USUALLY THE GOSPEL teaches us a spiritual message that directs us toward living for the Kingdom. Today is no exception. However, the message today, as heaven-oriented as it may be, has to be lived out in the here and now, in our neighborhoods and homes. Imitation of the example of Christ in today’s Gospel must be lived with those people we see from day to day, hour to hour. To imitate Christ in today’s Gospel means to love the people around us.
For 13 years I was assigned to the faculty at Cathedral Prep Seminary in Elmhurst. I was on the teaching faculty for three years and the rector-principal for 10 years. Through that time, I came to regard one aspect of life at the Prep as its greatest asset and biggest handicap: its size. The student body has always been small compared to the size of other high schools in the diocese. With a student body of fewer than 200 men, the problems were practical ones – it was hard to pay the bills and keep tuition reasonable. That, however, was acceptable in light of what it offered. Every student was important.
One of my favorite activities of the year was leading a group of students and their families to a destination in Europe. One year our pilgrimage was to Italy. A group of us went for a walk one night and stopped at a gelateria for some Italian ice cream. As the students were enjoying the treat, I noticed that they were getting deep into conversation. When I asked what they were talking about, they answered that I had become the topic of their conversation.
One of them had an older brother who was about to graduate from a larger high school. The conversation revolved around the fact that his brother had never met his principal one on one over the course of four years. Yet, here he was in his first year having ice cream in Europe with his principal.
Called by Name
On another occasion, I saw the surprise on a freshman’s face when I called him by name. He felt special to have become personally known so quickly. I do not say that I was the perfect principal – I made many mistakes and hope that those students to whom I did not show proper and adequate respect and care will find it in their hearts to forgive me – but that capacity for personal attention is one of the things that makes Cathedral Prep special to students and faculty alike. It is this sense of personal attention that is at the heart of today’s Gospel.
Even when the crowds are taunting Him that the daughter of Jairus has already died, Jesus hears Jairus’ need and goes to his daughter to restore her to health. Despite the pushing and shoving of the crowd, Jesus feels power go from Him. He wants to know who it was who touched Him; not to correct her, but to know her and allow her to know Him. He cared and made sure that those for whom He cared were aware of His love.
I suggest that, for us who wish to follow Him, at the heart of the Christian life is this care for our neighbor – the desire to love others because we have become aware of Christ’s love for us. To love – not in some abstract way, but by the personal demonstration of genuine concern, which takes time and energy. There will be challenges and suspicions, obstacles and questioning of motives – just as there were in Jesus’ day. But to the one loved – how special it is to know someone knows them by name! All around us are those who feel lonely and forgotten. Through us, may they come to know that Jesus cares.
Readings for the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Wisdom 1: 13-15; 2:23-24
Psalm 30: 2, 4, 5-6, 11, 12, 13
2 Corinthians 8: 7, 9, 13-15
Mark 5: 21-43
Msgr. Joseph P. Calise is the pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish, Williamsburg.