TUESDAY HOMILY: Reaching Out to Touch Jesus with Faith
Jesus was on his way with Jairus, the synagogue leader, to raise his daughter from the dead. St. Mark tells us that a large crowd was following Jesus and pressing in on him. As happens in almost any big crowd, people were bumping into him left and right.
Yet in the midst of all of that commotion on the move, Jesus is touched in a different way by this anonymous woman - and Jesus immediately knew he was touched in a different way. The woman believed that if she could just touch the tassel of his garments, she would be cured. And she was not to be disappointed.
Jesus, upon feeling his healing power go out in response to her faith, asked, somewhat remarkably, "Who touched my clothes?" It shows how big the crowd must have been banging into him that he didn't even see the woman approach him to touch the edge of his garments.
But Jesus was never interested in merely working miracles of bodily healing. Those were always a prelude to the greater miracle of healing souls, and that healing happened and happens through a personal relationship with him. That's why he never worked "mass miracles of healing," but always cured people one-by-one, because he wanted to have that personal bond. So Jesus wanted to meet and enter into a relationship with the person he had just physically cured.
After Jesus' question, the woman approached with fear and trembling, fell down before him and told him everything, including how she had sought to pick-pocket a healing miracle from him without his even knowing.
She was afraid not just because the stop she had caused Jesus to make was going to prove fatal for the daughter of the obviously impatient, powerful synagogue leader, but because by her touching Jesus with her effusion of blood, she was making him ritually impure according to the Jewish law and incapable without ablutions of entering the synagogue. She may have thought that Jesus and everyone else with whom she would have come into contact trying to get to Jesus would be outraged against her.
Her ritual impurity meant that she had been suffering not only physically for twelve years, but also socially and religiously: because of her bleeding, she couldn't touch anyone and was basically cut off from human contact; she was even, in a sense, cut off from God by not being able to enter the synagogue.
Jesus would address all those problems. He spoke to her tenderly, called her "Daughter," and said, "Your faith has made you well. Go in peace and be healed of your disease." He made the miracle public so that she could be restored totally to the community, to the worship of God, and to a relationship with God-in-the-flesh.
The miracle of the healing of Jairus' daughter later in the Gospel passage likewise began with a touch.
Jairus, the leader of the Capernaum synagogue where Jesus was already becoming controversial, didn't care if the rabbis and the members of the community would criticize him for reaching out to someone who was highly suspect in their eyes, but, out of love for his daughter, ran up to him, threw himself at his feet, doubtless grabbed onto them, and, as St. Mark says, begged Jesus repeatedly to come and lay his hands on his daughter that she might get well and live.
Jairus knew that there was a power to Jesus' hands, to his healing touch, and he wanted his daughter to feel that touch. And at the end of the scene, after she had died and everyone was mourning her death the way anyone would mourn the death of a child, Jairus would see that Jesus' healing touch was even more powerful than he had imagined.
"Do not fear," Jesus told Jairus, "only believe," and Jairus did both.
When he arrived at the house after the little girl had died, Jesus took her by the hand, touched her, and said, "Little girl, Arise!" In Greek, the verb is the same word used to describe Jesus' resurrection.
Like in Michelangelo's famous scene of the creation of Adam on the vault of the Sistine Chapel when God stretches out his hand and instills life into Adam, so Jesus' touch brings life back into this little girl "I am the resurrection and the life," Jesus said elsewhere, and his touch contains within it that resurrection, with that life, with that total restorative power.
The question for you and me is whether in our lives we humbly reach out to touch Jesus with the faith of Jairus and the woman with the 12 year hemorrhage - or do we just "bump into him," like all those following in the crowd, who, even though they were coming into physical contact with him, were receiving none of his healing and transformative power.
There's obviously a great Eucharistic application to this, when we have the unbelievable privilege not only ...
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