23rd Sunday after Pentecost
In today’s Gospel we find a woman who is seriously sick. St Mark’s account gives us a number of details that are worth considering. She has spent all her resources on doctors, but to no avail. She has only gotten worse. So it is that when we expect help from creatures without God, we are doomed to be grievously disappointed. This woman (who by the way is not named, but one tradition identifies her with Veronica who will wipe the face of Jesus on the way to Calvary), has learned the hard way that outside of Jesus there is no hope, and so she makes an effort to go to Him in humility, certain that the simple contact with Him can save her. St Mark also informs us that there were many people all around Our Lord, pressing in on Him from every side. Everybody wanted to touch Him! The woman’s task therefore must have been nearly impossible. After 12 years of haemorrhaging, she must have been weakened to the extreme. And yet, somehow she makes it to Jesus and just barely is able to touch the hem of His garment. The faith of the woman is astounding. She need only touch the hem of his garment. Some commentators point out that we have here a clear indication of the use God makes of material objects to confer grace. The entire institution of sacramentals in the Church as well as devotion to the relics of the Saints finds its origin in the gesture of faith and humility of this woman. Essentially it means: I am not worthy to touch the body of Jesus, but I know that even something He has touched will be enough. We can also see here, more broadly speaking, the power of the Church, Christ’s mystical body, through which grace comes to all those who approach her with faith and humility.
Her attitude is contrasted by another attitude which we find in today’s epistle, where St Paul speaks of those who lives as enemies of the cross of Christ; whose end is destruction. Who are these enemies of the cross who make of what is shameful their title of glory, and brought the apostle to tears? He gives us a clear indication when he says that their God is their belly, and their glory is in their shame. In other words, they not only live for their belly, that is to say, for the satisfaction of their beastly senses, but worse, much worse, they glorify themselves in it. For a more detailed version of who is referring to, we need only read the first chapter of his epistle to the Romans to see that he is referring to sodomites. Not, mind you, people who struggle with SSA, but those who have ceased to struggle, who have given in, and who make a God of their belly. They are, he says there: insolent, haughty, boastful (Rom 1 :30).
Today, the same old perversions wax strong and spread like wildfire ever since they have been made to appear nice and inoffensive thanks to such newspeak labels as gay, LGBTQ+ etc. So true it is that when you want to get people to accept a form of perversion, the first thing to do is call it by another name. So they stopped speaking of onanism and called it birth control (even though as Archbishop Fulton Sheen so aptly pointed out, the expression means nothings, since those who promote it believe neither in birth nor in control), and so they stopped speaking of abortion and started to refer to a “termination” not telling you they are terminating the life of an innocent baby. So it is that when vice becomes your god, you become really good at telling lies, and you do so with a smile on your face.
It seems that almost daily, the triumphal march of the sodomites through every level of state and Church continues unchallenged, or even, encouraged by the very ones who should be putting their foot down and saying: enough! The sure indication of how lost these people are is the fact they they themselves say they are proud of who they are and what they do. Whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame. If only they had an ounce of humility, they could be saved. But without it there is no hope at all. Corruption and death and damnation await them, and all those who encourage them, including those shepherds who are afraid to challenge them and call them to conversion.
But until such a time as our shepherds wake up from their slumber and resume the functions they have cowardly abandoned, we find ourselves, like the Hebrews of old, exiled in a foreign land. What is this captivity of which the sacred text speaks? Historically it is the Babylonian captivity, the seventy years during which the Hebrews were far from their homeland and reduced to slavery. Finally, after a very long wait, they were allowed to return and rebuild the temple that had been destroyed.
But the events of the Old Testament happened as a prefiguration of those of the New. The Church too, which is the true heir of Israel as St Paul makes it clear – we are the true Israelites, we who believe in Christ – knows its periods of exile. The one most often referred to was the captivity in Avignon, or the Babylonian captivity of the papacy. It lasted for the greater part of the 14th century, and led to the Great Western Schism, which in turn was a remote cause of the Reformation.
It cannot be an exaggeration to say that we are going through a very similar situation to the captivity. Indeed, for sixty years now, everything in our faith has been so altered as to be hardly recognisable. We find ourselves in exile from our own church.
St Peter, wrote to the first generation of Christians: it is time for the judgment to begin with the household of God; if it begins with us, how will it end for those who fail to obey the gospel of God? “And if the righteous one is barely saved, where will the godless and the sinner appear?” (1Pe 4:17-18). That is a question we would do well to ask ourselves as the sodomite takeover of our world gains new ground every day. When fire and brimstone rained over Sodom and Gomorra, there was no distinction between saint and sinner, nor will there be in the coming chastisement of the world. Am I my brother’s keeper? Yes I am, and if I fail to speak out and denounce vice when I am able, I may not be able to later.
In today’s introit, however, the Lord assures His people through the mouth of the prophet that they shall return from exile to which they have been scattered because of their sins. My thoughts are thoughts of peace. You shall call upon me and I will hear you and I will bring back your captivity. If only you have enough humility to call upon the Lord, acknowledging that you cannot save yourself, then you can be saved. But if you are proud of your sin, you lock yourself outside with your own hands.