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  • Christopher Looby

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

I recently read this wonderful story from the National Catholic Reporter called “’Please . . . forgive us’: the story of my return to the church” by Don Lambert.

When he was eight years old, Don wanted to be an altar boy — he even harbored thoughts of becoming a priest. It was the summer of 1958; he just completed the third grade. He memorized all the Latin responses; he practiced all the movements. Finally, the morning came when he would serve Mass for the first time.

To his horror, the eighth-grader who was supposed to serve with him didn’t show. One of the sisters in the parish sat behind the flag in the sanctuary prompting instructions.

But disaster struck. It came time for him to pick up the heavy missal and bring it to the other side of the altar. As he genuflected while trying to balance the book on its stand, his foot got caught in the hem of his cassock, and both he and the missal went sprawling to the floor.

The priest stopped the Mass and turned. His face was red, his forehead clenched like a fist. “What’s going on?” he barked. “I want you to leave and never serve Mass for me again!”

The boy ran from the sanctuary. He ripped off his cassock and surplice. And he never went back to church again. Ever.

Thirty years later, he was traveling through the Midwest on business. He passed a beautiful cathedral that piqued his curiosity so he decided to go in.

He went inside where he struck up a conversation with a priest he met.

As they talked about the beautiful simplicity and symbolism of the church, he told the priest the story of his literal “fall from grace” — a story he had never told before.

The priest listened compassionately. Then he replied, “Priests don’t always do everything right. Please . . . forgive us.”

Tears came to his eyes. The priest embraced him.

And so began a long and bumpy road home.

There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years. “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.”

The “touch of Jesus’ cloak” can be experienced in a simple act of generosity or a kind word offering forgiveness. The hurt and humiliation suffered by this one-time altar boy, like the illness suffered by the hemorrhaging woman, was “healed” by the simple “touch” of a priest’s compassion.

The “power” of Jesus mercy is extended in the priest’s simple, heart-felt apology.

If you think about it…WE are the cloak of Christ!

As members of the Church, we are knitted together into the fabric that make up the garment of Christ!

Whenever we visit the sick, pray for and with others for healing, when we boost their morale with our loving presence and words of encouragement, whenever we go out of our way to heal a wound in body, mind or spirit we are giving the despairing and needy an opportunity to experience the power of Jesus’ compassion and peace in the “cloak” of our compassion and care.

Sometimes all it takes is to just say, “Please forgive me” even for a hurt you that you yourself did not inflict.

In a few moments we have the privilege of being able to literally touch Jesus in the Eucharist. May it heal all of our infirmities in body, mind or spirit so that we are able to bring that healing into world.


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