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Bible Reflections View Comments

Looking Beyond What Seems Possible
By Kathleen M. Carroll
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, July 1, 2012
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The ancients understood the sky as a fixed “roof” over the Earth. Centuries later, explorers like Columbus believed it was a sphere that surrounded the Earth—so that one could sail westward and eventually arrive in the East. Copernicus and Galileo used their observations to describe the sky as a vast space wherein the planets, Earth included, revolved around the sun.

Each time the definition of “sky,” was broadened, people were frightened. Despite that fear, new possibilities, new (literal) horizons opened up. Europeans discovered the New World. Astronauts golfed on the moon. Today, we have probes exploring deep space
and the Hubble Space Telescope provides images of galaxies so far distant that looking at them means looking back in time.

None of this could have happened if we had taken things at face value. We would still be sure that the sun revolves around the Earth. Our maps would still be marked with “Here there be dragons” along the edges. And the Wright brothers would have kept to their bicycle repairs so as not to run into the sky. Of course, there is no “sky.” There never was. There was only a limit to our vision, our imagination, our faith.

Today’s Gospel challenges us to expand our vision and strengthen our faith. Jairus, a synagogue official, comes to Jesus, begging for his young daughter’s life. Given the reception Jesus so often received by the religious authorities of his day, this is something
of a miracle in itself. Jairus has opened his mind to the possibility that this new teacher, this healer, can help.

Similarly, the woman who had been ill for twelve years had been disappointed by many doctors. Her illness made her an outcast, ritually unclean. She should not have been out in public at all, much less in a crowd, and it was out of the question to touch a rabbi (as
Jesus was) and render him unclean. She is desperate, but also hopeful. A pragmatic person might have asked her: If no doctor has been able to help you in twelve years, why should this wonder-worker be any different? If no self-respecting rabbi would so much as speak to you, why would Jesus heal you? Yet she believes—not merely that Jesus can heal her, but that the mere touch of his clothing can do so. Knowing what has happened Jesus stops to confront this woman. As always, he takes the focus off of the miracle. The power this healing has displayed pales in comparison to the power of his message. He makes clear
to the woman that her faith has healed her.

When news comes that Jairus’s daughter has died, Jesus presses on. His response to the mourners makes clear that death is no obstacle for him. Raising the girl from the dead, he urges the mourners, “What is needed is faith.”

As we all know too well, God does not heal everyone who is ill. Suffering and death are our constant companions. Jesus does not offer physical healing to all of us, but he offers what he knows to be even more desperately needed—faith. God’s power is not limited by distance, by difficulty or by death. God offers us an unbounded universe of goodness, inviting us to share in his own divine life. The only limit to what God can do in our lives is the one we set ourselves—the limit of our faith.


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Philip Neri: Philip Neri was a sign of contradiction, combining popularity with piety against the background of a corrupt Rome and a disinterested clergy, the whole post-Renaissance malaise. 
<p>At an early age, he abandoned the chance to become a businessman, moved to Rome from Florence and devoted his life and individuality to God. After three years of philosophy and theology studies, he gave up any thought of ordination. The next 13 years were spent in a vocation unusual at the time—that of a layperson actively engaged in prayer and the apostolate. </p><p>As the Council of Trent (1545-63) was reforming the Church on a doctrinal level, Philip’s appealing personality was winning him friends from all levels of society, from beggars to cardinals. He rapidly gathered around himself a group of laypersons won over by his audacious spirituality. Initially they met as an informal prayer and discussion group, and also served poor people in Rome. </p><p>At the urging of his confessor, he was ordained a priest and soon became an outstanding confessor, gifted with the knack of piercing the pretenses and illusions of others, though always in a charitable manner and often with a joke. He arranged talks, discussions and prayers for his penitents in a room above the church. He sometimes led “excursions” to other churches, often with music and a picnic on the way. </p><p>Some of his followers became priests and lived together in community. This was the beginning of the Oratory, the religious institute he founded. A feature of their life was a daily afternoon service of four informal talks, with vernacular hymns and prayers. Giovanni Palestrina was one of Philip’s followers, and composed music for the services. </p><p>The Oratory was finally approved after suffering through a period of accusations of being an assembly of heretics, where laypersons preached and sang vernacular hymns! (Cardinal Newman founded the first English-speaking house of the Oratory three centuries later.) </p><p>Philip’s advice was sought by many of the prominent figures of his day. He is one of the influential figures of the Counter-Reformation, mainly for converting to personal holiness many of the influential people within the Church itself. His characteristic virtues were humility and gaiety.</p> American Catholic Blog When we suffer, we don’t just come to understand the pain of Christ’s cross more, we come to understand the depth of God’s love for us: that he would endure such pain for us—in our place. We have a God who endured death so we would never have to do so.

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