Fr Andrew's thought for the week - 27 June
Last Sunday in our Gospel reading we considered Jesus’ call for calm even in the midst of a sudden crisis, giving his own example of sleeping on the cushion in the back of a boat in the face of a violent storm.
This week we see Jesus intervening in a very different way, in two circumstances.
First, we have the story of Jairus’ daughter who was seriously ill then died. In the midst of this story, we have the picture of the healing of the woman with an issue of blood.
Jesus was approached by Jairus, an example of a good Jewish leader. Despite the fact that Jesus drew suspicion from Jewish leaders, Jairus approaches Jesus. He was desperate of course – his daughter was dying – he would almost certainly have done almost anything to save her. It must have been a frustration for him therefore, that Jesus, having agreed to come to his house is delayed along the way. Jesus’ path to Jairus’ house was interrupted by a crowd (cf. 5:24). More specifically, an unnamed woman, approached Jesus secretly. This was a bold woman). But, in light of her condition as one whose “impurity” (cf. Leviticus 15:25-30) could have cut her off from the religious community and from financial stability, she may not have had a choice but to act daringly.
She had “suffered a lot” under the care of the medical practitioners (5:26). Attention from the professionals was usually reserved for elite persons. The “suffering” remains ambiguous but may relate to length of time, severity of pain, or social scorn under the “care” of the specialists (5:26).
This unnamed woman spoke, and these words provide insight into the woman’s thinking and theological perspective (5:28). Not only touching him but touching even his clothes may provide healing from diseases. This theological rationale was confirmed by her healing.
Just as the woman understood the changes in her body, so Jesus recognized a change in his body. [Jesus initially played no active role in her healing.] The drying up of her blood flow (i.e., her “discharge”) was due to the “discharge” of Jesus’ “power” (dunamis in 5:30). But no one else — including the disciples — recognized what had leaked out/transpired. Not even Jesus was fully aware of what had happened. Jesus was unwilling to allow the outflow of his “power” to occur without acknowledgement. The “stealing” of a healing miracle was inappropriate. It was one thing for him to touch others (e.g., 1:41; 3:10) but another matter altogether for persons to touch him.
“Fear,” not boldness, provoked the woman to come forward this time. Yet, she presented herself to him to reveal the “whole truth” (5:33). She did not have to return. She could have escaped with her healing intact. But she apparently understood his intense look (perieblepeto, a common Markan term usually reserved for Jesus’ glare [3:5, 34; 5:32; 10:23; 11:11]) and may have recognized the potential for public shame if she were caught by this male healer. The cultural weight of her situation demanded her return.
How many members of that crowd must have felt skittish after hearing the “truth” that her vaginal bleeding-self had come into contact with so many of them before the healing! [Since the author reserved the term “truth” only for Jesus — who “teaches the way of God in accordance with the truth” (12:14) — and this woman, this was another courageous act on her part!]
After his initial “glare” (periblepeto) at the crowd and surroundings, Jesus’ reaction was rather surprising. What flowed from him (“power”) earlier healed her. Now, what flowed from her (“truth”) would bring forth healing, confirming words: “Daughter, your faith has made you well!”
The narrative then returns to the journey to Jairus’ house. The delay — to “heal” and “converse” with the unnamed woman — led to a report from Jairus’ household that his daughter had already died. Jesus was too late. “While he was still speaking” (verse 35) words of affirmation and confirmation to the daring woman whose “faith” had made her well, bad news arrived: “your daughter has died.”
But Jesus’ reaction to this news reminds us of what enslaved African Americans of the 19th century sang, “God may not come when you call him, but he’ll be there right on time!”
Despite the way circumstances looked, there was a firm belief in the sovereignty of God.
Jesus challenged Jairus to hold on to his faith (i.e., “only believe”), a faith that led him to the healer in the first place.
The story or pair of stories, ends as Jesus heals, brings new life to the girl.
So, what does this complex story tell us?
It tells us that:
1. Jesus is interested in every aspect of our lives. Not just the big, headline issues, but understanding of the traumas and complexities of everyday life. Jesus is interested in every aspect of your life and mine – nothing is too small or too great to take to Him.
2. No-one can claim precedence in the free gift of God’s love. The Jewish leader’s cause was ‘held up’ by the needs of a ritually impure old woman.
3. Sometimes people are not entirely sure what they want of Jesus and unsure if they can get it.
4. Those who come to the Church unsure, are so afraid they may only risk touching the hem of the garment, those who come along asking for Baptism, marriage, or funeral, sometimes take precedence of the needs and desires of those of us who know exactly what we want and when. In more direct terms noisy children Baptisms and Weddings may upset our quiet devotions but Jesus is willing to wait for them and they too can touch the hem of the garment of the Church.
5. Finally, and this is an important one – we must hold Faith and remember: “God may not come when you call him, but he’ll be there right on time!”