Ordinary Time 13, Year B

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Why do you not know how to interpret the present time? (Lk. 12:56)

It seemed quite obvious to the disciples of Jesus that, with the crowd pressing upon him, it would be impossible for him to remain untouched. They were surprised, therefore, when Jesus asked, “Who has touched my clothes?” They were not aware, of course, that Jesus felt that power had gone out of him.

It seemed equally obvious to those who were weeping and wailing loudly that Jairus’ daughter had died. So, they ridiculed Jesus when they heard him say: “Why this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep.” Their utter astonishment at seeing the child of twelve arise immediately and walk around meant they had witnessed an event that had never been part of their earlier experience.

It is obvious, of course, that if one gives something to another, one deprives oneself of that same thing. And since enough for us human beings generally means having more than what we have at the moment, it is not easy for us to understand that to give to the needy does not necessarily mean deprivation for us. So there is this clarification: “Not that others should have relief while you are burdened, but that as a matter of equality your abundance at the present time should supply their needs.”

What is obvious, then, is obvious, and I cannot run away from it. At times, the obvious asserts itself so much that I become forgetful of what others may be feeling within and I fail to understand them. Lacking in understanding, I end up continuing to foster Babel’s confusion and disunity. Unable to put myself in another’s shoes, I am likewise unable to become all things to all people so that I may win them for Christ and to contribute that we all become one flock under one shepherd.

The obvious can also lead to my being confined within a small enclosure of limited visions and plans as though on a pin’s head. I would not leave that spot or would return there in a hurry, like a snail into its shell, should I venture outside my limited experience to see what is out there. And great possibilities present themselves outside the obvious, given that Christ’s love, in its breadth, length, height and depth, surpasses knowledge, and that divine wisdom too has refuted the false conclusion I usually draw about death from what I find to be obvious in human existence (Eph. 3:19). We are assured besides that for those who love him, God has prepared things eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, things that have never been imagined even (1 Cor. 2:9). And surely, it is of no little moment and promise the possibility that if I turn the medal, I will see by the light of faith that the Son of God, whose will it was to be poor, is represented by the poor.

The obvious, then, leaves much to be desired. Hence, I should not let the obvious—what meets me on the way—distract and slow me down and, much less, make me lose sight of the goal. I must set aside the obvious, if I do not want to miss what is essential, which, according to Saint-Exupéry, is invisible to the eye.

And it is essential that I keep going further and further, beyond the obvious and what is at hand, excelling in my participation in the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, who became poor for our sake, although he was rich, so that by his poverty we might become rich. Obviously, charity begins at home. But over and above and beyond this obvious thing is the generosity of the one who served others and gave his life in ransom for them. He did not settle for just satisfying obvious needs but gave more than what was being asked of him, granting not only healing but also understanding to the woman with hemorrhages, snatching the girl not only from sickness but from death itself.

Surely, on this Servant and Savior was St. Vincent de Paul’s gaze fixed, who insisted: “We have to help them [i.e., the poor] and to make sure they are helped in every way, by us and by others.” The obvious, then, that the needy will never be lacking in the land, far from being a warning to stop right there, is precisely a summons to go further, to move ahead, that is, that we open our hand to the poor and comply with the teaching that there should be no one of us in need really (cf. Dt. 15:4, 11).