Mass of Sending
Thirteenth Sunday of the Year
30 June 2012
Brothers and Sisters,
About a year ago, on the television news, we were introduced to a little Somali boy, seven month old Minhaj Gedi Farah. His family had lost everything in Somali, through war and severe drought, and had walked for days to reach a refugee camp in Northern Kenya, called Dadaab. By the time they arrived there, Minhaj was too weak to cry, and had the hollowed cheeks of a severely malnourished child. His arms were like twigs, and his skin crumpled like thin leather under the pressure of his mother’s hands. He was one of the victims of the worst famine in East Africa for sixty years. The Dadaab camp had more than one thousand refugees arriving every day, and of that number about eight hundred were children.
Within a week, with nourishment, Minhaj was out of danger. Although well below the ideal weight, the wide-eyed baby was looking around inquisitively and seemed captivated by a journalist taking his picture. His mother was now smiling broadly and planting kisses on the baby’s cheeks. Minhaj was one of those saved. This was due in large part to a massive international humanitarian aid effort. More than £50 million sterling was raised during six weeks. People around the world showed extraordinary compassion for Minhaj and others in the same desperate situation.
In the Gospel incident we read just a few moments ago, Jesus brings back to life a child who is actually dead. On the three occasions recorded in the Gospels when Jesus raised someone from the dead he demonstrated extraordinary compassion. Jesus raised the young man at Nain, because of his pity for the widow. He raised Lazarus because he felt compassion for his two sisters. In today’s incident, he raised the daughter of Jeirus from the dead, because he had compassion for her parents.
There are many ingredients in compassion involving the heart as well as the hand and even more. There is the emotion we feel when we are moved by the suffering of others and also the act of entering into the suffering of others with the intention of relieving it. The whole life of Jesus demonstrated compassion. Sinners, the sick and relatives of the dead flocked to him because he reached out to touch them.
There is a journey involved in showing compassion to others. To do so we have to be willing and able to go beyond ourselves, to the beating pulse of the rest of mankind. To be fully human, we need to be able to feel pain that is not our own. We need to be silent long enough to listen, to hear the cry of the other, to attend to someone else’s needs. Listening is at the core of compassion. To ignore our own pain, to deny or suppress it does not prepare us to respond well to what we hear from others.
We need the initiative, confidence and maybe even the courage to go beyond our own comfort zones. Otherwise we will not find our way into the lives of those who suffer, nor will we come to understand their suffering. If we are willing to take the initiative and the risks involved in this journey, we can develop a more positive approach to humanity and are more likely to translate our compassion into action. It is only then that, as individuals and as members of the Church, we can imitate God’s love for the world by our actions, sharing what we have with people in need, developing a simpler lifestyle and bringing life, healing and enhancement of life to our brothers and sisters throughout the world.
My dear young people, you have gathered here this evening around the table of the Lord because you are setting out on a journey. Fifty-five of you and eight leaders will set out for Lourdes at the end of this week. Towards the end of the month of July, twenty-nine of you and eleven leaders will set out for Taizé. Then towards the end of August, twenty-two of you (including leaders) will set out for Medjugorje. Your journey will have enormous potential for growth, in your humanity and in Christian living. As you listened to his Word this evening, did it occur to you that the Lord was speaking to you and challenging you?
The God who gives life may have been inspiring you to share the blessings of life with others, whether the invalids in Lourdes or the challenged at Taizé. The wisdom reading assures us that our God takes no pleasure in death or extinction, but delights in all living things. In our second reading Paul urges the people of Corinth to share their surplus with people in need and to build a more caring society. In the extract from Mark’s gospel we heard two stories of healing that portray Jesus as the source of life.
Is the Holy Spirit, the Advocate that Jesus promised to send, commending you on the initiative you are showing in undertaking your journey and inviting you to a deeper understanding of the mystery of life? In accepting the challenge of pilgrimage, you are opening your hearts and minds to enriching your humanity. You will meet people who live their lives in the shadow of sickness and weakness, and you will learn much wisdom from their struggle. If you look closely, you will find God’s finger at work in the lives of others, and you will learn much about the complexity of life and the power of weakness. If you let God guide you, you will have a most enriching and unforgettable experience.
May God go with you and enlighten your hearts and minds in his love.
Liam S. MacDaid