Chaplain's Comments

This true story about a baby girl who was seriously ill in a neonatal unit ICU was published on the internet. The paediatric specialist said there was very little hope. The baby's five year old brother, Michael, kept begging his parents to let him see his sister. "I want to sing to her," he kept saying. Children were not allowed in the ICU, but Michael's mother eventually insisted that he be able to see his sister. When he got to the crib he sang: "You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are grey." The nurse reported that as Michael sang, the baby's pulse rate began to calm down and become steady. "Keep on singing, Michael," encouraged his mother with tears in her eyes. "You never know, dear, how much I love you. Please don't take my sunshine away." The baby recovered and left the hospital three weeks later.

One cannot pretend for a moment that Michael's song healed his sister and that we should never underestimate the power of human support and love. It helps us to be healed.

The Gospel story of the healing of the deaf-mute is striking because it is one of the few stories where the crowd makes the request of healing from Jesus. This understandable given that the man cannot speak for himself, but the scene, as Mark writes it is very touching. Mark tells us that the crowd brought the man to Jesus. They beg Jesus to heal him, they are ordered not to tell anyone about the miracle, but "they" go straight out and tell everyone about it.

In our way, each time we gather for Mass, we bring the deaf and the mute to Jesus, in the prayers of the faithful. When we visit another parish and listen to their prayers we can learn a lot about it by the way the prayers are composed and compiled. If they only attend to the needs of the parish and never with the wider Church or the world and never on the people in crises who may not share our faith or who hold another or no faith, it says so much.

The Church has always believed in the power of intercessory prayer. Not that God needs to be reminded what our world needs. God knows better than we know it. But intercessory prayer sorts out our priorities and establishes who has a claim on our affections and concerns. It also enables others to know that we stand in solidarity with them.

Miracles still happen when we are one with those for whom we hope and pray. Sometimes the first miracle that occurs is that we notice the needs of some group beyond our immediate circle. Their suffering moves us and we choose to help them.

There is also another reflection this weekend on the New Testament writings, the Letter of James, which is important for its emphasis on social justice. According Daniel Harrington SJ, social justice is a means how we find our way among the various social, ethnic, economic, gender and political realities that shape our lives. When this letter was written there were probably only a few thousand Christians in the world. We don't expect a full scale political and social vision such as we find Plato's Republic or Aristotle's Politics or in political science textbooks of today. But James does provide some basic and challenging principles of social justice.

It contains 2 fundamental principles of Christian social teaching; the first is "Show no partiality". With the help of the striking example of a man with gold rings and in fine clothes and the poor person in dirty clothes, James insists that we must not discriminate on external appearances. The second principle is sometimes called God's preferential option for the poor: "Did not God choose those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom? The biblical perspective the poor recognize their dependence on God for everything and acknowledge that dependence in how they live and act.

James teaches us that the way the world thinks today isn't necessarily God's way. God has a heart for all people - not just the so-called 'respectable' ones. The next time we walk among our community, will our hearts see all of the people there? Will our hearts, minds and ears be open to the needs of those we may see as less desirable? Especially by, not excluding asylum seekers, from making a claim on developed countries, but at enabling refugees to live human and productive lives?