust of the sick woman we do not receive all the graces Jesus wants to give us.

Once I witnessed someone who touched Jesus in the Eucharist in the same way that the hemorrhaging woman touched Jesus in the crowd. At the time I was living in Tijuana. As part of my apostolate I would attend Mass in a poor chapel in a rural area of the city called Ranchito. In this town there lived a young girl whose name was Xóchitl. Xóchitl was born with spina bifida and suffered much from the complications of her illness. As a result, she was often in pain when I saw her at Mass. Xóchitl’s mom once gave an amazing account of what her daughter does at Mass. On days when Xóchitl feels particularly bad, after she has received communion she simply says to Jesus in her heart, “please make me feel better”. When Xóchitl touches Jesus with this kind of profound faith and trust, Jesus certainly floods her with grace and enters into a deeper relationship with her at this moment.

Whenever we are at Mass we should try to imitate Xóchitl rather than the girl who caught sight of the red sanctuary Mass. When you receive Holy Communion today, touch Jesus with the faith of the hemorrhaging woman, trusting that He will heal you and draw you closer to Himself.

Personal update: back to school!

With the recent publication of the Pastoral Appointments for 2015, it was made official that come mid-July I will be going back to school. Since the news has been out, people have asked me questions about what comes next and how I am approaching this change in my life. Here's some answers.

What will I study? Where? For how long?
Before ordination priests are required to study philosophy and theology. After we obtain a general degree in theology, it is possible to study deeper in a specific area. I will be pursuing further studies in Sacred Scripture. Specifically, I work towards completing a Licentiate in Sacred Scripture. A licentiate is the second of three degrees offered by Pontifical Universities: baccalaureate, licentiate and doctorate.
Pontifical Biblical Institute
I will study at the Pontifical Biblical Institute (aka Biblicum) in Rome. The Biblicum was founded by Pope St. Pius X in 1904 as a center for advanced studies in Scripture. From the start, the Biblicum has been run by the Jesuits. Interestingly, the current head of the school, Fr. Michael Kolarcik SJ, was born in New Westminster, Canada.

If all goes well, it will take me three years to complete my studies at the Biblicum. The program will require a lot of language studies, something I find more than a little intimidating. Before the program begins in October I will go to Germany for a couple months to study German. During my first year at the Biblicum I will study ancient Greek and Hebrew. In the following two years I will take courses in biblical history, geography, archaeology and methods of interpretation. While studying in Rome, I will live at the Canadian Pontifical College (in Rome everything is "Pontifical"!). Since 1888 this has been a residence for Canadian priests in Rome. It is run by the Sulpician religious community.
Pontifical Canadian College
How do I feel about the change?
As my younger friends would say, I have many “feels” about it! On the one hand I feel sad leaving behind my family and the friends I made in the three parishes I served at in the past few years: St. Matthew, St. Joseph the Worker and St. Paul. I really love working in a parish, particularly because I have the chance to interact with so many great people. I enjoy serving them and I appreciate the kindness and support they show me. Leaving this behind will be difficult. I also feel some anxiety. I am unsure about how everything will work out, particularly because my area of studies will be quite challenging for me. On the other hand, I am very excited to go back to school. I am a big nerd so studying is something I really enjoy. I love the idea of studying Scripture. St. Jerome famously said “ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ”. By reducing my ignorance of Scripture, I hope to get to know Jesus better! The idea of being in Rome again makes me happy. Previously I lived there for three years while I studied theology and I love the city. I am very grateful to Archbishop Miller for this opportunity and I intend work hard and make the most of it. It will be a great chance for me to grow personally and I hope that these studies will help me to better serve the Archdiocese of Vancouver in the future. So many feels!

When I leave to study in July, the nature of this blog will probably change. Since I will no longer be working in a parish, I will not be regularly posting homilies. Instead, I hope to write some reflections about my experiences studying Scripture and living in Rome. Thank you all for your support and prayers during this time of transition for me!