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Monday, July 9, 2012

Homily for Matthew 9:18-26 and Hosea 2

          The prophet Hosea assures Israel that the Lord will restore right relations with her. He will win her over once more and they shall be wed. Sparks from the days of old will be rekindled and faithful love will mark the friendship - as it was designed to be. Israel will be united to her lover. Hosea promises a joyful time for the nation, but this joy is tempered by the remembrance of past infidelities and hardship. They will no longer have an innocent love, but one that is born out of suffering and longing. We, too, may fondly remember the love of God we had in our youth; however, life happens and beats us down and we come back to the relationship sobered up. We know we cannot re-possess lost innocence or undo regrettable choices, but we have the opportunity to begin anew - with a mature understanding of who we are and what we want.

            The Gospel tells of great suffering with synagogue official's daughter and the hemorrhaging woman. It makes me realize that love and suffering are twins. Jesus, out of great compassion for the two, restores them to life and back to family and friends because he cannot bear to see them suffer. It is right for us to expectantly gaze upon Jesus as he views our suffering. We learn that he does not want us to suffer at all, but with him we may have to look deep into our suffering, painful as it may be, so we can see the abundant compassion that he wants us to receive.

            Suffering isolates - from others, from ourselves. We hold onto hurtful memories because they contain a piece of truth. We protect it because it is all we have. We are alone. In them, we relive our fears, nourish our perspectives, and find meaning in our stories - even though we are destined to act out of our unmet needs. We examine our memories on our own and tell our stories over and over - without any apparent change to the outcome. We, who suffer, need to be seen, heard, and honored. We need to speak our voice so we can stake a claim on our identity in the world. We react against suffering that holds a firm grip over us.

            I think of the Harry Potter scenes when a teardrop of sorrow is taken from one who is dying. This tear contains the person's most cherished memories. Memories are dangerous business. When a person adds this teardrop into a pensieve, this magical bowl of water, and plunges herself into it, she can review this memory from another's set of experiences. When Harry Potter does this, it changes his world. Throughout high school, Harry sees Severus Snape as his adversary, his nemesis. Snape never appears to be kind to Harry, who builds his world around the antagonism this man has for him. These two can never reconcile because Harry's experiences of Snape are real. Harry knows of the awful things Snape has done to him. Nothing will ever change Harry's view of him.

            At the end of the series when the dying Snape invites the maturing Harry Potter to take a droplet of his tears, Harry immediately goes to the pensieve and observes Snape's lifetime memories. Harry's world is blown apart. He comes to a fuller comprehension of Snape's actions. Harry can now see Snape was always actively protecting Harry. He cares for Harry's mother and has deep affection for her son. Through those memories, Harry sees that Snape acted admirably and was committed to protecting Harry and his schoolmates. He even gave his life so they can have life. Because Harry looks at another's memory, he gains a clearer understanding to the events he incompletely perceived - and he walks away as an enriched man.

            Though we will resist, it is time for us to look again at our memories of pain and sorrow. We don't want to touch the stinging pain, but when we enter deep into those memories with Jesus, we have a chance to gain his perspective. It can shatter our illusions and help us gain needed understanding. Harry was unable to see Snape's caring interventions; perhaps we cannot see Christ's abiding presence and constant solidarity with us. But he is there, and he does have a different perspective he wants us to see. This is why he keeps bringing up these memories. He wants to help us reconcile them and to gain a new insight that will resolve and transform our pain. We cannot examine these alone, but we are to bring Christ into the memory pensieve with us. This can be the most healing thing we do - if we agree to go through the pain once more.

            Suffering isolates, but compassion reconnects us. This is what Hosea, the synagogue official's daughter, and the distraught woman wants. Jesus too. Let's look to the person of Jesus who stands there ready to lead us and speak to our heart. Notice his inviting body language, soft tone of voice, gentle smile and caring facial expressions, his subtle gestures. Be open to noticing the small movements. He wants to heal you and restore you in radical intimacy. Watch him over these next few days just as a lover notices every glance and touch of her beloved. Enjoy those times. Enjoy being loved.


  1. Thank you for this beautiful reflection on the healing power of Jesus. I have been privileged to experience this recently as I journeyed through the 19th Annotation and experienced the transformative and healing power of our Lord. I am extremely grateful to St. Ignatius for the Spiritual Exercises.

    1. Excellent. I'm glad for you, Lynda. The Lord is really good to us. It is great when we recognize all he has done for us.