Bishop Liesen’s installation homily – On the nature of authority in the Church

Many thanks to the Diocese of Breda, who put the homily online that Bishop Jan Liesen gave at his installation last week. It’s an excellent text, a great start for the latest ordinary of the Dutch Church province. Bishop Liesen speaks about leadership, responsibility and the form it takes in the Church: the form of service.

My English translation is here.

Photo credit: R. Mangold

One to watch

Today, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Bishop Francesco Moraglia as Patriarch of Venice. The 58-year-old prelate succeeds Cardinal Angelo Scola, who was transferred to Milan in June of last year. Patriarch Moraglia has a virtually certain shot at a red hat at some future consistory and will be one to watch, if only because Venice gave the Church no less than three popes in the last century-and-a-bit: Pope Saint Pius X, Blessed Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul I.

Photo credit: La Nazione

Still learning

Reports in the news today that the bishops are thwarting the handling of abuse cases and that the Church is avoiding responsibility. Victims association KLOKK claims to have received 75 claims of this happening. 75 out of thousands. They also say that Church leader eagerly make use of objecting to complaints deemed well-founded by the special commission. Bishops and superiors are said to use the excuse of not being able to find any evidence of specific abuse cases in their archives.

True or not – and it must be noted that in certain cases evidence will be hard to come by – there still seems to be a gap between victims and Church. This is made worse, it must be said, by the seemingly adversarial attitude of associations such as KLOKK. Are they perhaps becoming more like obstacles now that the abuse has been acknowledged and revealed to the world? Maybe more can be gained in direct personal contact between victims, bishops and superiors, meetings that several bishops have already had, since well before the publication of the Deetman report.

Just some idle thoughts. But be that as it may, I think we can all agree that the Church must continue to learn to deal with this crisis and, most importantly, to unwaveringly be there for the victims.

Morning reflection: the daughter of Jairus

It is good to start the day with some reflection, to ground us in the Word of God, the Tradition of the Church or the faith that the Lord has given us (or a combination thereof). So, starting today, I’ll share a reading from the day’s Mass (or some other text) and regale you with my thought about it. This’ll happen frequently, semi-frequently, or not frequently at all. Let’s see how it goes.

Today, we take a look at the Gospel of today, from Mark, chapter 5, verses 21 to 43.

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered round him and he stayed by the lake. Then the president of the synagogue came up, named Jairus, and seeing him, fell at his feet and begged him earnestly, saying, ‘My little daughter is desperately sick. Do come and lay your hands on her that she may be saved and may live.’
Jesus went with him and a large crowd followed him; they were pressing all round him. Now there was a woman who had suffered from a haemorrhage for twelve years; after long and painful treatment under various doctors, she had spent all she had without being any the better for it; in fact, she was getting worse. She had heard about Jesus, and she came up through the crowd and touched his cloak from behind, thinking, ‘If I can just touch his clothes, I shall be saved.’ And at once the source of the bleeding dried up, and she felt in herself that she was cured of her complaint.
And at once aware of the power that had gone out from him, Jesus turned round in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my clothes?’
His disciples said to him, ‘You see how the crowd is pressing round you; how can you ask, “Who touched me?” ‘
But he continued to look all round to see who had done it. Then the woman came forward, frightened and trembling because she knew what had happened to her, and she fell at his feet and told him the whole truth.
‘My daughter,’ he said, ‘your faith has restored you to health; go in peace and be free of your complaint.’
While he was still speaking some people arrived from the house of the president of the synagogue to say, ‘Your daughter is dead; why put the Master to any further trouble?’
But Jesus overheard what they said and he said to the president of the synagogue, ‘Do not be afraid; only have faith.’ And he allowed no one to go with him except Peter and James and John the brother of James.
So they came to the house of the president of the synagogue, and Jesus noticed all the commotion, with people weeping and wailing unrestrainedly. He went in and said to them, ‘Why all this commotion and crying? The child is not dead, but asleep.’ But they ridiculed him. So he turned them all out and, taking with him the child’s father and mother and his own companions, he went into the place where the child lay. And taking the child by the hand he said to her, ‘Talitha kum!’ which means, ‘Little girl, I tell you to get up.’
The little girl got up at once and began to walk about, for she was twelve years old. At once they were overcome with astonishment, and he gave them strict orders not to let anyone know about it, and told them to give her something to eat.

The first thing we notice when reading this text is its general theme; Jesus heals people who are sick. Both the woman suffering from haemorrhages and the daughter of Jairus are seemingly beyond the ken of practical medicine, beyond the means of their family, friends and neighbours to help them. Something else that the two interconnected events share is the fact that the people involved have a strong faith. The woman is certain that touching Jesus’ cloak will cure here, while Jairus equally expresses a certainty. There is no question, no “If you are able to…”. No, they are certain that Jesus will heal the sick. Faith is a first step towards being healed.

In contrast to the conviction of the woman and Jairus is the attitude of the bystanders. These include the disciples. First, when Jesus asks,who touched him, they somewhat laughingly point out that he’s in the middle of a crowd of people. Who didn’t touch him? Later, at the house of Jairus, when Jesus claims that the little girl is not dead but merely asleep, they even ridicule him. Jesus seems to be operating on a different plane, just like the faith of the woman and Jairus is above the attitude of the people. From the faith of others, he knows that the outcome can’t be anything else than what it will turn out to be. He says so twice. “‘My daughter, your faith has restored you to health”, and “Do not be afraid; only have faith.” Again, faith leads to healing.

But, as always, there is a catch. If faith alone were enough, the woman and the child would not need Jesus to come to them. Their faith would have healed them regardless. But, today just as much as then, faith needs to have a direction. Our faith is faith in God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. It’s very concrete. Simply having faith is not enough. No, we must have faith that the Lord is willing to come and help us, but we need to open ourselves to his help. God does not force himself upon us. He has the deepest respect for our own personal integrity and our ability to make the right choices. With an informed conscience, we can make those choices. God has done all the work, he has prepared the way. What we need to do now, is to take up the tools he provides and start on his way to healing.

Painting, “Jairus’ Daughter”, by Daniel Bonnell.