Psalms 22:26-28, 30-32
“Do not grow weary and lose heart…”
“We will proclaim God to generations yet to be born…”
“Do not be afraid. Just believe!”
I am disturbed by a story that I heard recently about a young woman who wanted her child baptized. She was told that the child could be baptized, but that it would be done privately, rather than during Mass, since the young mother was unmarried. Luckily, the young woman did not give up, (“Do not...lose heart…,” Heb. 12, 3). She joined another parish, and prepared to have her child baptized. A few weeks ago, the child was baptized in the midst of a loving, faith-filled community during a Sunday parish liturgy. I was appalled when I first heard this story, but rejoice that the young woman did not give up hope. The young mother instinctively knew that there are faith communities that do not put judgmental conditions around the baptismal proclaiming of a child as beloved of God, and favored as a God-image in our faith journey.
Today’s scripture readings remind us to, “…not grow weary and lose heart…,” (Heb. 12, 3). I marvel at the young woman - the faith and courage that she had, as well as the persistence to follow her heart and her instincts to not become disillusioned by the initial response of one parish to place her and her child into a ‘special’ category (not worthy or ‘proper’ to celebrate baptism in the midst of the Sunday community at Mass). Wow! I’m not sure that I would have had the persistence and willingness to search out another community. Rather, in anger and hurt, I may have turned my back on the Church.
How do we invite others into our faith communities? What are the ‘messages’ which our faith communities convey/witness to others? Are we judgmental in our ‘spirit’…offering our welcome to those who ‘fit’ certain criteria, and shunning others (or at the very least, sending strong judgmental messages that we are doing others a favor by ‘allowing’ them into our midst?).
It seems to me that in today’s gospel, Jesus doesn’t draw lines, or respond only to those in ‘right’ places, status, or holiness. The criteria for inclusion and welcome is the belief and trust of each person in her/his God. The woman with the hemorrhage knew that if she could just ‘touch’ the hem of Jesus’ garment, she would be healed. Yet, she was fearful in her coming forth in response to Jesus’ demand, “Who touched me?” However, Jesus calms her fear, and upholds the woman as an example: “ Daughter, it is your faith that has cured you. Go in peace and be free of this illness.” (Mk. 5, 34)
God’s favor does not seek out only the lowly or only those in great places. God’s favor is an invitation to each and everyone of us…regardless of status, or ‘worthiness’ as ascribed by society, or whatever other type of measurement might be used to categorize people. We are encouraged to, “…be not afraid. Just believe!” (Mk.5, 36)
As much as I intellectually nod my understanding that God loves me for who I am, regardless of my circumstances and/or behavior, I am often over-whelmed in joy and awe, when the reality of God’s love truly sinks in…. It is NOT about earning God’s love or proving to God how ‘good’ I am; it is simply and wonderfully-God loves ME! All that is asked of me is to believe and not to fear - to trust in the life-giving love of our God.
What kind of faith communities would we be if we really believed
and fully lived this message by our open invitation to all? Wow!!!
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