Sunday, July 1, 2012


I'm still a little sleepy from this weekend's celebrations...but it was worth it!

   Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time   B 

I spent Friday evening and all day yesterday
at Camp Guggenheim—our diocesan summer youth camp
on the shores of Lower Saranac Lake.
(That’s why I’m a little more bleary-eyed than usual this morning.)
This is the fortieth anniversary of the camp program,
and staff members from every season since 1972
gathered together to celebrate.
I was a counselor there myself from 1994 to 1996,
and this year will be the seventh
that I serve for a week as chaplain.
I count it a great privilege to be part of Guggenheim’s history;
I count it a great blessing that it’s been part of my own.

It was fascinating these last couple of days 
to watch the mix of people during the festivities.
I, of course, enjoyed catching up with old friends
with whom I worked so closely almost two decades ago.
But it was also good to hear firsthand stories
from those who had been there in the beginning—
to see how the original dream was still coming alive.
And it was good to visit with more recent counselors
whom I had previously known as my campers
(…although doing that makes me feel kind of old).
From where I stood, anyway,
this overlap and exchange among the different generations
was a rather beautiful thing to watch unfold.
Many of us had never met before,
but we had so very much in common—
and not just the shared experience of a special place.
Our talk wasn’t particularly pious,
our time not all spent in prayer,
but it was our mutual faith in Jesus Christ
that lay beneath all the laughter and reminiscing—
the faith which has been Guggenheim’s very reason for existence
throughout these forty years.
No one can be a stranger
when they share that connection.

This Sunday, our gospel is two-for-one:
two stories, two healings.
In some ways, the central figures couldn’t be more different:
one a little girl, the other an adult woman;
one the beloved child of a fairly prominent family,
the other marginalized by her illness
and the poverty it has brought her.
But their stories are put together in a sort of sandwich:
one inserted between two pieces of the other.
This is a mark of good storytelling;
consider of how often—in a novel or on TV or in the movies—
the plot cuts back and forth between one scene and another.
But I think that what we have here in the gospel
is more than a technique for increasing the drama;
I think that what we have here
is a way of revealing a much deeper bond.

                                                                                      Jesus wants to be sandwiched into our lives:
                                                                                      to be inserted between all the other ordinary pieces of them.
                                                                                      He wants to be very personally connected with us.
                                                                                      This is so clear in the way that Jesus interacts with the sick.
                                                                                      When Jairus begs that his daughter be healed,
                                                                                      Jesus could have simply said, “Let it be done!”
without ever following this man to his family
and entering into their home and into their grief.
And when the hemorrhaging woman touched his cloak,
Jesus could have easily let her quietly “steal” this cure,
instead of searching her out 
in the midst of the pressing crowd.
Yes, their prayers—in both cases—
would still have been answered…
…but there would have been no real connection,
no personal rapport, no building of relationship.
And since Jesus’ ministry
wasn’t so much about the health of the body
as it was the health of the soul,
this simply would not do.
Jesus had come not only to rescue us 
from human sickness;
he had come to rescue us 
from the isolation, the division, the separation,
which are the result of human sinfulness.
                                                                                      In the beginning, God created and fashioned us for life;
                                                                                      in Christ Jesus, God re-creates and raises us
                                                                                      to a new and more abundant life—one which is undying—
                                                                                      by connecting us with himself
                                                                                      and likewise connecting us with each other.

Here at Mass, we do more
than brush against the hem of Jesus’ robe:
we hold his risen Body in our hands.
Here at Mass, Jesus does more
than pay a brief visit under the roof of my house;
he comes to stay under the roof of my heart.
As he once did for those two women—
one young, one old—
Jesus does for you and me:
sandwiching his way into our everyday lives,
healing those parts of us touched by death,
and putting us together with him 
in a way not easily undone.
In so doing, we find ourselves deeply connected—
not just with Christ, but with one another;
our stories, our lives, become completely intertwined.
What I saw playing out 
at Camp Guggenheim this weekend—
what has touched and transformed
thousands of young people there these last forty years—
is, in truth, the reality played out
again and again in the Eucharist.
Look carefully, and a deep bond is revealed:
uniting us in a common faith, 
and so too in our responsibility
to see that each member of the human family
has everything it takes to be really and truly alive.
Even if we have never met before,
we who follow Jesus have the most essential thing in common.
No one can be a stranger here
when we share this Holy Communion,
when we share this connection.
From where I stand, anyway,
the overlap of relationships and exchange between us
is a rather beautiful thing to watch unfold.

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