Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Memorial of Saint Marianne Cope, virgin

(Hebrews 7:1=3.15-17; Mark 3:1-6)

Back when there was concern that the AIDS virus might be transmitted through touch, a woman visited an old friend dying of the disease in a hospital. While taking leave, she did not hesitate to embrace him as a sign of her affection. The words of Marianne Cope, whose feast is celebrated for the first time today as a saint, echo with the woman’s action: we are “to make life as pleasant and as comfortable as possible for those of our fellow-creatures who God has chosen to afflict.”

Marianne came to the United States from Germany as an infant. At twenty-four, she entered religious life and promptly showed her ability as a school teacher. She also was instrumental in founding the first Catholic hospitals in mid-state New York. Missionary zeal must have moved Sr. Marianne to help the lepers with whom St. Damien worked in Hawaii before the islands became American territory. She continued her mission with lepers and children there until her death in 1918.

Today’s gospel pictures Jesus as performing the same kind of compassionate service as Marianne Cope. Indeed, he no doubt inspired her ministry. In healing the paralytic Jesus shows that he is not afraid of the consequences of doing a truly good deed. Despite the inevitable criticism for healing on the Sabbath – an act which the puritanical find defiant of the Law – he knows that showing such mercy pleases the Father.