Saturday, June 30, 2012

Thirteenth Sunday. "... power had gone out from him": the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ alone will heal the world

Cancer is a lethal threat which seems to afflict ever greater numbers of people. Everyone here has either suffered himself or herself, or knows someone who has, from this devastating disease.

"Cancer is a genetic disease resulting from a variety of mutations and alterations either inherited from our parents or, more commonly, acquired over time due to environmental exposures and behaviors, such as smoking and poor diet. These alterations turn off important cell growth regulators allowing cells to continually divide unchecked, explains Luis Diaz, a clinician-scientist in Ludwig Center for Cancer Genetics. This type of cell is called a malignant or cancer cell. Among the trillions of cells in the human body, inevitably everyone has some abnormal or atypical cells that possess some of the characteristics of cancer cells, most resolve themselves and never result in cancer, says Diaz.

"There is no single or standard test for cancer. There are ways to screen for certain cancers with tests such as colonoscopy for colon cancer, mammography for breast cancer, PSA for prostate cancer, and the Pap smear for cervical cancer, and these tests can detect cancers in a very early and curable stage. For many cancers, there currently are no screening tests, and they are diagnosed when they begin to cause symptoms." (Source: Kimmel Cancer Center)

In every body except one there are pathologies. In each human nature except that of Jesus Christ we find the potential for illness and the certainty of death.

Jesus Christ is perfect God and perfect Man. He is Life and He gives Life.

"There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years.
She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors
and had spent all that she had.
Yet she was not helped but only grew worse.
She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd
and touched his cloak.
She said, "If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured."
Immediately her flow of blood dried up.
She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction."
--Mk 5:21-43

The first healing that God gives to every man and woman is the unction of truth: the truth that we have sinned and lost the grace of God. The Psalmist expresses this truth which illuminates the experience of every human person:

"There is no health in my limbs, my guilt towers higher than my head: it is a weight too heavy to bear."

The truth of God spoken by Christ the Lord teaches us that far worse than any bodily suffering which is limited to this life and to this world is the malady of sin which "can cast both body and soul into Gehenna": the separation from God that lasts forever. We touch Christ sacramentally so that His mercy might heal us of this everlasting pain. The blood and water that flowed from His side as He hung on the Cross continues to flow in and through the Church as His gift in the Holy Spirit.

"Sacraments are 'powers that comes forth' from the Body of Christ, which is ever-living and life-giving. They are actions of the Holy Spirit at work in his Body, the Church. They are 'the masterworks of God' in the new and everlasting covenant. (CCC 1116)

"though he was rich, for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich."

Does not Saint Paul describe in his letter to the Hebrews the total self-gift of God in Jesus Christ, whose side is pierced once again on the Cross, in an unbloody manner, each time the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is offered? Does not God, rich in Divinity, become poor for our sake, making us rich by the outpouring of His love and grace for sinners through forgiveness?

Today we do more than merely touch the hem of His garment: we eat and drink no less than His very Body, Blood Soul and Divinity. In the sacramental life which He left the Church, as the Apostles handed down, we live the very life of the healing Christ here and now. In this moving Gospel passage about the woman suffering from a hemorrhage the Church has always seen its own story of sacramental life in which "power goes out" continually from Christ the Lord to heal and save the members of His mystical Body on earth.

"Communion with the Body and Blood of Christ increases the communicant's union with the Lord, forgives his venial sins, and preserves him from grave sins. Since receiving this sacrament strengthens the bonds of charity between the communicant and Christ, it also reinforces the unity of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ." (CCC 1416)

The waters of Baptism and the Blood of Christ, indeed all the sacramental life of the Church came forth, once for all, from the side of the Lord on the Cross.

"The Greek word mysterion was translated into Latin by two terms: mysterium and sacramentum. In later usage the term sacramentum emphasizes the visible sign of the hidden reality of salvation which was indicated by the term mysterium. In this sense, Christ himself is the mystery of salvation: "For there is no other mystery of God, except Christ." The saving work of his holy and sanctifying humanity is the sacrament of salvation, which is revealed and active in the Church's sacraments (which the Eastern Churches also call 'the holy mysteries'). The seven sacraments are the signs and instruments by which the Holy Spirit spreads the grace of Christ the head throughout the Church which is his Body. The Church, then, both contains and communicates the invisible grace she signifies. It is in this analogical sense, that the Church is called a 'sacrament.' " (CCC 774)

"Consequently, St. Peter can formulate the apostolic faith in the divine plan of salvation in this way: 'You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers... with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was destined before the foundation of the world but was made manifest at the end of the times for your sake.' Man's sins, following on original sin, are punishable by death. By sending his own Son in the form of a slave, in the form of a fallen humanity, on account of sin, God "made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."(CCC 602)

"Often Jesus asks the sick to believe. He makes use of signs to heal: spittle and the laying on of hands, mud and washing. The sick try to touch him, 'for power came forth from him and healed them all.' And so in the sacraments Christ continues to 'touch' us in order to heal us." (CCC 1504)

Image: Fresco, Catacomb of Sts. Marcellinus and Peter, Rome, early 4th Century showing the haemorrhissa being healed by touching Christ’s garment (Mk 5:25–34).

No comments: