Sunday, July 1, 2018

TOUCHING THE LORD: a homily fo rthe Thirteenth Sunday, Year B (Mark 5.21–43)

            What does it mean to touch Jesus?  What does it mean to have contact with God-made-man, to receive Him into our bodies and lives?  It is the easiest thing to do and yet it has consequences beyond our imagining.
            Our Gospel text today has two interwoven events.  Our Lord is asked to save a man's daughter and a woman reaches out to be healed.  At the heart of these two events lies that very question: what does it mean to touch Jesus and how do we do it?
            Every culture has its rules and customs about touch as it has about everything.   There are some things that are common to all.  Think for a moment of who you can and cannot touch, where and when.  Even more so did the Jews of our Lord's time.  
            Jairus, the leader of a synagogue, an important man, comes to our Lord and asks him to save his daughter.  She is dying and he's desperate.  If you've had a child or a relative near death you will know what it feels like.  The light of his life, the apple of his eye, is dying and there's nothing he can do except humiliate himself in public and beg another man to help him. He asks our Lord to come and lay his hand on her and do his magic or whatever it is that he does.  This man does not believe in our Lord: he's just desperate.
            Today, all over Israel archaeologists have found what appear to be cisterns and they were for storing water but not for drinking.  They were there for purification.  Under the Jewish Law there were many ways to become impure and people generally lived with the idea that most of the time they were ritually impure.  They still did what they could as often as they could to purify themselves.
            One of the ways to be impure was by blood. We are told that the woman in this story had suffered for over a decade with bleeding and despite spending all her money she was worse.  She too is desperate.  Can you imagine what she has suffered?  This is long before anesthetics and modern medicine. This problem is not only personal to her but it is also intimate.  It humiliated her.  It limited what she could and where she could go and it isolated her.  She was permanently impure and therefore she was excluded from the synagogue and the Temple and there was nothing she could do about it. 

            So desperate is she that she takes a risk to reach out and touch our Lord.   At the very moment she touches Him she is healed and He knows.  The could is packed around Him so his disciples are shocked that He wants to know who's touched Him.  But He's insistent.  This woman now shows that not only has she faith she has courage and gratitude too.  She comes forward and despite her fear and despite the humiliation (can you imagine her embarrassment?) she tells her story.  In return she hears those wonderful words of our Lord "you faith has saved you. Go in peace..."  So she is not only cured of her sickness she is now at peace with God something that not even a lifetime of sacrifices and prayers in the Temple could do.
            Then Jairus gets the news that he dreads, his little girl is dead.  Those are words every parent dreads to even think of hearing.  Can you imagine the pain and grief that must've struck him then.  He has failed and lost his beloved daughter.  Yet the Lord has not abandoned Him despite his lack of faith. Faith is what he needs now and to put away his fear.  Taking only his closest men, his inner circle, our Lord goes to Jairus' house.
            We don't keen as our people once did in the past.  Back in our Lord's time there were even professional mourners who would produce the appropriate wailing to accompany a death.  It is probably these that our Lord confronts when he gets to Jairus' house. Either way they're not impressed. Our Lord's words that the little girl is not dead but asleep could either mean that she is still alive but in a coma or that, though dead, she is not lost, we don't know.  Either way he does not tolerate their mockery. Although it is Jairus' house He throws the mourners out and so creates a bit of peace and quiet.  
            With the girl's parents and His closest men He goes in to see her, into the heart of their home.  All He does is take her hand and call her and she is restored to her parents.  Can you imagine their joy?  Moments before they were cut to the heart with grief and all their days to come were ashes and misery and now hope and joy are restored to them.  He tells them to feed her so that they and everyone else can see that she is really healed and restored to them.

            As I prepared this I noticed that the first woman suffered for twelve years while this little girl was twelve years old. What is the significance of that? Perhaps she was allowed to suffer that long so that her faith and her healing would touch Jairus and bring him to the faith that our Lord could save his daughter.
            In asking our Lord to touch his child he was really asking the creator to recreate her.  Touching Jesus and being touched by Him is not magic.  We cannot benefit without faith.  Yet how often is He ignored though he is readily available to us in the Sacrament of Confession?  Jarius sought our Lord to save his daughter why do so many fail to seek Him in Confession to save their souls?  How often is He received in Holy Communion not only without faith, not only without respect but even without any acknowledgement of the need of repentance and conversion of life?
             In Holy Communion we can not only touch our Lord, who is really and truly present, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, but we receive Him into our bodies and souls.  Do we invite Him into our hearts and lives with faith or do we mock Him with our indifference or even our lack of sorrow for our wrongdoing?  
            If only we not only sought to touch Him but let Him touch us He would raise us up and feed us with Himself and our joy would be complete.


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