by Rev. Robert J. Wagner
Reprinted by permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
To Sunday Gospel Reflections Index
Mark wrote to explain
to the new Gentile converts.
When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered around him, and he stayed close to the sea. One of the synagogue officials, named Jairus, came forward. Seeing him he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, saying, "My daughter is at the point of death. Please, come lay your hands on her that she may get well and live." He went off with him, and a large crowd followed him and pressed upon him.
There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years. She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors and had spent all that she had. Yet she was not helped but only grew worse. She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak. She said, "If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured." Immediately her flow of blood dried up. She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction. Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd and asked, "Who has touched my clothes?" But his disciples said to him, "You see how the crowd is pressing upon you, and yet you ask, 'Who touched me?'" And he looked around to see who had done it. The woman, realizing what had happened to her, approached in fear and trembling. She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth. He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction."
While he was still speaking, people from the synagogue official's house arrive and said, "Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?" Disregarding the message that was reported, Jesus said to the synagogue official, "Do not be afraid; just have faith." He did not allow anyone to accompany him inside except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official, he caught sight of a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. So he went in and said to them, "Why this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep." And they ridiculed him. Then he put them all out. He took along the child's father and mother and those who were with him and entered the room where the child was. He took the child by the hand and said to her, "Talitha koum," which means, "Little girl, I say to you, arise!"
At the start of this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus is surrounded by a large crowd when a synagogue official named Jairus asks Jesus to come heal his daughter. We later find that his daughter has died, allowing Jesus to show His divine power over death by raising her from the dead. Yet before that great miracle, as Jesus and the large crowd of disciples made their way toward the official’s home, a woman who had been suffering for 12 years from hemorrhages clandestinely approaches Jesus, touches His cloak and instantly is healed.
Why did this woman act in secret? By Jewish law, her condition had rendered her ritually impure, unable to participate in the worship of God. Not only was she impure, but any clothes she wore, any furniture she sat upon and even the people she touched would be considered unclean as well (cf. Lev 15:25-27). For 12 years, this woman not only suffered from hemorrhages, she was also a pariah in her community. She believed that Jesus had the power to heal her and end her suffering and isolation, but to approach Him publicly might bring her situation to light.
By touching Jesus, Mosaic law deemed that she would make Him impure as well. However, Jesus is God, the reason for and the fulfillment of the law, and we know that He cannot be made unclean. As further proof, Jewish law also would declare unclean those who come into contact with a human corpse (cf. Num 19:11), yet we know that at the end of this Gospel account, Jesus raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead after taking hold of her lifeless hand. In both cases, Jesus is not defiled by the ritually impure. Instead, through His divinity, He restores the corrupted.
When some people who have strayed from the church are invited to a wedding or a funeral, they may joke, saying, “If I enter the church, I'm liable to be struck by lightning,” or “They might bar the doors when they see me coming.” Behind this levity, however, lies a hidden fear: the belief that they are too sinful to encounter Jesus. Yet even those who practice their faith daily can struggle with this fear. When we compare the goodness, power and purity of Our Lord to our sinfulness, we are tempted to keep God at a distance until we become holier (which is self-defeating since holiness cannot be achieved apart from God's grace). We can find this fear of intimacy in our prayer life when we think that we are “too much” for the Lord. We might try to use perfect words, dispositions and emotions in our prayer, but all the while hide our “real” broken sinful self, so much in need of His healing. This fear even can keep us from encountering Jesus in the sacraments, especially confession, which we might avoid because we feel ashamed, defeated or hopeless when we struggle with the same things over and over again.
Each of us must recognize that this temptation to stay away from Our Lord does not come from Jesus Christ, who welcomes sinners and touches the unclean. Rather, the temptation comes from the evil one, who seeks to separate us from God and lead us to despair. If we continue these patterns of thinking, we end up like the hemorrhaging woman, suffering for years, isolated from others and from God by our own sense of uncleanness.
As disciples of Christ, we are called to go to Him with our sinfulness, brokenness, fears and anxiety. Through His divine power, He can and wants to restore us and bring us into communion with the holy Trinity and with the church. We should never let our sins be the reason we do not approach Our Savior, because the reason Jesus came was to forgive us of our sins. St. Francis de Sales offers us a healthy approach to our sinfulness when he writes, “I know what sort of a being I am; and yet even though I feel myself miserable, I am not troubled at it. Nay, I am sometimes joyful at it, considering that I am truly a fit object for the mercy of God.”
We are all fit objects for the mercy and healing of Jesus Christ. Let us never be afraid to reach out to Him in faith.
To Sunday Gospel Reflections Index