Imagine the anguish of Jairus when he fell at Jesus’ feet and begged him, saying, “My daughter is at the point of death. Please come lay your hands on her that she may get well and live” (Mk. 5:23). Everyone can relate to a parent whose little child is close to death. Your heart aches for parents when their child is critically ill. How could Jesus not go immediately to help Jairus’s daughter?
Jesus saved people in dire situations. He healed people isolated and on the margins – lepers, blind beggars, or the woman who was bleeding for twelve years (Mt. 5:25-34). Her hemorrhage was gynecologic bleeding. So she was considered “unclean” and anything she touched was unclean, so she was completely isolated. She could not have children. She probably had no husband. She had no one else to care for her, and she was totally broke.
Jesus not only cured her physical ailment, but he restored her well-being. That is what it means when he says to her, “Go in peace” (Mk. 5:34). Peace or shalom in the Old Testament is wholeness or salvation. Shalom means that everything is okay. The person is healthy physically and mentally. They have a house and enough to eat. They enjoy peaceful relationships. Shalom is more than the absence of war. It is a wholeness of every aspect of a person’s life. When we wish each other the Peace of Christ at Mass, it expresses the shalom that he gave to the woman with a hemorrhage.
As a Church we are called to continue his healing ministry. Pope Francis challenges us to be a field-hospital church. This image goes back to Jesus’ own healing vision. How well do you think that we are being a healing church ….. a church that brings shalom to the injured people on the margins?
One issue in the media these days is the disturbing plight of immigrant children separated from their parents. The executive order to end family separation was a positive step. Yet, it did nothing to provide relief for the 2,300 children separated since May. There is no concrete plan to restore them to their parents.
Unfortunately, the practice of separating children also happened under the Obama administration and before that. But with the current zero-tolerance policy, the rate of separation has intensified. And in response to public outcry, U.S Attorney General Jeff Sessions said: “If people don’t want to be separated from their children, they should not bring them with them,” meaning they shouldn’t bring them along when trying to cross the border, which many do as they seek asylum.
Therefore, it seems that this is an intentional policy of trying to prevent future immigration, even asylum seekers, by taking their children away! In other words, it appears that Mr. Sessions intentionally wants to terrorize children and terrify their parents, so that anyone else who might think of seeking asylum here would also be terrified of coming here. Terrifying children and their parents is being used as a means to deter immigration.
As a nation who claims to be an international leader in human rights, how can we let this happen? As a church who advocates for the human dignity of every person from the womb to the tomb, what is our responsibility? How can we say that we reverence the child in the womb, yet not protect the child outside the womb?
We cannot claim to be a pro-life nation when we do this. Nor can we claim to be disciples of Jesus, if we stand by idly as this happens.
As Pope Francis wrote in his latest Apostolic Exhortation,“Our defense of the innocent unborn . . . needs to be clear, firm and passionate, for at stake is the dignity of human life, which is always sacred . . . Equally sacred, however, are the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute, the abandoned and the underprivileged, the vulnerable infirm and elderly exposed to covert euthanasia, the victims of human trafficking, . . . and every form of rejection” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 101).
When the U.S. Bishops gathered for their spring meeting on June 13, Cardinal DiNardo, the president of the Bishops’ Conference, read this statement on behalf of the bishops denouncing the government’s zero-tolerance policy. “Families are the foundational element of our society, and they must be able to stay together. While protecting our borders is important, we can and must do better as a government, and as a society, to find other ways to ensure that safety. Separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral.”
The bishops in Texas are closest to the problem, and they have been the strongest in their statements. San Antonio’s Archbishop said, “Refugee children belong to their parents, not to the government or other institutions. To steal children from their parents is a grave sin, immoral (and) evil. . . . Their lives have already been extremely difficult. Why do we (the U.S.) torture them even more, treating them as criminals?”
Maybe you read those words and feel that they are too strong. Or is Archbishop Gustavo being faithful to Jesus who brought healing to those on the margins? Remember that the prophet’s words are often painful to hear. They sting out hearts.
The danger today is this. Many Christians are more faithful to a political position, than to Jesus. At times, all of us are guilty of being so closely aligned with a political party that it makes us deaf to the Gospel. It is true that in the media today there are people who simply oppose everything that the current President does because of his political party. That is wrong-headed. Yet, no matter who is in office, we need to weigh the values based on the Gospel, so that we never identify ourselves by a political party, but as disciples of Christ.
How well are we letting the teaching of Jesus inspire our actions as we respond to the world’s problems?
Jesus saved people in dire situations. He healed people isolated and on the margins, like the woman who was bleeding for twelve years. He said to her, “Go in peace.” Because of him, she experienced shalom, wholeness, total well-being. We are called to bring his shalom to people on the margins.
Are we responding to the cries of the needy in the spirit of Christ? Or have we become deaf to the Gospel?