Last weekend I was with the other deacons of the Archdiocese. We were learning about St. Paul and reflecting on our ministry as deacons. We even met with the Archbishop. During a lunch break, one of the deacons was telling me about his younger brother who was having a fairly routine surgery many years ago. I think it was in rural Saskatchewan. Something went wrong during the surgery, and his brother lost a lot of blood. He needed a transfusion. There was no blood bank nearby, so the doctor tested the family members to see if any of them could give blood. One of his brothers was eligible, so they laid him down next to the brother who had the surgery and they connected them so the blood could flow from the healthy brother to the one who needed blood.
When the brother who had the surgery came to, he told the family how his arm was feeling very cold, and then, just before he woke up, he started to feel his arm – the arm that was getting the blood – become warm. It’s one of those stories where everything turned out OK. We can picture the healing power of the healthy brother’s blood flowing into a body that was approaching death.
We heard two stories of healing in the Gospel today. It’s the story of the woman with the hemorrhage that reminded me of the deacon’s two brothers. We heard that she pushed her way through the crowd that was following Jesus, and without asking permission, touched his cloak – and was healed. It was a pretty gutsy move, because in those days, if a woman was bleeding, she was considered unclean, and if she touched someone, it would make them unclean. But she did it anyway – out of desperation and from a deep faith in Jesus.
It’s the only one of Jesus’ healing miracles that HE didn’t initiate, and because he didn’t initiate the healing, we get an unexpected insight into the healing process. Jesus says that he felt something – a power – go out from himself. When Jesus healed, there was something in him that was given to the person being healed – something like the brother whose blood flowed into his brother’s arm. But there’s a difference. When the one brother was giving blood to the other brother, there was a limit. If he had given too much blood to his brother, he would have put his own life in danger. Now, although Jesus could feel the healing energy leave his body, he didn’t have to say: “Wait guys, I need a break. Who’s got the power bars?” He went directly to the home of Jairus and healed his daughter. Jesus wasn’t giving something that was in limited supply. He was sharing something that was limitless – his love.
What’s he trying to tell us? In the second reading, St. Paul was talking to the Corinthians. Apparently, the Corinthians were financially secure, but St. Paul knew that other Christian communities were suffering severe financial need. He was asking the Corinthians for help – not for himself, but for the communities that were poor and suffering. And just as the doctor would not have taken too much blood from the healthy brother, St. Paul was encouraging them to give what they could reasonably afford. If they had given everything, then St. Paul would have been asking others folks to help the Corinthians. The guideline he gave them was very sensible: “The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little.”
We’ve been doing something similar with the people in Jamaica. We’ve found some of the poorest people in a very poor country, and we’re sharing some of our abundance so that “…the ones who have little, do not have too little.” I would remind you that we are still short of our goals for Jamaica, so if you can help, we will appreciate your “healing energy.”
There was a movie that came out a few years ago called “Pay It Forward.” A 12-year old boy was given an assignment in school to make the world a better place. So he decided that he would do something good for three people, and then tell each of them that they had to do something good for three other people. So they wouldn’t pay the favour back, they would pay it forward. Toward the end of the movie, the young boy was disappointed because he thought he hadn’t accomplished anything. Then we saw how many people’s lives had actually been touched by these three acts of kindness that became nine, and then 27, and so on.
Wouldn’t that be an appropriate response to today’s Gospel? Do you think you could do that? Do you think you could find three people, do an act of kindness for each of them – and then encourage them to do acts of kindness for three other people? I’d like you to try. And I’d like you to tell me about it. My e-mail address is in the Bulletin, or you can write me a note and put it in the collection basket. Tell me about the kindness you’ve shown to someone else, and tell me especially about the kindness that person did for the next person (or three people). Please let me know.
James Taylor is a folk singer from my era. His life had more ups and downs than the roller coaster at the West Edmonton Mall. But despite all the turmoil in his life, he wrote one of the most beautiful and inspiring songs I’ve ever heard. It speaks to the unlimited love that Jesus showed in today’s Gospel – and the love that I’m asking you to show to three people. The song is called “Shower the People.” If you’re looking for a theme song for your life, I would recommend that you have a listen. You can find it on U-Tube. The song says: “Shower the people you love with love. Show them the way that you feel. Things are going to be much better if you only will.” If we listen to the words of Jesus, we know that “the people we love” should include everyone. So when James Taylor says “Shower the people you love with love,” he’s saying “love everyone.” And he’s telling us to show everyone that love – to literally shower that love on everyone.
In response to today’s Gospel, I’ve asked you to consider doing acts of kindness for three people. And because some of you probably have memories as bad as mine, I’ve made a handout. It’s in the Bulletin. I want you to take that sheet home with you and put in on the fridge, or wherever you put reminders, so that each time you look at it you remember the great love that Jesus showed the woman in the Gospel today, the love that he could feel leaving his body. And when you see it, I want you to remember that Jesus is asking you to share that same love with the people who come into your life – to let that love flow out from you and touch others – to shower those people with love!