Pentecost 3A, 2005
Matthew 9:9-13, 20-22a
NAMED OR UNNAMED… SHE WAS NOT LIKE US!
Should I touch him?
The pain of stretching.
Pushing my way through.
Touching just his dangling tassel.
No one will know.
No one needs to know.
No one knows.
No one knows what it's like to be me.
No one knows what I've been through.
No one knows the shame.
It's the blood.
Not like the rest.
Not every month or so.
All the time.
All the time!
And you know what that means!
Yes it means unclean, unclean.
No big deal if its just once a month for a few days.
But I'm different.
I am the difference walking around;
walking around bloody,
I am womanhood all wrapped up into a few days
and then smeared over the entire calendar.
No room for us at the temple.
Well, at least, not on the inside.
Always on the outside.
That's where I am now.
Why no room for me!
Just one section of Bill Loader’s poem, Should I touch him? (WLoader web site, 2005).
And offered in the spirit of the gospel story
from the storyteller we call Matthew.
We will hear some more later on
but for now I invite you to reflect on what you have just heard.
The unnamed woman in Matthew’s story took a risk.
Indeed continued to risk everything.
And Jesus’ response, according to our storyteller
was one of healing - of making whole, offering possibilities of new life:
‘your faith has made you well’.
The faith that Jesus affirmed in the woman
was not a faith confined to the mind or on paper,
or a faith from the comfort and safety of a church pew.
It was a reaching and a breaking free, faith.
A faith that defied expectations.
A faith that demanded radical social change.
A faith not a belief.
Unclean. Unclean, unclean - that's what they cry.
Did you know that's what they have to cry?
It is written.
I should join them: Unclean, unclean!
Perhaps we should all join together,
all of us,
We could sing a chorus of unclean unclean.
We could do it in parts:
and the half wits,
the queers (WLoader Web site, 2005).
I invite you to reflect again on what you have just heard.
The story of Cornelia Rau continues to make the evening news reports.
And so it should!
Where it was first deemed to be an isolated personal tragedy,
we now know more Australians have been wrongly detained.
One Australian woman was deported to Asia
and could not be found for some four years or so.
This week Fr. Andrew Hamilton SJ,
a Jesuit priest with whom I studied back in the late 1960s,
and publisher of the excellent journal Eureka Street,
wrote his editorial on the Cornelia Rau case.
In part he said this:
“The question initially asked about Cornelia Rau was why an Australian citizen should be treated so badly - jailed, detained, and despite some clear mental disturbance, sanctioned as if she was responsible for her bizarre behaviour.
“This question was morally adrift. We should ask why any human being could be treated in this way. The answer is clear and disturbing. She, and other people wrongfully detained and deported, was not like us...” (Eureka Street June 2005).
Cornelia Rau was clearly seen as an outsider. Unclean. Different.
Andrew Hamilton continues his editorial:
“It is... understandable that Cornelia Rau was placed in a ‘management unit’ - a small, windowless cell, with only a mattress, in which the subject is under perpetual video surveillance, with the light never turned off. For people who are not like us, such methods work. Like the cells at Port Arthur, they can turn rebellion into whimpering apathy.
“Those responsible for the detention of asylum seekers have created a culture in which we expect that people who are not like us should be treated differently. They have created a regime of inhumanity.
“It is not surprising that Australians who seem to be unlike us are wrongly detained, imprisoned and deported. That is not the scandal. The scandal is that we should fail to be outraged by the distinction between people like us and people who are not like us. And that we should fail to be outraged that any human being, Australian or not, should be subjected to the treatment asylum seekers meet at the hands of our representatives” (Eureka Street June 2005).
Being religious within Christianity is, I reckon,
really nothing more (or less) than going on the journey that Jesus chartered
rather than worshipping the journey of Jesus (Walter Wink).
And it’s a journey that begins when we take a step beyond ourselves
to follow the one who opens for us a surprising path,
that gives us surprising companions,
and shapes a surprising community marked by
compassion and mercy and hospitality.
On this Multicultural Sunday I invite you to again
reflect on what you have heard.
No one saw me.
It was like I was reaching out for my life...
My body still shudders as I think about it.
My faith had saved me.
But it wasn't over...
The hand that reached out to me had no pointed finger.
It was turned upward as if it was only half for me
but half feeling for the rain.
But it wasn't raining.
He didn't want me to kneel down.
He didn't want me to run away.
He didn't want to hit me or beat me.
It was all so moving I couldn't really see what he was doing
and I didn't really hear what he said.
It didn't last very long.
In fact it seemed just a moment.
His hand touched mine.
The crowd moved on.
And I was alone with my joy, with my tears.
As I turned to go home,
I looked at my hand - there was a mark of blood (WLoader Web site, 2005).