Weekly HomilyArchives

Friday, June 26, 2009

“Jesus said, ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.’” (Mark 6:4)

“SOUL-SURFING” – July 5, 2009
Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mark 6:1-6
Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC

Their faces registered a combination of horror and disgust as the two veteran critical care nurses described the situation to me. Said Luanne, “You wouldn’t believe it! The slimy thing was crawling all over his face. I was so grossed-out I had to leave the room.” Anatoly picked up from there. “Yeah, I know they still use them back home in Russia, but America! It looked like a horror movie!”

Leeches: that’s what Luanne and Anatoly were describing. While I’d heard of their use in certain medical situations, I’d never encountered them first-hand. Apparently neither had these seasoned nurses who were caring for a patient who’d just had extensive facial surgery. A bit of research provided the following information:

“While the sight of a wriggling, blood-sucking leech may make many people feel queasy, the spineless worms can also help people [heal]. The ancient physician's art of using leeches has made a modern medical comeback: the worms help doctors do everything from reattach severed fingers to treat potentially fatal circulation disorders. That's because when leeches bite a victim, their unique saliva causes blood flow to increase and prevents clotting. As a result, once bitten, victims can bleed for hours, allowing oxygenated blood to enter the wound area until veins re-grow and regain circulation.

“The leech is invaluable in microsurgery when faced with the difficulties of reattaching minute veins. Ears have such tiny veins that, in the past, no one was able to successfully reattach them. Then, in 1985, a Harvard physician was having great difficulty in reattaching the ear of a five-year-old child; the tiny veins kept clotting. He decided to use leeches and the ear was saved. This success established leeches in the modern medical world.” (PBS.org/DTV)

While I’m guessing that both Luanne and Anatoly had read all about the beneficial medical use of leeches, they’d never actually seen these small, slimy critters do their work. Indeed, Anatoly was right: “It looked like a horror movie!”

In the gospel passage we hear today, Jesus proclaims a wisdom oft quoted down through the centuries by unappreciated leaders, frustrated parents, and generally anybody feeling misunderstood and undervalued. “Jesus said, ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.’” (Mark 6:4) And if Jesus, Son of God and Savior of the World, felt this way in the presence of his disbelieving townsfolk, it’s no surprise at all that we ought at some time in our own lives experience the same thing. And what hurts the most is that this rejection will come from those who are closest to us, those we might rightfully expect would know and appreciate us the best.

What lessons might today’s gospel offers us? One lesson is that the hand of God is at work in the most ordinary ways and in the most ordinary of people. Rarely does thunder and lightning accompany the works of God. Rather, the Almighty usually chooses to work in quiet, unassuming ways, remaining altogether hidden from those without the sight to see his wonders. Just consider the healing power of leeches. Luanne and Anatoly, highly trained critical care nurses, watched in horrified amazement as these slimy, blood-sucking creatures effected a healing unobtainable by 21st century medicine’s most sophisticated interventions.

Another lesson is that we ought to seek God first in people closest to us and in those experiences most immediate to us. Indeed, God has promised to be with us always. And he is. But it takes the eyes of faith to recognize the Divine in the people we so often take for granted and in the experiences we toss off as otherwise meaningless. Let a story serve to illustrate:

“A man was exploring caves by the seashore. In one of the caves he found a canvas bag containing a quantity of hardened clay balls. It appeared that someone had rolled balls of clay and then left them out in the sun to bake. Intrigued, the man took the bag with him when he exited the cave. As he strolled along the beach, he tested the strength of his arm as he threw the clay balls one by one far out into the ocean. He gave little thought to what he was doing until he dropped one of the clay balls, cracking it open on a sharp-edged rock. Inside the clay the man discovered a beautiful precious stone!

“Excited, the man started breaking open the remaining clay balls. Each contained a similar treasure. He found thousands of dollars worth of jewels in the twenty or so clay balls he still had with him.

“Then it struck him. He had been on the beach a long time. He had thrown perhaps fifty or sixty balls with their hidden treasure into the ocean waves. Instead of thousands of dollars in treasure, he could have taken home tens of thousands, but he had just thrown it away!

“It's like that with people. We look at someone, maybe even ourselves, and we see the external clay vessel. It doesn't look like much from the outside. It isn't always beautiful or sparkling, so we discount it. But we have not taken the time to find the treasure hidden inside. If we take the time, and if we ask God to show us what he sees in the other person, then the clay begins to peel away and the brilliant gem begins to shine forth.” (Original source unknown)

And so it is even with leeches. As Luanne and Anatoly day by day watch their patient’s surgical wounds heal, they smile at the treasure formerly hidden in slime and slither.

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