Hope and Faith
The gospel story offers an image of two figures — a woman afflicted for twelve years with a disease that has strained her strength and her money, and a twelve-year-old girl who has died. We see Jesus in a situation where two people have every reason in the world to look at this image of God and say, “I am experiencing the things I am experiencing — this disease I am stuck with, my daughter’s illness which has brought about her death — because of punishment from God. My life has been imperfect, so this is my punishment.” At the time of Jesus, there was a strong teaching that held that if things were going well, God was favoring you. You had done good things for him. But if things were going badly, God himself was punishing you for the things you did wrong.
Jairus, a devout Jew, the ruler of a synagogue, is desperate! His daughter is sick. He doesn’t know what to do. Jairus has heard the rumors about Jesus’ healing powers – the lame walk, the blind see, lepers are cleansed. Prejudice, dignity, and pride. Jairus has to give all these up hoping that Jesus might save his child…. He reaches out to the last person, you would ever expect – Jesus. The last thing he would do as a Jew, with his beliefs in the power of God (his daughter is sick – it is God’s will) is to ask Jesus for help. Jesus asks no questions and goes to heal the child. We are reminded: If you believe in God, believe in the one who sent me that he has given me the power to do his will.
Jesus goes to the home of Jairus to attend to his daughter. When Jesus and his disciples arrive at the home, the naysayers are everywhere. There’s always someone around who says, “Look, don’t bother this person. Don’t bother the Rabbi. The girl is dead.” Jesus says, “Fear is useless. What is needed is trust. Get out of here.” Jesus is saying we need to get rid of our fearful attitudes. “The child is not dead but asleep,” Jesus told them. Jesus invokes the Father in order that his life-giving presence may restore all that seemed lost and beyond hope.
God is always around to bring life, especially where people sense there is only death. That’s who God is, and that is the energy he is pouring out. There is no other energy coming from God than a positive, life-giving energy. If we are in touch with that kind of God, we will find healing.
The story of the woman with the hemorrhage is told in considerable detail. Her ailment was more than physical. She was ostracized due to her illness and was thus on the margins of society (Leviticus 15:25-27). Her economic situation was probably as bad as it could be! Her life was at the point of being hopeless. She was no different than those in today’s society who live with physical, mental, and social handicaps.
Again, Jesus was making good impressions everywhere for His miraculous healing. People from all over were coming to Him to be healed of their afflictions. This woman thought, “If only He could see me, maybe, just maybe, I could be healed. As an outcast, her chances were slim. Jewish law prohibited her from associating with other people due to her illness.
Like the lepers, she couldn’t go out and associate with people. If anyone even touched her, they too would be considered “unclean” and have to go through a cleansing to be made right.
The gospel says she heard about Him and his healing power. How could she get to see Him, let alone have Him possibly cure her? She knew that He wouldn’t touch her because she was an outcast. She couldn’t just walk up to Him and ask Him. How could she get close enough to Him to be cured?
She devised a plan. With the great crowds of people in the city and surrounding Jesus, she thought that maybe she could get close enough to touch one of the tassels of His cloak. Maybe that will work.
She touched one of Jesus’ tassels. Two things immediately happened! Both she and Jesus felt this shock wave in their bodies! She felt empowered as if receiving a shock from grabbing an electric wire. Jesus felt that same shock, but as if it were the after effects of grabbing that wire. One had something added, the other something subtracted. Both asking themselves, “What just happened?”
Jesus looked around to see who had just touched Him. How could Jesus avoid being touched and jostled in a crowd like that? What an eye opener for His disciples to learn that it cost Jesus anything to heal others.
There were a lot of people in the area, anybody could have brushed up against Him. But her touch was different! It was a touch that cried out for help! It was a touch of faith and longing. Not seeing anyone, he immediately asked, “Who touched me?” The onlookers around Jesus must have asking the same question, “Was it you who touched the Rabbi? Was it you?” The woman fearing the worst falls at His feet and testified to her long struggle with pain and suffering. What does Jesus do? He says, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”. Shalom. Peace be with you.
The unclean woman tells us about Jesus. It tells us the cost of healing. Every time Jesus healed someone it took something out of Him. Here is a universal rule of life. We will never produce anything great unless we are prepared to put something of ourselves, of our very life, of our very soul into it. Nobody has ever put their heart and soul into something that did not turn out to be great. Nobody. If we are ever to help people, we must be ready to expend our energy. It all comes from our attitude towards each other.
People in desperate or helpless circumstances were not disappointed when they sought Jesus out. What drew them to Jesus? Was it hope for a miracle or a word of comfort in their affliction? What did the elderly woman who had suffered miserably for twelve years expect Jesus to do for her? And what did a grieving father expect Jesus to do for his beloved daughter who was at the point of death?
In both instances we see Jesus’ personal concern for the needs of others and his readiness to heal and restore life. Jesus gave hope where there seemed to be no human cause for it because his hope was directed to God. He spoke words of hope to the woman (Take heart, daughter!) to ignite the spark of faith in her (your faith has made you well!). And with the little girl, He gave strict orders that no one should know this and said that she should be given something to eat.
In Jesus we see the infinite love of God extending to each and every individual as he gives freely and wholly of himself to each person he meets. The greatness of Jesus was that He was prepared to pay the price to help others, and that price was that every time he helped someone he expended a little of his life. We follow in His steps only when we are prepared to spend our souls and strength for others.
Today’s gospel speaks to us in two different but related ways. No matter who we are and what our condition is, Jesus remains the great healer. He has a particular love for those who find their dignity undermined. He is a source of life and strength for us, He is at the same time a model and pattern of how we, His followers, are to act. The church as the body of Christ is called to continue Jesus’ healing presence in the world.