July 1, 2018

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time


Like many others, I was deeply moved by the 2016 film “Lion,” based on the autobiographical book “A Long Way Home” by Saroo Brierley. Born into a poor Indian family, at the age of 5 Saroo already was working alongside his older brother, assisting him to steal coal that could be traded for milk and food for the family. During one of their jobs, an exhausted Saroo falls asleep on a train-station bench and wakes up to find his brother gone. Thinking that the older boy must have boarded a train, Saroo does the same and falls again into a deep sleep. When he awakes, he finds himself far from home.

Saroo’s lot improves when he is adopted by a loving Australian couple and returns with them to Tasmania. Years later, realizing the devastation his disappearance must have caused his birth family, Saroo begins to hunt for his hometown using Google Earth. He searches relentlessly for a long (and often discouraging) time until, at last, by persistence, he finds his birth mother and sister and is reunited with them back in India.

I share the story as an example of persistent faith, which is arguably the core message of today’s Gospel from Mark. The woman with the hemorrhage violates the Mosaic law on several counts because of her unshakeable faith that Jesus may succeed where countless doctors have failed her.

The synagogue official, Jairus, for his part, somehow trusts in Jesus even after receiving the news that his daughter has died. I always have loved the old 1970 New American Bible translation of Jesus’ words to the grieving father: “Fear is useless; what is needed is trust.” And because Jairus somehow does trust, even death itself is forced to give way when Jesus tells the child, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!”

Ours is a God of life, a God of surprises, a God who changes mourning into dancing. The challenge for us lies in resisting the distractions of the world’s seeming darkness. Jesus is himself life and light. If we cling tenaciously to his promises and persevere in our faith, we may not always get the cure that we want, but we always will get the healing that we need.

Homily Helps for the June issue were written by FATHER DAN RUFF, SJ, who teaches homiletics as an adjunct faculty member at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, and FATHER RICHARD R. DE LILLIO, OSFS, D.Min., an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales, who is a recently retired associate professor of homiletics at The Catholic University of America.