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Bible Reflections View Comments

Looking Beyond What Seems Possible
By Kathleen M. Carroll
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, July 1, 2012
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The ancients understood the sky as a fixed “roof” over the Earth. Centuries later, explorers like Columbus believed it was a sphere that surrounded the Earth—so that one could sail westward and eventually arrive in the East. Copernicus and Galileo used their observations to describe the sky as a vast space wherein the planets, Earth included, revolved around the sun.

Each time the definition of “sky,” was broadened, people were frightened. Despite that fear, new possibilities, new (literal) horizons opened up. Europeans discovered the New World. Astronauts golfed on the moon. Today, we have probes exploring deep space
and the Hubble Space Telescope provides images of galaxies so far distant that looking at them means looking back in time.

None of this could have happened if we had taken things at face value. We would still be sure that the sun revolves around the Earth. Our maps would still be marked with “Here there be dragons” along the edges. And the Wright brothers would have kept to their bicycle repairs so as not to run into the sky. Of course, there is no “sky.” There never was. There was only a limit to our vision, our imagination, our faith.

Today’s Gospel challenges us to expand our vision and strengthen our faith. Jairus, a synagogue official, comes to Jesus, begging for his young daughter’s life. Given the reception Jesus so often received by the religious authorities of his day, this is something
of a miracle in itself. Jairus has opened his mind to the possibility that this new teacher, this healer, can help.

Similarly, the woman who had been ill for twelve years had been disappointed by many doctors. Her illness made her an outcast, ritually unclean. She should not have been out in public at all, much less in a crowd, and it was out of the question to touch a rabbi (as
Jesus was) and render him unclean. She is desperate, but also hopeful. A pragmatic person might have asked her: If no doctor has been able to help you in twelve years, why should this wonder-worker be any different? If no self-respecting rabbi would so much as speak to you, why would Jesus heal you? Yet she believes—not merely that Jesus can heal her, but that the mere touch of his clothing can do so. Knowing what has happened Jesus stops to confront this woman. As always, he takes the focus off of the miracle. The power this healing has displayed pales in comparison to the power of his message. He makes clear
to the woman that her faith has healed her.

When news comes that Jairus’s daughter has died, Jesus presses on. His response to the mourners makes clear that death is no obstacle for him. Raising the girl from the dead, he urges the mourners, “What is needed is faith.”

As we all know too well, God does not heal everyone who is ill. Suffering and death are our constant companions. Jesus does not offer physical healing to all of us, but he offers what he knows to be even more desperately needed—faith. God’s power is not limited by distance, by difficulty or by death. God offers us an unbounded universe of goodness, inviting us to share in his own divine life. The only limit to what God can do in our lives is the one we set ourselves—the limit of our faith.


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John Vianney: A man with vision overcomes obstacles and performs deeds that seem impossible. John Vianney was a man with vision: He wanted to become a priest. But he had to overcome his meager formal schooling, which inadequately prepared him for seminary studies. 
<p>His failure to comprehend Latin lectures forced him to discontinue. But his vision of being a priest urged him to seek private tutoring. After a lengthy battle with the books, John was ordained. </p><p>Situations calling for “impossible” deeds followed him everywhere. As pastor of the parish at Ars, John encountered people who were indifferent and quite comfortable with their style of living. His vision led him through severe fasts and short nights of sleep. (Some devils can only be cast out by prayer and fasting.) </p><p>With Catherine Lassagne and Benedicta Lardet, he established La Providence, a home for girls. Only a man of vision could have such trust that God would provide for the spiritual and material needs of all those who came to make La Providence their home. </p><p>His work as a confessor is John Vianney’s most remarkable accomplishment. In the winter months he was to spend 11 to 12 hours daily reconciling people with God. In the summer months this time was increased to 16 hours. Unless a man was dedicated to his vision of a priestly vocation, he could not have endured this giving of self day after day. </p><p>Many people look forward to retirement and taking it easy, doing the things they always wanted to do but never had the time. But John Vianney had no thoughts of retirement. As his fame spread, more hours were consumed in serving God’s people. Even the few hours he would allow himself for sleep were disturbed frequently by the devil. </p><p>Who, but a man with vision, could keep going with ever-increasing strength? In 1929, Pope Pius XI named him the patron of parish priests worldwide.</p> American Catholic Blog The most beautiful and spontaneous expressions of joy which I have seen during my life were by poor people who had little to hold on to. –Pope Francis

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