Br. Bernard Jean Delcourt, OHC
Proper 8 B – Sunday, July 1, 2012
Wisdom of Solomon 1:13-15; 2:23-24
2 Corinthians 8:7-15
Jesus cares for both the privileged and the poor. Jesus hears both of their prayers. He responds to the faith of the one and the other. Jesus wants us to live fully in God’s integrative love; the love that makes us One with the One.
|The hemorrhaging woman reaches out for Jesus' robe|
In today’s passage, Mark the Evangelist displays to us the divinity of Jesus-the-man through his Kingship over both Law and Life.
Jesus does not let the letter of the Law, or even, the spirit of contemporary purity codes, stop him from serving the poor and the desolate.
Jesus does not even let the natural course of Life stop him from ministering to those who call upon him in faith.
But before I explore Jesus’ healing of our lives with you, as illuminated by Mark’s gospel, I want to sound a word of caution.
I have faith in Jesus and I love God as best I can. I do believe in prayer and in God’s loving involvement with each and every parcel of creation (me included).
Yet, I do not know God as God is, nor do I pretend to comprehend or understand God’s work in all of creation.
When I pray, the best of me knows that I am coming to the relationship that evokes me and builds me up. I don’t come to prayer to cash into the power of God. I don’t count on my laundry list of requests being the most important thing in my relationship with God.
And yet, I know God cares and so I often bring my laundry list anyway. In prayer, I help God transform me and teach me, while he loves me as I am and for whom I am.
I say all this because today’s gospel passage could be over-simplified as: “believe strongly enough, and anything you ask for will come to pass as you intended.”
And that is a dangerous way of looking at prayer and relationship with the God who wants us to be One.
Jairus and the hemorrhaging woman believed in Jesus. And healing beyond their comprehension touched them through the touch of Jesus. This is important; belief in Jesus is central. Letting Jesus touch us is vital.
But, I don’t want to sound absurdly optimistic about what our faith and prayer can achieve. It can achieve miracles but it is rarely the miracle we thought we were asking for. Even for Jairus and the bleeding woman, the miracle went beyond what it seemed at first.
Being enfolded in God’s integrative love is miracle enough and it often takes shapes we don’t immediately recognize. So keep praying, cleave to your faith; by all means.
But I don’t ignore that sometimes, our most earnest prayers seem unheard, or at least unanswered. Or was it that we didn’t believe in our own prayer to start with? I don’t know.
Seven weeks ago, I led my best friend’s mother into the police morgue where her murdered grand-daughter lay in state. As I caught sight of this beloved girl of 16 years, my heart went to Jesus’ words “Talitha cum”; get up little girl. But it was not to be.
I still don’t know what miracle of integrative love is worked out in me or in my beloved friends who lost their only child. But I do believe that their daughter is enfolded in Jesus’ love and that signs of love will continue to abound in all of our lives; even if the desire to see that young woman live her life with us here and now will not come to pass.
So with this word of caution about faith and prayer, let us re-visit the healing power of Jesus.
In this gospel we read today, Mark the Evangelist weaves a brilliant narrative to reveal the nature of Jesus’ person and the depth of his ministry. There are actually two stories, of course. And one is inserted in the middle of the other.
There is the story of Jairus. There is the story of the hemorrhaging woman. The two stories are intertwined for a reason. And we are invited to contrast and compare them for insight.
Jairus is an honored religious leader. He has means (servants, a house, paid mourners). Yet he, a leader of the synagogue, recognizes Jesus’ authority and demonstrates it by kneeling in front of this traveling carpenter from Nazareth.
In the second part of Jairus’ story, you can nearly hear the sneer in his servants telling him it’s no use bothering “the Teacher” any further. And then there are the professional mourners who actually laugh at Jesus’ assertion that the child is not dead. Clearly, Jairus is giving honor to Jesus against the flow of his entourage’s thinking.
Yet, upon hearing Jairus’ plea in all its genuineness, Jesus immediately follows him to his home, followed by a pressing crowd.
The suffering woman, on the other hand, is a pariah in her own society. Her constant bleeding has ailed her health and financial situation. Her bleeding makes her ritually unclean. People would move away from her if they saw her coming. Her touch would make them religiously unclean themselves.
That no male intercedes in her stead indicates that she probably is a widow without male heir. Such women were very vulnerable to start with whether pure or not.
She too recognizes Jesus’ authority. But she knows that only stealth will get her close to him. The crowd is so focused on Jesus that no one even notices her sidling up to him.
Yet she does not presume being allowed to address him and make a plea. Instead, she ardently believes that touching his robe will cure her, and so it does.
But Jesus is aware of her and demands to know who touched him. This is a moment of jeopardy for the woman; according to the codes of purity, she has just defiled a holy man. She might be even more deeply shamed and shunned now, than she already has been.
But the woman does not escape and acknowledge Jesus’ status by kneeling in front of him and confessing to him what has just happened.
Contrary to all expectations of their society, Jesus acknowledges the woman. He honors her as kin of choice by calling her “Daughter.”
In so doing, he uses his great authority to restore her to full participation in her community. Honorable belonging to the community is the apex of what this society would have called healing; well beyond the curing of a physical condition. The woman is fully healed.
Is Jairus on pins and needles while all this happens? Or is he further mesmerized by the charisma emanating from this man? The text doesn’t say and he might experience both.
In delaying his visit to Jairus’ home to re-integrate the woman in the people of God, Jesus shows us another lesson we keep trying to forget. It is what the Roman Catholic social teaching of the 20th century called the preferential option for the poor.
In our own lives, how do we stand by the poor, be with them, advocate for them and love them? Where does my preferential option for the poor express itself?
Yet those favored with ample resources are not forgotten nor ignored. Jesus chooses his closest disciples to accompany Jairus and his wife to the deathbed of their daughter.
After a public demonstration of his standing beyond the scope of the Law, Jesus offers a private glimpse of his standing beyond the scope of Life and Death as we usually experience them.
Another daughter, Jairus’ own, is given back to her community. She had lived 12 years up to then; just as the woman had hemorrhaged 12 years up to then. Twelve years, as a repeated symbol of the wholeness of the People of God, to whom these females are rehabilitated.
God loves us, engages with us and with our prayers. Often, it looks nothing like we asked. Will we move on disgruntled and ungrateful? Or will grace open our eyes to the even better gifts we have received? Those gifts that the Spirit, searching our hearts and the heart of God, knew we needed above all?
Beloved Lord, give me the courage to reach out and touch the hem of your robe, to kneel before you. Give me the faith to receive and nurture what you know is best for me. And if there are items on my laundry list that you really like too, so be it. So be it, Lord. Amen.