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England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan,
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kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground,
Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)
Readings(Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)
When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” So he went with him.
And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” He looked all around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” But overhearing[ what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.
Because I will be on a pilgrimage to Malta from 24 to 30 June I am posting this early. This reflection, slightly edited, is what I posted three years ago for the same Sunday.
Lyn was someone I met when she was about 15. Three years later, when she was only halfway through her four-year college course, she quit to marry Roberto. (I’m not using their real names). Lyn was madly in love with Roberto, who had a good job and came from a relatively wealthy family. Lyn’s family could not be described as poor either. I celebrated the wedding Mass and attended the reception in a classy hotel. In the Philippines it’s the groom’s father who pays for the reception. the young couple went to live in Manila, where Roberto was from. About a year later a daughter, whom I’ll call Gloria, was born. She had a mental disability. Another daughter, ‘Gabriela’, arrived a year or two later.
Then tragedy struck. Roberto discovered that his kidneys weren’t working properly and that he needed dialysis. Over the next couple of years Roberto and Lyn spent practically all they had on this and it ended in Roberto’s death. Meanwhile, Lyn’s parents both had serious illnesses and had to spend most of their resources on treatment.
Lyn returned to her own city with her two young daughters. She couldn’t find a job and had no qualifications since she hadn’t finished in college. With much embarrassment she came to see me and asked if I could give her an ‘allowance’. She was able to survive the next few years with help from her siblings and friends and eventually remarried.
I’ve met so many ‘Lyns’ in the Philippines who are like the woman in today’s gospel, who have spent all their resources on doctors and medicine and are still sick. I’ve met families who have pawned their little bit of land in order to enable an aged parent to have surgery that ultimately leaves the whole family impoverished and the person on whom they had spent the money, out of a perhaps misplaced love, ending up in the cemetery.
Most Filipinos have little access to good health care. Even those who have government health insurance have to come up with ready cash if they go to hospital, unlike in Ireland or the United Kingdom. They are eventually reimbursed but have to pay interest on money they have borrowed in the meantime. I’ve heard people in Ireland and in the UK complain about the poor health services they have and their complaints are often justified. I have also heard many unsolicited words of praise for nurses from the Philippines working in hospitals in those countries.
Bu the sad reality is that most of these nurses, if they were still in the Philippines, would not have access to the kind of care they provide in Ireland and the UK. They would be like the woman in the gospel.
I met a Filipina in Reykjavík in 2000 who told me that she had had a kidney transplant in Denmark, paid for by the taxpayers of Iceland, a country of only 300,000 people or so. Had she been at home she would probably have ended up like Roberto.
Twenty-two years ago in a parish in Mindanao I buried Eileen, like the daughter of Jairus, a 12-year-old. Again, poverty was a significant factor in her illness and death, despite the efforts of the doctors and nurses in the small government hospital where she died.
So the two stories interwoven by St Mark are stories that many Filipinos have lived or are living.
But sometimes persons experience healing. I once gave a recollection day to a group of 11- and 12-year old children in a Catholic school in Cebu City. We reflected on the story of Jesus staying behind in the Temple when he was 12 and that of the daughter of Jairus, also 12. Before the afternoon session a group of the boys and girls came to tell me that Maria, one of their classmates, had a bad toothache and asked if we could pray with her. Maybe Jesus would heal her as he had healed ‘Talitha’. They thought that that was the name of the girl in the gospel! We prayed with Maria – and her toothache disappeared. The children were delighted.
St Mark gives us illustrations of the humanity of Jesus more than do St Matthew and St Luke when they recount the same stories. Scholars tell us that St Mark’s was the first gospel to be written and that the other two drew on his in writing theirs. St Matthew omits the detail of Jesus perceiving in himself that power had gone forth from him. This shows us that Jesus wasn’t a ‘magician’. When he healed a sick person he gave of himself.
St Matthew leaves out another beautiful detail about the humanity of our Saviour. Jesus says to the people in the house, Give her something to eat. I can imagine the joy of everyone, including Jesus. I picture him with a smile on his face, a smile that reflects his joy – and his awareness that the girl’s family had forgotten the very practical detail that she was starving, as is anyone who has come through a serious illness. This detail of St Mark brings home to me the great reality that St John expressed in his gospel and that we pray in the Angelus, The Word became flesh and lived among us (John 1:14).
Has any one of us grieved for the death of these brothers and sisters? Has any one of us wept for these persons who were on the boat? For the young mothers carrying their babies? For these men who were looking for a means of supporting their families?’
The question the Pope asked in a way echoes that of the Apostles in the boat to Jesus: ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’
Since 16 May LÉ Eithne, the flagship of the Irish Naval Service has been engaged, along with ships of navies of other European countries, in the Mediterranean in an effort to rescue ‘boat people’. This one small ship has already rescued 1,620 men women and children. The Irish Naval Service has a total personnel of 1,144.
