Do all for the glory of God.
A feature story in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle of September 18, 1981 revealed a sad personal tragedy. Mrs. Cynthia Fitzpatrick, aged 116, was about to be evicted because of over $1000 of unpaid taxes. It was not that the Rochester finance department officers were intentionally cruel. They were simply enforcing the local law, a law which made no exceptions for centenarians.
An alerted public rallied to the cause. A black leader paid the tax installment immediately due; and Cynthia’s minister set up a special fund to help Rochester’s oldest citizen and the 56 year-old granddaughter who lived with her. Mrs. Fitzpatrick’s response was one of deep faith: “It’s what the Master said: Take care of the widows and orphaned children. I can say people have played their part by me.”
I would have expected her to comment thus. I had first encountered this deeply spiritual black woman in 1976. When the floating New York State museum called the “Bicentennial Barge” docked at Rochester on September 4, a Lutheran minister and I were invited to say a brief prayer at the local opening. The ribbon-cutting was reserved for a black senior citizen whom I had never met. “That’s Cynthia Fitzpatrick,” a bystander whispered to me. “She was born in 1864 in Mississippi of slave stock.”
Cynthia wore a long, attractive dress and a picture hat. She was a woman of smiling countenance and great dignity. When her moment came, she approached the gangplank, her arm linked with that of a friend. The crowd was silent as she took the scissors. Her speech was brief, but she said all that was needed to transform a patriotic event into a spiritual moment. “In the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, I cut this ribbon.”
…Whatever you do, you should do all for the glory of God. (1 Cor. 10:31. Today’s second reading.)
-Father Robert F. McNamara
B202: Why didn’t Jesus want the people he healed to tell anyone? Surely that would have been a great witness to his divine power?
Because of his healing ministry, Jesus was fast becoming a “celebrity” to such an extent that he suffered from one of the same problems with which the Hollywood stars have to cope. They are like a magnet, drawing people to themselves – fans, admirers, sensation seekers, and people trying to make a fast buck (e.g., the paparazzi – journalists who hound famous people incessantly). This constant invasion of privacy drives the celebrities into hiding, since they cannot live a “normal” life without being surrounded continuously.
For this same reason, Jesus would warn those he healed to “tell no one,” because fame from these actions would impede his movements. He had a mission to carry out and Good News to proclaim, and a very short time in which to do that. So we read about his rising before dawn to avoid the crowds, in order to find desert solitude and space to pray (last Sunday’s gospel); or he would go up into the mountains to pray. Many times he and the apostles would try to “escape” from the crowd by leaving in a boat.
Jesus’ healing mission always had one goal: to restore the “unclean” and isolated person back to his community, which would also be a witness to the glory of his Father. He did not want the sick person to be ignored and avoided by his friends and family simply because they had a problem. No one is an outcast around Jesus, not even the leper!
KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! Do you find friends and neighbors avoiding you when you or a family member become seriously ill? If so, you are sharing in the suffering of the outcasts. We need to remember that the Church continues the healing mission of Jesus, and offers special healing prayers called the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick for those with serious illnesses (CCC #1509-10). This Sacrament is offered to parishioners at any time of serious illness, and especially when they are in danger of death from sickness or old age (CCC #1514). Call your parish priest, who is the proper minister of this great Sacrament (CCC #1516), and celebrate it with your family present (CCC #1517). There are many important graces received through this Sacrament (CCC #1520-22), including the compassion of the believing community.
Moved with Compassion, He Stretched out His Hand and Touched Him
Jesus does the impossible; he cures a leper and then asks the impossible –don’t tell anyone! Jesus did not want to be known chiefly as a wonder worker; he didn’t want us to get the idea that miracles were at our beck and call. This leper appealed to Jesus’ compassion, and Jesus, moved with compassion, reached out and touched the leper. He bonded with the leper, risking contagion and incurring ritual impurity. From the moment he touched the leper, Jesus was considered unclean and prohibited from entering the temple or synagogue or taking part in any liturgical worship of the Father. That was the price he had to pay for his act of compassion – certainly far less than the price he paid later on Calvary for his compassion towards all of us. This is the example that Paul followed and urged on the Corinthians: “What ever you do may it be done for the glory of God.” “Be imitators of me as I am of Christ, seeking not my own advantage, but that of the many.”
Lord, we turn to you in time of trouble. Fill us with peace when our illnesses continue, with joy when we are cured, and salvation in the end. Rid us of everything that separates us from imitating your loving compassion.