13th Sunday of the Year
Wisdom 1:13–15; 2:23–24; 2 Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13–15;
Mark 5:21–43

Partners, Not Puppets
God helps those who help themselves.

One spring a terrible flood engulfed a rural area.
It stranded an old woman in her house. As the woman stood at her kitchen window, a boat appeared. The driver said, “Climb aboard and save yourself.”

“No thanks,” said the old woman.
“I trust the Lord. He’ll save me.” The driver shook his head and drove off.

The next day the flood rose to the second floor of the house.
As the woman stood at a second-floor window watching the water, another boat appeared. The driver said,
“Climb aboard and save yourself.”

“No thanks,” said the old woman.
“I trust the Lord. He’ll save me.”
The driver shook his head and drove off.

The next day the water rose to the roof of the house. As the old woman sat on he roof watching the water, a helicopter appeared. The pilot called down over a loudspeaker,
“I’ll drop a rope ladder to you. Climb aboard and save yourself.”


“No thanks,” said the woman.
“I trust the Lord. He’ll save me.”
The pilot shook his head and flew off.

The next day the flood engulfed the house, and the old woman drowned. When she got to heaven, she said to Saint Peter,
“Before I go inside, I want to register a complaint. I trusted God would save me from the flood, but he let me down.”

Saint Peter gave the woman a puzzled look and said,
“I don’t know what more the Lord could have done for you. He sent you two boats and a helicopter.”

The old woman should’ve read today’s gospel more closely.

It shows two people in need of help, as she was. And both people trusted God, as she did. But there is one big difference between their trust and hers.

Let’s see what it is.

The first person is a sick woman. She trusts that Jesus can heal her. But she also realizes that she most do more than just trust Jesus.

She must go a step farther.
She must do her part.
She can’t just sit at home and wait for Jesus to come to her.
She must get up, go to Jesus, and present herself to him for healing.

The same is true of the second story in today’s gospel.
Jairus also trusts that Jesus can heal his sick daughter.
But Jairus also realizes that he must do more than just trust Jesus.

He realizes that he must go a step farther.
He must do his part.
He must cooperate with Jesus. Since his daughter is too sick
to come to Jesus, he must ask Jesus to come to her.

And so the two people in today’s gospel do more than just trust in Jesus.
They go a step farther.
They do their part.
They make use of the ordinary means God gave them to obtain the healing they need.

This is where the woman in the flood made her mistake.
She forgot that God normally acts in our lives through ordinary means.
She forgot that we must do our part and cooperate with God by using the normal, ordinary means he gives us.

In other words, we can’t sit idly by and expect God to work some miracle for us. We must first use all the ordinary means God gives us to help ourselves.

Let me illustrate with a true story.

A high school English teacher had a student in class who didn’t study all year. On the day of the final exam. the student came up and told the teacher that he was confident he would

pass the exam. The student said he had prayed every night
during the past week for God’s help in the English exam.

God never intended prayer to be a substitute for study.
He never intended prayer to be a substitute for hard work.
Receiving God’s help is a two-way street. It involves our cooperation with God. We must do our part, and God will do his part.

Saint Ignatius of Loyola describes our cooperation with God this way: “We must work as if everything depended on us,
but we must pray as if everything depends on God.”

In other words, we must cooperate with God and make use of the ordinary means he gives us before we as him to intervene in some extraordinary way.

An old adage puts it this way:
“God helps those who help themselves.”

Years ago there was a best-selling novel called Jonathan Livingston Seagull. It contained a beautiful paragraph that has since become the theme of a song. It goes something like this:

“If you love something, you must set it free.
If you set it free and it comes back to you, then you know it is yours. But if you set it free and it doesn’t come back to you, then you know it wasn’t yours to begin with.”

That’s the way god deals with us when it comes to helping us.
He has set us free. He doesn’t force his help on us. He makes it available to us and leaves us free to use it or not.
God doesn’t treat us like puppets. He treats us like partners.
In other words, God gives us all the ordinary resources we need for ordinary daily living.

Only when these ordinary resources fall short in emergency situations do we normally think of turning to God for emergency help.

When we do turn to god in these situations, we can be sore of his help, for he is our Father and we are his children.

