“Purity of Favor”

 

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 1, 2018

Lamentations 3: 22-33 / Psalm 30: 3-12

2 Corinthians 8: 7-9 / Mark 5: 25-34

 

Fr. Roberto M. Jorvina

 

 

This is a great day that God has made.  It is a day that will never be repeated in history.  It is a day and an opportunity that God has given us to gather.   As God’s community, as believers, we are continually zealous for God.  

 

It is July 1.  One hundred and eight-one days has already passed in 2018.  Tomorrow will be the midpoint, and after tomorrow, we will be in the second half of our year.  The journey continues.  Life does not stop no matter how difficult and how challenging it may be.

 

The Church continues to celebrate Ordinary Time, which is all about your life and mine.  It is about our Christian Life.   It is a wonderful and exciting journey of faith.  It is a daily drama of God’s love expressed in moments of testing and difficulty, but which are surpassed by God’s deliverance and victory. It is a daily encounter with God’s favor – that Divine, amazing grace that gives us the ability to be more than conquerors.  

 

Ordinary time is all about Christ’s victory – our victory. I want us to have this frame of mind even as we go today so that we leave this place not as people who came in, but so that we can go forth as people that have been transformed into a greater and more hopeful life. Sunday is not just something to fill or to assuage our guilt that we did not go to Mass just so someone would be pleased or so that God will hear our petitions.  Sunday is supposed to be a time for us to form Christ in us.   This is why we partake of the Eucharist, and in partaking of Christ, we become like Him every time we do so. 

 

We are faced each day with trials and tests, but Psalm 34:19 says, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” Not of a few, not of some, or if you are fortunate, but God delivers them out of them All.   If we think that being a Christian insulates us from trials, problems, and difficulties, then we have not understood the Scriptures.  Jesus Himself said, “That they are in this world but they are of this world.”  

 

Peter's epistle is the epistle of hope.   He was being ready to be martyred, hang upside down on a cross, the same cross that Christ died on.  Day to day, Peter’s life was being threatened in the risk of being caught and tortured.  He said in 1 Peter 4:12, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you which comes upon you for your testing as though some strange thing were happening to you.”  It is normal to be a Christian and to undergo tests and trials to prove that God is a great God. This is the proof of God’s power and victory.  Jesus prayed, “I do not ask to take them out of this world, but to keep them from the evil one.”

 

Lamentations 3:22-33 begins with, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,” and for us to appreciate this, we must read the earlier chapters.  Chapter one starts with a very sorrowful lament, “Alas…”which is a cry of scorn and remorse where a person is almost hopeless.  Jeremiah, the weeping prophet writes this book, but he realized in verse 22 that the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, and His mercies never come to an end.  They are fresh; they are new every morning.  Great is His faithfulness!  

 

In 2 Corinthians 8:9, Paul wrote about the people in Macedonia in their affliction and their extreme poverty, and says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor so that you, through His poverty might become rich.”  

 

I wish to pick up from the Primate’s homily last week, naming the 2 points that he stressed: first remember who is for you especially when trials come and when storms of life are so strong.   Secondly, choose to trust God in the midst of your difficulties.    I continue with this thought today focusing on God’s favor – His grace. 

 

Today’s gospel, taken from Mark 5 and also from Luke 8, is the story of the woman with the issue of blood. It is a fitting sequel to the gospel last week, where our Lord, our hero, Jesus Christ, lays another beautiful lesson that we must hold on to in this Christian life.

 

I would to entitle our lesson today using the popular acronym: “TGIF” – Touching God in Faith.  Touching is an essential part of our humanity. Doctors will affirm and pediatricians will say that, “Babies who are born need to be touch.”  Meaning is conveyed by touch and personal encounter.   Lovers express their affection by touch.  Touching is a means of transmitting our deepest feelings and emotions.   To go even further – life is conceived through touch.

 

In Mark 5:25-34, Jesus was walking to the house of Jairus and He was stopped by a crowd, and many were touching Him.  The problem was that they were not touching Him in faith.  Faith is very important for a Christian’s life.   Without faith, it is impossible to please God because when we come to God, we must believe that He is.  Faith is a living proof of God’s favor. Faith is a very vital weapon for each of us to have so that the abundant life which Jesus had made available through His death and resurrection will be on us.  Faith is like a conduit, a pipe that connects us to the vast riches of heaven.

 

La Mesa Dam is filled with water but unless there are pipes that Maynilad and Manila Water will install to connect that, no one of us will enjoy the blessing of that water from that dam.  Heaven is filled with blessings and abundance, but it will stay there unless we now have a connection, and that connection is faith.  This connection is what will till the fallow ground.  In Proverbs, it says, “Abundant food is in the fallow ground of the poor.”  The Philippines is one of the blessed nations, and one writer said that it is a nation so rich pretending to be poor because it has not tapped what God has given. 

 

We need faith in order that the riches of healing, prosperity, abundance, joy, peace and love – all of God’s abundance – will be with us.  All that the Lord promised in Scriptures becomes ours by faith.  Faith translates, transports us from the realm of mere men to the kingdom of God.  It is the evidence of things we are just hoping for and we do not see it.

 

Many of us come to Church, and we hear the Word preached, but we leave and return to our daily routine unchanged, unaffected because for many, we have not received it in faith. In Hebrews 4:2, it says, “For indeed, we have the good news preached to us, just as they (the Israelites) but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard.”

 

The woman with the issue of blood had a need so she came touching God in faith.   Touching God in faith shows us three things.  One, it changes our hopelessness to give us hope.  Twelve years of having the disease made the woman in the gospel an outcast of the society.  She has tried many doctors and human means of cure.  She spent all her resources she had but she has gone worse. This is the world we are immersed in - a world that trusts more in human ability.  Instead of getting better, we have gone worse as a people.  We begin to realize what is wrong, and what is wrong is that we are not touching God in faith.