It is estimated that between 2000 and 2014 around 22,000 undocumented immigrants died trying to reach Italy from North Africa. In April alone this year it is reckoned that more than 1,000 died in a number of incidents.
Something similar is happening in South-East Asia with refugees and asylum seekers from Myanmar/Burma, Rohingya people who are Muslims, and from Bangladesh being shunned.
So this Sunday’s gospel speaks to us of a situation that is all too common in the contemporary world.
The Apostles discovered that Jesus did care: ‘He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!”’ And he shows that same care to the refugees in the Mediterranean and in South-East Asia through the authorities, agencies and individuals who are trying to alleviate their immediate dangerous situation while others try to deal with the roots and causes of that situation.
There is an expression in the English language, ‘We’re all in the same boat’, that indicates especially in a difficult or dangerous situation that all are equal and that all are responsible in some way for changing that situation. In his new encyclical, Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home, Pope Francis echoes this (No 13): ‘The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change. The Creator does not abandon us; he never forsakes his loving plan or repents of having created us. Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home.’
We can do two things. We can and should pray for all those caught up in the human tragedy of refugees and asylum seekers desperately seeking a better life as they flee from areas of conflict and hopelessness, being exploited ruthlessly by others in their plight – surely an expression of the reality of evil, of sin and of the Devil that Pope Francis frequently speaks about – and often losing their lives in the process.
And we can start reading the Pope’s encyclical, whether online or in printed form, while reflecting on it, praying while doing so, and asking the Lord how he wants each of us to change the way we live so that the world, all its creatures and especially we humans made in God’s image and likeness will become what God wills for us all.
‘God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good’ (Genesis 1:31).
Yesterday, 18 June 2015, the Vatican released Laudato Si’ , the encyclical letter of Pope Francis On Care for our Common Home. The date on which the Holy Father signed the encyclical is 24 May, Pentecost Sunday.
(New American Bible:
Serafina Vuda, a member of the leadership team of the Columban Lay Missionaries (CLM), died on Saturday evening, 31 May 2014, in Los Angeles, USA, where she had been based as a member of the current leadership team of the Columban Lay Missionaries. Her two companions, Beth Sabado from the Philippines, the Coordinator, who had previously worked in Taiwan, and Columba Chang Eun-yeal, a Korean who had worked for many years in the Philippines before going to Myanmar, are based in Hong Kong.
Serafina, from Fiji, spent her early years as a Columban Lay Missionary in Peru. She was the previous Coordinator of CLM and was based in Dublin, Ireland, then.
Below is an article based on an interview with Serafina when she visited Bacolod City in 2009. It was published in the July-August issue of Misyon that year.
May Serafina, a gracious lady born into a people noted for their choral singing, be a great addition to the heavenly choir of the Seraphim in which she was ‘enrolled’ at her baptism.
By Joy Rile
The author was editorial assistant of Misyon at the time and interviewed Serafina when she visited us in Bacolod in 2009..
Serafina Vuda is a 46-year-old Columban Lay Missionary from Fiji. She was on mission in Chile from 1997 to 2000 and in Peru from 2001 to 2007. She came to the Philippines last May to take a course in Family Ministry at Ateneo de Manila University but had to stop after one semester due to her being elected Coordinator of the Lay Missionary Central Leadership Team (LMCLT), taking office in January, 2009.
Way back then, brought up in a traditional Catholic family , she became a teacher in a two Columban parochial primary schools for seven years, and taught at a school run by Missionary Sisters of the Society of Mary (SMSM) for four years. She was a sportswoman and once represented her country in an international netball competition. Her life then was divided between sports and teaching.
Serafina liked sports, going out with friends, had a boyfriend, but found something more meaningful in lay mission.
She describes the Church in Fiji as ‘conservative, solemn, orderly, well respected and more religious orientated’. Since the arrival of the first Marist Missionaries from France in 1884, all activities were under the care of the religious. Although there are active parishioners, the laity still rely very much on the priests and religious as resource people to help them in their faith life. ‘Serafina is grateful to the Columban Fathers for promoting the missionary dimension of the Fijian Church by sending lay people to cross boundaries of cultures, countries, language and religion in order to bring the Good News to others.’
Serafina was really attracted to the life and work by the Columban Fathers in Fiji: their simplicity and their closeness to people, as they always had time to talk to them. They were human and liberal. The needs of the people were very important to them. Their commitment, love and dedication to mission really drew her to missionary life. “The Columban charism is indeed contagious.” Working closely with the Columban missionaries deepened my self-awareness, faith, and sense of commitment to mission. Those Columban missionaries all shared in the people’s lives, joys and sorrows.’