Let’s close by repeating the paraphrase from Jonathan Livingston Seagull:

“If you love something, you must set it free.
If you set it free and it comes back to you, then you know it is yours. But if you set it free and it doesn’t come back to you, then you know it wasn’t yours to begin with.”

Lord, in your fatherly love for us, you have set us free.
Help us show our children’s love for you by returning to you when we have need of your special help.

Series II
13th Sunday of the Year
Wisdom 1:13–15, 2:23–24; 2 Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13–15;
Mark 5:21–43

The Inscription
“Do not be afraid; just have faith.’’

Ann Jillian is a Hollywood actress who has starred in a number of Broadway plays and television shows.

In March 1985, while exercising in a health club in San Fernando Valley, California, Ann noticed a growth on her body. She was shocked and frightened, correctly suspecting that it was cancerous.


The next day, before going to the doctor, she stopped at her church, St. Francis de Sales. Over its door is an inscription that Ann had noticed many times. But she had never taken the time to read it. Now she did. It read, and I quote:

“The same everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow and every day. Either he will shield you from suffering, or he will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace then and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations.”

Those words seemed addressed right to her. She went inside, knelt before the blessed sacrament, and prayed for the grace to take to heart the words she had just read. As she prayed, a deep inner peace and calm came over her.

Two weeks later, Ann underwent successful surgery for a double mastectomy. The radiant trust in God and peace of mind that she maintained before and after surgery was widely reported in the news. And she became an instant inspiration to thousands of cancer patients the world over.

The story of Ann Jillian is a beautiful illustration of a person who took to heart the words of Jesus in today’s gospel.

Recall these words. They occur as Jesus is going to Jairus’ house to heal his sick daughter. Someone runs up to Jairus and says, “Your daughter has died.
Why bother the Teacher any longer?”

Immediately, tears fill the eyes of Jairus. But before he can say anything, Jesus turns to him and says,
“Don’t be afraid, only believe.” Mark 5:35–36

It is this same message of faith and trust that Jesus spoke to Ann Jillian through the words written over the doorway of her parish church.

It is this same message of faith and trust that Jesus speaks to us through the words written in today’s gospel.

Each of us in this church today has some problem, some worry, some concern, some cross to bear.

Perhaps, like Ann, we may be suffering from a health problem that is threatening our peace of mind.

Perhaps, like Jairus, we may have someone in our family
who is seriously ill.

Perhaps, like Jairus’ daughter, we are a young person suffering from some unfortunate situation, like an unhappy home, or just plain concern about our future.

Each of us has some problem that is threatening our peace of mind.

Each of us has some cloud that is hanging over our head.

Each of us has some cross that is weighing us down.

And to each of us Jesus says what he said to Jairus through the words in today’s gospel:

“Don’t be afraid, only believe.”

To each of us Jesus says what he said to Ann Jillian through the words on her parish church:

“The same everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow and every day. Either he will shield you from suffering, or he will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace then and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations.’’

Let’s take a closer look at those words.

They promise something really important.
They promise that God, who is a loving, caring Father,
will either protect us from suffering or give us the power to bear it when it comes.

They say that God may not remove some cross that we are now carrying, but God will give us the strength to keep carrying it.

They say that God may not erase some doubt that we are now experiencing, but God will give us the courage to keep walking in the dark.

This raises some questions. What do we do if we find it hard to put faith in God?

What do we do if we find it hard to be calm as Ann was?

What do we do if we find it hard to trust as Jairus did?

The answer to those questions is found in the story of Ann Jillian. We should do what she did. We should kneel before the blessed sacrament and pray for the grace to trust that God loves us more than we love ourselves.

We should kneel before the blessed sacrament and pray for the grace to trust that God is a Father who is always at our side.

If we do this with childlike trust, as Jairus and Ann did,
we, too, will experience the same inner peace that they did.

We, too, will experience the same inner calm and trust that they did.

We, too, will experience that God is always at our side,
ready to do whatever is best for us.

Let’s close with a poem. It sums up what we have been saying:
The road of life was bright. It stretched before my sight.
The Lord was at my side, to be my friend and guide.
 And so I started out.

