Today’s Gospel (Mt. 9:18-26) is about faith in Jesus’ power to heal and even to raise the dead, but it is about more than just believing. Faith is, in this context, about a relationship with the Lord: our reaching out to Him in our need, and his reaching out to us to meet that need. Blessed John Paul II has described faith as “contact with the mystery of God,” and we see something of this contact in the two events briefly described in the Gospel.
Before we look at this mystery of faith, however, let us notice something that relates to last Sunday’s Gospel. There we saw, perhaps unexpectedly, that the possessed men came up to Jesus and worshiped Him, though in that case it was a forced worship based on the grudging acknowledgement of Jesus’ divinity. The ruler mentioned in today’s Gospel (named Jairus by other evangelists), also came up to Jesus and worshiped Him. The same Greek word is used in both cases, but with what a difference! The demons in the possessed men hated the fact that they had to prostrate before a superior Power, but Jairus came to Jesus with faith and hope, with earnest supplications and a heart filled with love for God and trust in the power of Jesus even to raise the dead. So let us realize that if our worship is not filled with faith and love it is no better than that of the demons!
Jairus’ worship and his prayer of faith was his reaching out to Jesus. He begged the Lord: “Come, lay your hand on my daughter and she will live.” Jesus went to his house, dismissed those who did not have faith—and who hence ridiculed Jesus, thinking they knew better than He did—and then He took the girl by the hand and raised her from the dead! So Jairus’ faith was richly rewarded, for he took the risk of coming into personal contact with the mystery of God manifested in Jesus Christ.
But something else had happened on the way to Jairus’ house. We find another act of faith, another reaching out to the Lord, quite literally and physically this time. A woman who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years came up to Jesus from behind, hoping to remain unnoticed, and she reached out to touch his garment, thinking to herself: “If I only touch his garment, I shall be made well.”
Jairus, a man enjoying a measure of wealth and prestige, came up publicly to Jesus and worshiped Him and begged Him for help. This poor woman, on the other hand, was not only insignificant, but her affliction had rendered her ritually unclean, so she did not feel she was in a position to publicly approach Jesus. She probably was afraid that the law-abiding people would drive her away and she would lose her opportunity for healing. So she took the risk of faith, reaching out to Him anyway, trusting that she would not defile Him by her touch but rather that He would make her clean by the simple contact she sought to make.
The woman’s reasoning was correct and her faith was rewarded. But the Lord didn’t allow her to remain hidden. As the other evangelists recount, Jesus, without seeing her, knew what had happened, for He perceived that power had gone forth from Him. The power of faith is so great that, even if we think the Lord is not paying attention to us, his grace is still poured out upon us when we come to Him believing He can help us!
So Jesus told the woman to take heart, for the virtue of her faith, in conjunction with the exercise of his power going forth, had healed her from her hitherto incurable illness.
Even though Jesus is not walking the earth today, we can still have “contact with the Mystery,” by reaching out to Him in faith. We even have a certain advantage that those who saw Him in person did not. Jairus asked Jesus to lay his hand on his daughter, and the afflicted woman touched his garment. There’s much more for us to touch than a garment: Jesus Himself, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, is given to us in Holy Communion. He doesn’t come only into our homes; He comes into our bodies and souls. We don’t only touch Him; He abides in us and we in Him.
So we should take heart; our faith in Christ in the Holy Eucharist will heal and save us. We still fall down before Him in worship, and we still reach out to him in our prayers for our needs and the needs of our loved ones. But an intimacy is available to us that was not available to those we read about in the Gospel who sought this or that favor from Him. We receive the fullness of his life and love through his indwelling presence. Thus He makes all things new and prepares us for the everlasting communion with God in the heavenly Kingdom.
So let us reach out in faith to Him whose hand is always extended to us, to Him whose power is always coming forth to meet our needs of body and soul. And let us never forget that the greatest thing He does for us He does every day: entering our hearts in the great Mystery of faith which is the most Holy Eucharist.