One day while Serafina was still teaching in Stella Maris School, she met Sister Stella SMSM, then suffering from leukemia, who was out strolling with her dog. Sister asked her, ‘What do you plan to do with your life?’ Serafina answered, “I think the children in the mountain village schools need me more that these city kids as these are more advanced. But the next question really struck her, ‘Even those children in the mountains in Fiji have heard about Jesus Christ. Have you ever thought about children in other parts of the world who may not know Jesus yet?’ Serafina had no response to this question. After two weeks, just before Sister Stella died, Serafina told her, ‘Thank you and pray for us when you are with Jesus.” Sister uttered ‘I will.’ As she jokingly says, Sister Stella is to be ‘blamed’ for her becoming a lay missionary.
Basically, she realized that we don’t have to be a religious to commit our lives in the service of the Church. As lay persons, we can also serve the church actively. ‘I simply would want to be identified with the people, to be one of them while at the same time commit my life to being a missionary.’
There are three things that summarize her way of serving as a lay missionary:
Of all her missionary experiences, the one that truly marked her heart was when she was still starting her mission in Peru. In the parish she was assigned to she was to choose one among the twelve chapels to work in. She finally chose the one made of thatched bamboo. It was seated on bare dry ground with no trace of green. It seemed to be falling apart but peeping through the cracked door, the picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus caught her attention.This captured her heart. She started visiting the people there and accompanied that Christian community for the six years she was in Peru.
She learned of a family of six whose single mom left to look for work then came home drunk and beat the children. One daughter ran away from home. Christian, an 11-year-old son, living in the same congested and unhygienic shelter, studied in the afternoons but after some time gave it up since he had to take care of his three younger siblings while his mother was away. Serafina asked him one day what he would like to be. Christian answered that he wanted to be a lawyer because he wanted to fight for people’s rights, persons like his mother. Serafina often saw him washing, cooking and caring for his siblings until late at night.
Days after his First Holy Communion, he disappeared from home. He was found by the police wandering. When asked about his background, he simply answered that he knew nothing. So he was brought to an orphanage. When Serafina visited him one day, he told her that nobody knew what he had been going through while left to take care of his siblings and being beaten up by his mom when she arrived.
This was one of the stories that really pierced her heart. Back in Fiji, she thought, an 11-year-old is still very much dependent on his parents for food, shelter and education, but here was a boy playing the role of a father at that young age. As she reflected, Christian was just one of many kids who are victims of poverty and of broken homes. If we live to enjoy life, they live just to survive.
Such experiences brought her to appreciate and value life more profoundly. She became more conscious that there are people living in abundance, while many more are living in nothingness; that we are lucky for we have many things, if not everything.
In accompanying her Christian community in Peru, she underwent many struggles. Just when she formed a youth group as a response to the need for youth formation, gangsters from other barrios searched for their victims in the chapel where they gathered weekly. The inhabitants of the barrio blamed the presence of the chapel for causing chaos and danger in their place. A conflict arose between pastoral agents and the neighbors.
In her third year there Serafina woke up one day to see only the remnants of the chapel. What was left standing was just the huge statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She shed tears with the people in what she termed ‘this most inhuman and shocking incident’. But the young Peruvian priest decided to continue with the Mass in front one of the homes, that evening despite what had happened. It was such a solemn and silent night. Everybody was so emotional; tears flowed during the readings and hymns. But what really touched her was when the man beside her said, pointing upwards, ‘Although we don’t have a roof, we still have Him.’An article written by Serafina with this title in The Far East magazine (Australia/New Zealnd) touched the generous hearts of readers and their donations enabled the community to buy a piece of land for the future chapel two years later.
In the meantime they moved to another corner of the barrio, bought and put up a prefabricated chapel. After two years it was burnt down. That place witnessed many tears shed in frustration, pain and anger. But Peruvians don’t give up that easily.
Great as this was, it didn’t end their struggles. But they kept going and now have a sturdier, cemented church on the newly bought land.This is the present location of the ´pilgrim church`of Sagrado Corazon (Sacred Heart) in the midst of the neighbours who had initially rejected and removed it.
Being a missionary, Serafina recalled, has been life transforming for her, where she sees God moving in all of her experiences. There was a season of pain that led to the season of gain; moments of death but most of all moments of Resurrection.This continue to be part of the life of any Christian.
The big change that has happened to her as a Columban lay missionary is personal growth. She has developed a deeper self-awareness, an appreciation of people from other cultures, and a deeper relationship with the Mysterious God.
Her faith continues to grow. But the faith she describes is never full and never complete. There will always be room for growth, the more she thirsts and hungers for the sacred presence.
Committing herself as a Columban missionary gives Serafina a meaningful and fulfilling life; her service is to be life-giving to others, and this makes her life joyful in spite of the many challenges. It is the joy of sharing life and bringing God’s love to other people that makes the missionary experience worthwhile and fulfilling.
Living on mission in a country with people of different cultures is very challenging. ‘The most powerful way of attracting people to the missionary life is to live by example, to be coherent in what I say and what I do. One cannot give what one doesn’t have. It’s in your own person; it’s the image that you portray. It’s how you are as a person and how you relate to others that touches and changes people’s lives.’