The Path of Life

The Path of Life

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Healing faith

Sunday, July 1, 2012
13th Sunday in Ordinary Time—B

Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24
2Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13-15
Mark 5:21-43

“Show me where it hurts,” a concerned parent or physician may say to an ill or injured child, who then moves his or her hand to the trouble spot. With that knowledge, the parent or physician touches and examines the area to assess the problem and apply a remedy.

There are numerous references in today’s Gospel to physical touch and healing. “Come lay your hands on” my daughter, Jairus pleads with Jesus. Meanwhile, the crowd “pressed upon him.” An ill woman is compelled to “touch his clothes.” Jesus takes Jairus’ dead daughter “by the hand” and restores her to life.

Given the social circumstances and religious customs of the time, all this touching of and by Jesus has enormous spiritual implications. By touching Jesus, the hemorrhaging woman rendered him ritually unclean and unable to worship in the temple. By touching the dead body of the 12-year-old girl, Jesus rendered himself ritually unclean. Yet both are cured. The power of God overcomes illness and death, the common human condition that is the result of humanity’s turning away from God.

God breaks through all barriers to restore humanity to its rightful relationship with him and one another. So, we are compelled to press upon him, touch him and be cured.

But where is he? How do we find him? How can we touch him?

We can’t.

Instead, he touches us. God became man, placed himself amid the pressing crowd of humanity, and took on our indignity to restore our dignity. As with Jairus’ daughter, Christ takes each of us by the hand and says, “Arise.” How? In prayer, in the Eucharist, in Confession and all the Sacraments, in the Word of God, in the life and tradition of the Church, in the love of Christ that we share with one another. Through these means, God touches us, heals us, calls us to new life.

Yes, the world and the Church are filled with problems, with scandals, with sins. For now, the wheat and the weeds grow together (cf. Matthew 13:25-30). But God is in our midst, asking us where it hurts, touching us, offering us hope and healing. It’s there for the taking. It’s free. All the rest will eventually fall away.

In the meantime, only one thing is required, and Jesus explicitly spells it out in today’s Gospel. What does he say to both the hemorrhaging woman and Jairus?

“Your faith has saved you.”

“Do not be afraid; just have faith.”

While we can pray and hope for physical cures, for earthly miracles, Jesus is offering us something much greater—someone much greater: himself. It is through his touch—in Word, Sacrament, prayer, the life of the Church, in charity—that the Second Person of the Holy Trinity leads us to eternal life, to a share in his divinity. All through the faith that God alone can give the heart that is willing to receive it.

In his weekly Angelus address today, Pope Benedict XVI stated all this much better than I ever could. He says:

“These two stories of healing are an invitation for us to overcome a purely horizontal and materialistic view of life. So often we ask God to cure our problems, to relieve our concrete needs—and this is right. But what we should ask for even more is an ever stronger faith, because the Lord renews our lives; and a firm trust in his love, in his providence that does not abandon us.”

“Show me where it hurts,” God tells his children.

The Divine Physician takes us by the hand and says, “Be cured of your affliction.”

God touches us, and like a parent soothing a frightened child, whispers softly:

“Do not be afraid; just have faith.”

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