 

Psalm 118:8 says, “In Luke 5:1-11, it shows the abundant product of trust and faith of Peter.  Jesus sees Peter, James, John and Andrew, and they have gone all night fishing, but they got nothing.  Then Jesus said, “Throw your net in the other side.”  Peter was a professional fisherman for many years.  Andrew, James and John were also professional fishermen.  Jesus was telling them where to throw their nets and He was a carpenter, but He was not an ordinary man.  He is the Son of God, with the ability of God.   Peter obeys Jesus and pulls out the net and it was so heavy that he had to call the other fisherman for help. 

 

This is about trusting God in that human ability.  We have our education and our training, and I don’t put them down; but when it comes to the end of the rope, the education and training may fail, but God will never fail.  When it comes to the end of the rope, people may not be able to help us, but God is always our helpmeet – the Helper from heaven and earth – for  God is always with us.   

 

The woman in the gospel comes to Jesus and she is in a hopeless state.  She is sick with the issue of blood, and by the law, a person with this kind of sickness is not supposed to associate with anyone.  She is not even allowed to mingle with the crowd.   She took a great risk in order to come to Jesus.  She took a great risk to be humiliated, to be taunted, and to be even kicked and stoned.   She took the risk because in verse 27, it says that this woman, “after hearing about Jesus…” saying to us that someone must have shared Jesus to her.  Someone concerned;   someone compassionate let her know. Someone obedient to the Gospel who heard Jesus say, “Go and preach,” activated her faith.  It changed her hopelessness to hope. 

 

Our obedience activates faith which brings us victory.   In every opportunity that we have, talk about Jesus and what He has done in our lives.  The people around us – an officemate, a classmate, a person riding with us in a jeepney – who knows that is what they need to hear so that they can be delivered from their oppression.  We will not know, but what wrong will it do if we share Jesus?  What wrong will it do when we go out and share Jesus?  Opportunities abound in our lives and we can be touching someone who has an issue with blood and who hears about Jesus and will go to Him.

 

Keep hope alive in us.  Every person must believe that salvation, that change, that redemption is still possible and that the Gospel is more powerful than the evils we see around.  We must believe that the healing power of Jesus Christ is still more potent and life-giving than the sickness and diseases we see all around. Believe that Jehovah Jireh still meets all our needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.  We must still believe that our God, the Living One, is greater in us than he who is in the world.  We must still believe that God who has supplied everything is greater than the poverty we see all around us.  We must still believe that God is a God of miracles in spite of the impossibilities that confront us. A person with cancer may be easily distraught and be affected, but we must believe and never allow what we hear to dissuade our faith in God.  Touching Jesus changes hopelessness to hope.

 

Second, touching Jesus in faith also empowers us to defy all odds and opposition.  It gives us the boldness.  When we touch Jesus with faith, there is the strength to face, undaunted and resolute, difficult and grueling situations, to stand firm on our beliefs, to witness for Christ in spite of our timidity and shyness.   When we allow Jesus in our lives, it energizes our lives to be bold, steadfast, immovable and .always abounding in the work of the Lord because nothing we do will be in vain. 

 

In verse 33, this woman was fearful and trembling. She was just like many of us beset with human weakness and limitations.  Yet when we are seized with the power of the Spirit of God, we become men and women we did not imagine we could be. She was an outcast of society, considered unclean.  She was damned to live the rest of her life in isolation.  She faced a crowd who surrounded Jesus, and there was no way she could get near Him.  She did not give up! She was gripped with faith.  She was touched in faith and she began to reach in spite of the opposition to make her way to the crowd. 

 

Many times, we are immediately defeated when we face a situation.  We say that we can’t do it and it is not possible.  If this is our thinking, we wouldn’t have a David who beat Goliath or a Samson who killed the lion.  The woman with the issue of blood faced impossible odds and oppositions, but she never lost faith.   She touched God in faith.

 

It is a natural tendency for us to take the easy way.  In the world we live in today, the world filled with modern conveniences, we prefer to avoid opposing and demanding situations. God is a God whose provisions we trust.   Whatever Goliath is facing us, do not be intimidated by his taunts.  Proverbs says that the righteous is as bold as a lion, but the wicked run even though no one is pursuing. 

 

Thirdly, touching Jesus by faith transforms us from a nobody to a someone given distinction and honor.  The story begins by referring to the woman as an anonymous individual – nameless, without an identity. She was “a certain woman”.  In Luke’s gospel account of the same story, when this woman touched Jesus, Jesus said, “Somebody.”  That nobody became a somebody, and when this somebody (Luke 8:46) touched Jesus in faith, Jesus called her “Daughter”.  Jesus said, “Daughter, your faith has made you well.”

 

We will be lifted by God when we touch Jesus by faith.  Our life will not be meaningless.   We will become not just a somebody, but a daughter, a child, a son, of the Living God.  We will be an heir, a co-heir with Jesus.  In 1 Peter 2:10, it says, “For we were once not a people, but now we have become the people of God.”  Ephesians 2:1-3, “We were dead in our sins and sons of disobedience, children of wrath… but in verse 4 it says, “We now have been made alive in Him, raised with Christ, and seated with Him in the heavenly places.”

 

This is a not a fairy tale.  This is real.  It touches the ground.  It gives us the food when we need it. If God has to send the ravens to feed us, He will. It gives us provisions to pay our bills. It gives us healing when we feel low because God is a God of miracles.  He is more than enough, and He is a God who is able to do exceeding, abundantly, beyond all that we can ask or imagine.  Touch God in faith!  

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