But then the sky turned dark; the road grew rough and steep. Rocks and ruts tripped my feet. My legs grew sore and weak.
I scarce could carry on.

I turned and cried, “My Lord! Why this pain; why this plight?
Why the ruts; why the rocks?
Where’s the road; where’s the light?
I cannot carry on.”

Then the Lord turned and said, “My child, where is your faith?
Where’s your belief in me? Love chose this road for you.
Just trust and travel on.’’ Mark Link

Series III
13th Sunday of the Year
Wisdom 1:13–15, 2:23–24; 2 Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13–15;
Mark 5:21–43

Petitionary prayer
Ask, but let God decide. You could be pleasantly surprised.

She touched his cloak, and . . . had the feeling . . .
that she was healed. Mark 5:29

Apriest was giving a talk on Scripture in Canada.

After the talk a woman came up and gave him a note to read on his flight home.

When the priest settled on the plane, he took out the note. Permit me to share a portion of the note. It reads:

We’ve had many prayers answered in our family, but none so meaningful as the answer to our daughter’s recovery from an emotional problem.

On the twelfth anniversary of my daughter’s emotional illness,
I prayed in a special way to Jesus to heal her as he did the woman in the Gospel who had a hemorrhage for twelve years.

As you recall, the woman in the Gospel believed that if she could only touch the hem of his garment, she’d be healed.

After she touched his garment, Jesus turned to her and said,
“Woman, your faith has healed you.”

With that same kind of faith, I told Jesus that I believed he could heal my sick daughter, and that I had enough faith for both of us. The next day we noticed small, positive signs pointing to her recovery.

They continued in the days ahead. And after each one,
we thanked Jesus—whom we truly believed was answering our prayers.

That was six years ago. Today she is a happy young woman. And what is even more marvelous, Jesus is now using her to help other people.
The Canadian mother ended the story of her daughter’s healing with this observation:

God cannot answer prayers unless we pray.

And if we pray, God will answer our prayers
in his own time—and often in a way more marvelous than that for which we prayed. Note to author

God did this in the case of the mother’s daughter.
God used her illness to prepare her to help other people in need.

Commenting on how God often uses our trials to prepare us to help others, Saint Paul writes in his Second Letter to the Corinthians:

[God] helps us in all our troubles, so that we are able to help others . . .
using the same help that we ourselves have received from God.
 2 Corinthians 1:4–5

That is a remarkable statement. It ranks among my favorite passages in Saint Paul’s letters.

Let me repeat it for you:

[God] helps us in all our troubles, so that we are able to help others . . .
using the same help that we ourselves have received from God.

That brings us back to the Canadian mother’s statement
that God often answers our prayers in a way more marvelous than what we prayed for.

Years ago, a man named Bruno Hagspiel lived in a rural area where clothing stores carried only the bare essential items: underwear, socks, work clothes.

So he used to buy his dress clothes from a mail order house.

At the bottom of each order form was this question:

If we don’t have in stock the article you ordered, may we substitute another article similar to the one you ordered?

On one of his orders, Bruno wrote “yes.”

A week later, he was thrilled to death when the mail order house sent him a beautiful substitute at no extra cost—that listed at double the price of the item he ordered.

From that point on, Bruno always printed a big, bold “YES” after that question:

If we don’t have in stock the article you ordered,may we substitute another article similar to the one you ordered?

He even hoped they didn’t have the item in stock,
so they would send him something better.

Bruno compared the mail order episode to our prayer requests to God. He wrote:

When we pray to God, we should never omit telling him that we will gladly accept a substitute in place of what we are asking him for.

Because every time God does substitute something, it is always far, far better than what we asked for, or thought we needed.

Let us close with a brief meditation that sums up in a beautiful way what we have been trying to say about how God answers prayers in ways we never dreamed of.

I’m sure many of you are familiar with it.
It was found in the pocketof a dead Confederate soldier.

Widely reprinted by a rehabilitation center under the title “A Creed for Those Who Have Suffered,” it reads:

I asked for health, that I might do greater things;
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things. . . .

I asked for riches, that I might be happy;
I was given poverty, that I might be wise. . . .

I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men;
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need for God. . . .

I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life;
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things. . . .

I got nothing I asked for, but everything I hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am among all men most richly blessed.

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