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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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Oliver Plunkett: The name of today's saint is especially familiar to the Irish and the English—and with good reason. The English martyred Oliver Plunkett for defending the faith in his native Ireland during a period of severe persecution. 
<p>Born in County Meath in 1629, he studied for the priesthood in Rome and was ordained there in 1654. After some years of teaching and service to the poor of Rome he was appointed Archbishop of Armagh in Ireland. Four years later, in 1673, a new wave of anti-Catholic persecution began, forcing Archbishop Plunkett to do his pastoral work in secrecy and disguise and to live in hiding. Meanwhile, many of his priests were sent into exile; schools were closed; Church services had to be held in secret and convents and seminaries were suppressed. As archbishop, he was viewed as ultimately responsible for any rebellion or political activity among his parishioners. 
</p><p>Archbishop Plunkett was arrested and imprisoned in Dublin Castle in 1679, but his trial was moved to London. After deliberating for 15 minutes, a jury found him guilty of fomenting revolt. He was hanged, drawn and quartered in July 1681. 
</p><p>Pope Paul VI canonized Oliver Plunkett in 1975.</p> American Catholic Blog God had a plan even before he created Adam and Eve. God is never caught off guard. He knows all. He sees all. And he is working all things together for the good of his children. Nothing can stop his plan of mercy and love.

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