The entire Bible tells us that the God who reveals himself to us in Jesus Christ is the God who is the source of life and not of death. Jesus himself, the complete revelation of God (Col 2:9), tells us that he has come “that we may have life and have it to the full” (Jn 10:10). Today’s readings invite us to ponder the mystery of life as a precious gift from God.
Against the very false notion that God’s desire is to punish and kill the disobedient, today’s first reading, from the Book of Wisdom, makes it clear that “God did not make death” and that he takes no delight in the destruction of the living. The plan of God is that human beings enjoy eternal life with him in heaven. This is what the author of the Book of Wisdom means when he writes that “God formed man to be imperishable.” Sadly the fallen angel, Satan, resisted God’s plan from the very beginning. He did not want human beings to enjoy the glory of heaven. “By the envy of the devil, death entered the world.” In his determination to prevent people from enjoying the fullness of life that God offers, Satan introduced sin and death into the human family.
To bring us a remedy for sin and death and to give us fullness of life, Jesus came into our world. The two miracles of healing that we read in today’s Gospel – the woman with hemorrhages and the daughter of Jairus – are powerful signs of the fullness of life that he brings. St. Mark interweaves the two miracle stories, which include some notable similarities. The woman has suffered from hemorrhages for as long as the girl has lived, twelve years. The girl, according to her father, was at the point of death (though she is already dead by the time Jesus gets to her) and the woman who was constantly losing blood can also be said to be at the point of death. But Jesus the giver of life deals with both of these situations.
Jairus approaches Jesus with a humble gesture and a plea for the healing of his daughter, “that she may get well and live.” Jesus does not remain indifferent to the cry of poor Jairus; he immediately goes off with him. Their journey is interrupted by another distressing predicament, that of the afflicted woman. St. Mark notes that the plight of this woman is aggravated by the fact that she has spent all her resources on doctors whose treatments were ineffective. But “she had heard about Jesus.” We note that this woman came to faith in Jesus because of what she had heard. If no one had spoken about him, she would be left without hope. This reminds us of the importance of sharing with others the good news of Jesus Christ.
The woman says to herself: “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured” (literally “be saved”). Immediately she does so, her flow of blood dries up and she feels in her body that she has been healed of her affliction. Jesus asks, “Who has touched my clothes?” He is not trying to expose or embarrass anyone, but he has more to offer than only a physical healing. The woman, like Jairus earlier, falls at the feet of Jesus, a gesture of homage and awe. Jesus addresses her affectionately and reassures her by saying: “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.” The woman’s faith opened the way for her to receive not only the physical healing but also the ultimate salvation of body and soul that it prefigures. Faith in Jesus Christ is indeed indispensable for receiving his blessings, and ultimately eternal salvation.
Jesus requires faith of Jairus too. After the news came that the girl was dead and the situation was seemingly hopeless, Jairus must have been in great anguish. But Jesus reassures him: “Do not be afraid; just have faith.” Faith is the key disposition that opens the way for God’s mighty works to be accomplished.
Jesus’ words to the mourners nourish our faith. He tells them: “The child is not dead but asleep.” Is he denying the obvious? No. He is applying a faith perspective to the seeming finality of death. He did the same when referring to the death of his friend Lazarus, saying that he was going to awaken him, implying that he was merely sleeping (cf. Jn 11:11). Jesus is teaching us something of great importance, namely, that death is not the ultimate end of human life. It is only a temporary phase from which all who believe will be awakened. “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live… (Jn 11:25).
Taking the child by the hand, Jesus says, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!” The verb for arise is the same word used for Jesus’ resurrection and often appears in accounts of his healings – a sign that they foreshadow his ultimate victory over sickness, death and all effects of sin. The witnesses are utterly astounded. They realize that power over death can only come from God; thus, the raising of the little girl is a sign for them that God is present and active in Jesus Christ.
Jesus’ strict order to avoid publicizing the miracle is intended to prevent a wrong understanding of his messiahship, which will be revealed on the Cross. He does not want people to treat him like a celebrity, for he came for us, not for himself. He gives the fullness of life by means of sacrificial love. St. Paul invites us to reflect on Jesus’ love in today’s reading from the First Letter to the Corinthians. He refers to “the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ,” which is his total gift of himself on the Cross. “Though he was rich, for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.” The self-emptying love of Jesus does indeed make us rich, rich with salvation and eternal life! When we accept with faith the gracious act of Jesus, he heals us and gives us life, and, as Paul says, our abundance should supply for the needs of others.
What is my perception of the desire of God? Is my heart open to the fullness of life? Like Jairus and the woman, do I trust in the healing presence of Jesus?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 14, no. 5. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.