11th Sunday of Ordinary Time
As a boy I had no earthly ideas why there were so many popular songs about love and heartache and could not fathom why my older sisters played them on the record player so often. All I remember was it was hard not to secretly like the lyrics you heard even though they were so ‘soppy’! Later I would understand them better.
The universal and enduring appeal of sad love songs must say something about the human heart. Regrets and mistakes, wanting to turn the clock back, a longing to correct mistakes in a friendship, relationship or marriage, and nostalgia for lost irreplaceable joys are deeply felt by many people.
Today we can look at our relationship with God in a similar way. The sacrament of confession is also better called the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
One of the lovely phrases from Pope Benedict’s recent Prayer for the Year for Vocations was the prayer of hope that many priests will be ordained to ‘spread the joy of God’s forgiveness’. As a priest it is hard not be moved by a genuine act of repentance and by a heart-felt confession. The joy and gratitude (and sometimes tears) of someone who been reconciled to God is one of the great and moving moments of a priest’s ministry. To witness a life-changing moment of grace in someone who may have been away from the Church for a long time is truly a joy to behold and to be a part of. To be God’s instrument of healing and restoration is very humbling and gratifying. Truly there is more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner than 99 righteous ones who never strayed.
Today’s Gospel reading is so moving.
From this account involving one woman we realise that there were many other women who were disciples – Mary of Magdala, Susanna and Joanna. Luke’s Gospel has been called the Gospel of women because so many women feature in it and he is careful to name them (also in Acts). After relating this incident of the woman who comes to Jesus for healing and forgiveness, it is as if Luke telescopes out from this healing and loving action to show us that this was one of many encounters of Jesus that we can surmise must have taken place in the course of Jesus’ ministry. Luke takes time over this meeting but many more encounters and life-altering episodes involving female disciples are left to our imagination and wonder. We see that women are caring, appreciative, grateful and generous providers of Jesus and His disciples.
As the Year for Priests draws to a close, I think we should turn our attention to the support of priests. Every priest I know can think of women parishioners and friends who are equally compassionate, caring, understanding, hospitable, and unassumingly generous in their appreciation and welfare of priests who strive to follow in Jesus’ footsteps. Perhaps it is a result of a confession, a healing or liberation, or a priest took the time to listen to them or a priest helped them through a sickness or bereavement of a family member; or they are grateful for the joy of forgiveness. They do not forget, and they are ever-faithful. [I think too of the many women religious who are a rock of support and prayer to priests.] They are the unsung heroines of the Kingdom of God. They are priests’ spiritual mothers, sisters and daughters. They are the backbone of the Church.
May God bless all Christian women with a rich reward for their faith and kindness. I think particularly of the members of the St Joseph’s Young Priests’ Society who quietly go about their voluntary work fund-raising for the education of seminarians at home and abroad. Truly, they will receive a prophet’s reward in the Kingdom of God!