Daily Gospel Reflection - 28 January 2013
Jesus crossed the lake again, and on the other side a large crowd gathered around him on the shore. Jairus, one of the synagogue leaders, came forward. When he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet and pleaded with him, “My daughter is about to die. Please, come and place your hands on her so that she can be healed and live.” So Jesus went with him.
A swarm of people were following Jesus, crowding in on him. A woman was there who had been bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a lot under the care of many doctors, and had spent everything she had without getting any better. In fact, she had gotten worse. Because she had heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his clothes. She was thinking, If I can just touch his clothes, I’ll be healed. Her bleeding stopped immediately, and she sensed in her body that her illness had been healed.
At that very moment, Jesus recognized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and said,“Who touched my clothes?”
His disciples said to him, “Don’t you see the crowd pressing against you? Yet you ask, ‘Who touched me?’” But Jesus looked around carefully to see who had done it.
The woman, full of fear and trembling, came forward. Knowing what had happened to her, she fell down in front of Jesus and told him the whole truth. He responded, “Daughter, your faith has healed you; go in peace, healed from your disease.”
While Jesus was still speaking with her, messengers came from the synagogue leader’s house, saying to Jairus, “Your daughter has died. Why bother the teacher any longer?”
But Jesus overheard their report and said to the synagogue leader, “Don’t be afraid; just keep trusting.” He didn’t allow anyone to follow him except Peter, James, and John, James’ brother. They came to the synagogue leader’s house, and he saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. He went in and said to them, “What’s all this commotion and crying about? The child isn’t dead. She’s only sleeping.” They laughed at him, but he threw them all out. Then, taking the child’s parents and his disciples with him, he went to the room where the child was. Taking her hand, he said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Young woman, get up.” Suddenly the young woman got up and began to walk around. She was 12 years old. They were shocked! He gave them strict orders that no one should know what had happened. Then he told them to give her something to eat.
I was sitting in the passenger seat of my friend’s car. Another friend was in the back seat. I had been going through a very dark place and had just received some devastating news. I was losing it. Everything was crashing around me and my foundations were shambles. My friends had no words of comfort. There were no great theological insights that dealt with the deep pain I was experiencing. Their only comfort for me was to sit and cry with me. We were all just blubbering idiots.
At one point, I told them, “You know, all of our years of biblical study don’t mean anything. All I know is...I have to be the woman with the issue of blood. If I just touch the hem of Jesus’ clothes, I’ll be okay. That’s all I have.”
I’m sure there are others that have been through similar issues. I think that’s part of the human experience. And there aren’t any good words of comfort when someone is hurting. I’ve seen too many hurting people hurt again by a word misspoken. Pat answers don’t help when one is hurting. It’s been my experience that most of life’s pain don’t have appropriate responses to the nagging questions. The best advice for those wanting to comfort others in great pain is just to be there. Be present. Make yourself available. Don’t judge. Don’t offer solutions. Don’t say things like, “I know how you feel,” or “Everything happens for a reason,” or “It’ll be okay,” or “It’s all part of G_d’s plan.” In every one of those responses there’s an air of ego. We can’t know how others feels about something simply because we’re not them. We know how we felt in our situation, but we can never really know how others feels, no matter how close we are to them.
Furthermore, we don’t know for certain what G_d’s will is for someone else (or even ourselves a lot of the time) or what the reason is for another’s pain or even if things will be “okay.” We simply don’t know. We aren’t suppose to know. Our best response is to just say, “I don’t know, but I’m here for you.”
In chapter three of her book, “Knowing Her Place: Gender and the Gospels,” Anne Thurston states that the two female characters in our Gospel reading today are forever linked together. She rightly (in my opinion) states that the number twelve is significant in that it refers to menstruation - one would have soon started and the other couldn’t stop. Of their encounter with Jesus, she writes:
“Two untouchable female bodies have been made whole. They are both ‘daughters in the faith.’ There are still boundaries, there are still insiders and outsiders, but the definition of what is ‘holy,’ of what is ‘clean,’ of what is ‘pure,’ has changed. It is faith and not rigid adherence to the letter of the law which opens access to the holy. Salvation is experienced in and through the bodies of women. These women are not simply restored to the community, they constitute a new community, one based on faith. This is why we should attend to the number twelve. Its use here, as in the story of the multiplication of the loaves, has a symbolic significance beyond that of linking the two female characters. The new Israel will include those isolated and rejected by sickness, by impurity, by disease. Faith overcomes even the final separation of death.
“Linking the two stories is not merely an interesting literary device but it also symbolizes the new inclusive community inaugurated by the ministry of Jesus...
“By interrupting the story of the healing of the daughter of Jairus, the narrator radically transforms it. Instead of a simple healing story it becomes a parable about faith, about inclusiveness, about the in-breaking of the reign of G_d. It is not simply the story about the healing of two women but about the healing of the imagination which challenges the disciples of Jesus then and now to transcend the restrictions by which they attempt to limit access to divine power” (pp. 22-23, amended).
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC