The editorial of the month

Father Sebastian White, o.p.

by Father Sebastian White, o.p.

The Gospel at Mass on the fourth day of this month is one of my favorites. (Admittedly, I have a lot of favorites.) Weighing in at twenty-two verses and two spectacular miracles, Mark 5:21-43 certainly gives us more than a day’s worth of food for thought. In a nutshell, however, it reveals the delicate yet firm grip Jesus has on every situation he’s in.

Power made perfect in weakness

For starters, consider the woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years. She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors. She’d been examined countless times, had gotten a second, a third, and an umpteenth opinion, yet she was not helped but only grew worse. And to add insult to injury, she’d spent every last penny in the process.

And yet, through all those years and all those failed attempts to find a cure, grace had been preparing her for precisely this moment. She had heard about Jesus, and had complete confidence in his power to heal her: If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured. And indeed her instincts proved to be spot-on, for immediately her flow of blood dried up. She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction.

As if that alone weren’t enough to make us marvel at the Lord’s goodness, things were just getting started. Our Lord then asked: Who has touched my clothes? The disciples thought it a silly question given how many people were crowded up against them. But by asking who touched him, the Lord was not looking for information he lacked. Rather, he was inviting her to come forward to receive still greater gifts. After all, to our Lord she is not just an anonymous invalid in need of a quick healing so he can be rid of her. The Gospel says she approached in fear and trembling, and then fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth. She told him her life story, I believe. She simply poured out her heart before the Lord. Go in peace, Jesus then said, and be cured of your affliction.

But wait! Hasn’t the Gospel made it clear that she had already been healed when she touched his cloak? Why speak as if it is only now going to happen? Of course, we can be sure that our Lord chose his words carefully. For having been drawn out of the crowd and into a personal exchange with the Lord, she was being cured of another and far more serious affliction—life without the friendship of Jesus. That poor woman, therefore, walked away not only healed, but saved. Imagine having had a face-to-face conversation with the Son of God! She had looked into his eyes and heard the sound of his voice; he had looked into her eyes and heard her voice. It was an encounter that set her on course for heaven and which would remain with her for the rest of her life.

And in God’s providence, her affliction was precisely what led her to that most holy moment, to hear those amazing words which continue to resound: Daughter, your faith has saved you. He had surpassed her wildest dreams.

Unafraid to trouble him

Recall that all of this happened while Jesus was already on an urgent mission to the home of Jairus, whose daughter was at death’s door. Each second of delay must have seemed like an eternity to poor Jairus! But even though Jesus could have healed his little girl from right where he was and without taking a step further, as with the afflicted woman, he had deeper graces to give Jairus, too. Our Lord had everyone right where he wanted them.

Before they had even reached Jairus’ home, the tragic news arrived: your daughter has died. It was too late, the messengers concluded; why trouble the teacher any longer? And when our Lord responded that she was only sleeping—a statement, scholars point out, that was not a denial of her actual death, but an expression of Christ’s self-confidence as the Lord of life—we are told that they ridiculed him.

In other words, Jesus had brought them face to face with just how radical and new his presence in the world was. For he has the power to do even what the world considers absurd—to give life beyond the grave. He took the child by the hand and said to her…“Little girl, I say to you arise!”—words which echo through every age consoling and comforting us. In the end, the Lord had achieved his purpose: they were utterly astounded.

“I know well the plans I have for you” (Jer 29:11)

The take-home, dear friends, is simple: Jesus has impeccable timing, and he knows exactly what he is doing in every moment of our lives, especially in the midst of suffering or loss. And if you ever feel that you are bearing a burden for a wearyingly long time, or it seems that some situation is beyond hope, do not, I beg you, give in to discouragement; do not believe the lie that God has forgotten about you. Just as for the afflicted woman and the family of Jairus two thousand years ago, our crosses are not obstacles to being loved by God: they are precisely what leads us to closer union with him. For our crosses produce an even more ardent longing for the satisfaction only God provides. Our crosses lead us to heaven.

The wait may seem long at times, but I promise it will be worth it. By God’s mercy, may we all hear the beautiful words of today’s Gospel spoken to us at the end of our lives: Child, your faith has saved you. Little child, I say to you, arise!