One of the things I love about the week after Easter is that the Church relates to each day of the octave as though it is Easter Day. In the Preface of Easter I, the priest is directed to pray during the octave: “We praise you with greater joy than ever on this Easter day when Christ became our paschal sacrifice.” (Unfortunately most of the priests where I attend daily Mass pray “in this Easter season.”) In the Liturgy of the Hours, we pray Morning, Evening, and Night Prayer of Easter Day all week. To me this is a foretaste of heaven when each day will be as the first. “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us be glad and rejoice in it!”
Fr. Barron aptly describes God’s irrational love for us:
Jesus’ original audience must have been puzzled indeed when they heard one of the Lord’s better-known parables for the first time. “What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one . . . ” Well, they probably thought, precisely no man! Sheep were a precious commodity int he ancient world, and no shepherd worth his salt would willingly risk ninety-nine in order to find one. The Lord’s follow-up story would most likely have left them equally confused. “What woman having ten coins and losing one would not . . . sweep the house, searching carefully until she finds it? And when she does find it, she calls . . . he friends and neighbors and says . . . ‘Rejoice with me.'” The coin in quetion was of very little value, less than a penny. For that minuscule amount of money, she would turn her house upside down and then, upon discovering it, would call for a party? Her friends would think her mad.
And thus we come to the point. Jesus speaks of the God who loves us lavishly, extravagantly, exuberantly, even, dare I say it, irrationally. Think of the father of the Prodigal Son, who violates every canon of justice and right order when he welcomes back (with a party!) the child who had spurned him. One way to sum up the good news of the Gospel is to say, quite simply, that the Father of Jesus Christ is crazy about us.
The Pharisee becomes the publican
One thing that can cause me discouragement is dealing with besetting sin–you know that thing you keep taking back to confession over and over. One of mine is critical thinking. A few years ago I read Sr. Ruth Burrow’s autobiography, and in it she spoke about this being one of her ongoing faults as well. However, she found what I think is a very clever way to deal with it:
Perceptive, quick to see the flaws in another, I was prone to criticism, finding a certain satisfaction in seeing another at fault as though this, in some way, raised me up. I knew that no fault would so displease our Lord or stop his grace as this harsh judgment on his children. I realized I had the mentality of a pharisee but, I thought to myself, if a pharisee had turned to our Lord and admitted his hardness of heart, his crabbed, mean spirit and asked for help, our Lord would have helped him. So I did the same. The pharisee became the publican. I came to realize that temptations to pride, the sin of the pharisee, could make one a publican. The stone which the builders rejected could become head of the corner. I tried to use these bad tendencies to grow in humility.
And the Angels danced, don’t you think?
The Gospel reading for today tells the story of Christ healing the woman who had been hemorrhaging for twelve years. Many people were bumping up against Him, but she alone reached out to Him in faith. Dr. Mary Healy challenges each of us: “The afflicted woman in this episode is a model for approaching Jesus. While crowd of people were bumping into him as he walked along, she touched him. Her faith brought her into living contact with Jesus, and as a result she experienced a dramatic healing. The difference between the crowds and the woman prompts the question: How often do we merely bump against Jesus—for instance, when we receive Him in the Eucharist?”
Jesus does not want our sins, our weaknesses and faults, to keep us from coming to Him, to keep us from intimacy with Him. I post again this painting by James Tissot. Put yourself in this woman’s place, a great sinner. Touch His feet, kiss His feet. And see the Lord reaching out to you in His tender love.
He said to Simon the Pharisee, “You gave me no kiss . . . ” (Lk 7.45). The Lord of Love will miss your kiss if you don’t draw near to Him . . .