We know that we must believe in order to be saved. Sometimes, we must admit that our belief is little more than lip-service. But we owe God all of us, as the Sh’ma states: “the Lord is our God, the Lord is One… And you shall love the Lord Your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” We must love God with our whole being, and as the best Teacher, He will give us opportunities to engage and express that faith, just as he did in today’s Gospel.
Imagine the depth of faith of the “official” (most probably not a Jew) whose daughter is already dead. This is the time for mourning, not for running after some itinerant Jewish rabbi. The professional mourners are already about their business, but this official leaves to find Jesus, interrupts his teaching, and kneels before him in deference, confident that he will be heard, confident that Jesus will intervene. Perhaps the official has seen Jesus work miracles before; but has he ever raised the dead back to life? No doubt impelled by love for his daughter, he dares to believe that Jesus will do just that. He asks him to come and lay his hand on the girl, and Jesus, somewhat astonishingly, rises to follow him.
Now imagine the thoughts running through the mind of this official when the woman with the hemorrhage interrupts their journey! A delay of this urgent business must have caused some anxiety; he is challenged to be patient and remain steadfast in his faith, even though the outcome is delayed.
The woman with the hemorrhage (who has been unable to worship with the community for twelve years, because she is ritually unclean!) expresses her faith by touching Jesus’ cloak, trusting that she can be cured by simply coming in contact with his clothing. Her trusting touch is indeed rewarded, but Jesus points to the cause for her healing: “Your faith has saved you.”
Finally, the group arrives at the official’s house, and as if to underscore the reality of the daughter’s death, the Gospel tells us that the mourners ridiculed Jesus for saying the girl was only sleeping. These people certainly knew death when they saw it; there could be no doubt that the girl was really dead. But Jesus touches her, takes her by the hand, and “the little girl arose.” The official’s faith and trust were rewarded with healing, as the woman’s had been.
There is another parallel in these two intertwined stories: the woman expressed her faith by touching the cloak of Jesus; the girl is healed when Jesus touches her. In these actions, we see how Jesus’ presence is “incarnational” – he respects the nature he has given us and uses material things to accomplish spiritual purposes, affirming bodiliness. There is nothing in our minds and memories that wasn’t first in the senses; we know and remember what we have experienced.
The healing of Jesus came through touching and words, and his grace still comes to us through matter and word and ritual in the sacraments. The sacraments are signs that point beyond themselves to invisible realities, using water and oil, bread and wine, signing with the cross and laying on of hands and eating and drinking to bring us into contact with the living God. We must receive them in faith, so that we can be healed and freed and restored to life by Christ, as the woman and little girl were in today’s Gospel.
Kathryn is married to Robert, mother of seven, grandmother to two, and a lay Carmelite. She has worked as a teacher, headmistress, catechist, Pastoral Associate, and DRE, and also as a writer and voice talent for Holy Family Radio. Currently, she serves the Church as a writer and presenter, and by collaborating with the diocesan Office of Faith Formation, individual parishes, and Catholic ministries to lead others to encounter Christ and engage their faith. Learn more at www.kathryntherese.com or on Facebook @summapax.