Faith and dying in the thirteenth Sunday of ordinary time

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Mathew’s gospel of the young girl dying and the older hemorrhaging woman has admittedly always been a struggle for me. It is a long passage and full of detail.Mk 5:21-43 The trick is separating out those details and then finding out how they are related. An old woman versus a young girl. A lengthy chronic illness, versus one that is brief yet lethal. The link through that number twelve, the length of life of the young girl and the length of a woman’s suffering. Then there is that girl’s father, Jarius the synagogue official. Jesus’s boat comes from the other side, and I have to suspect that other side was a pagan region. With that there is another comparison between Jew and Gentile, and from that one can extrapolate Old and New Testaments. These are the polarities that lie within these sandwiched gospel stories, what are the similarities? The old woman had exhausted all resources before placing her faith in Jesus Christ. “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.” Jarius also in fear turned to Christ. The link between these two stories is faith, it is faith, people’s expectations in faith, and how Jesus acts in faith.

“My daughter is at the point of death.
Please, come lay your hands on her
that she may get well and live.”

For the older hemorrhaging woman, her life was torment. There was the suffering of her illness, and the suffering she endured from society because of her illness. Her desperation from both sources of pain drove her to touch Jesus cloak, and in that faith that caused her to reach out to Christ she is healed. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”

Why would Jesus ignore the pleas of Jarius concerning a daughter that is on the brink of death, to preach and aid a woman who had suffered for years? His plea was urgent, and hers along with everything else could wait! His faith was tested, and that certainly must have been a struggle. Why does God test our faith? When our pleas go unanswered, should we lose faith? All I think are good questions. When Jarius hears the news that his daughter had died, no one would have blamed him for losing faith in Jesus ability to heal. People told him Christ could no longer help, but Jesus said to him “Do not be afraid; just have faith.” Jarius maintained his faith, and his daughter was restored to life. With that then comes another question, who are we to question the way that God works? Ours is to maintain that faith, obedience, trust and acceptance. I suspect Jesus had a few barriers to remove to bring about a healing. The hemorrhaging woman had to battle the crowds, and on the way to healing Jairus’s daughter Jesus had to drive out those mourners. Might the young girl also be inflicted with an illness of inheritance? An old disease passed to a new generation? Both obstacles that stood in the way of life, and Jesus is the God of the living.

God did not make death,
nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living.
For he fashioned all things that they might have being;
and the creatures of the world are wholesome,
and there is not a destructive drug among them
nor any domain of the netherworld on earth,
for justice is undying.
For God formed man to be imperishable;
the image of his own nature he made him.
But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world,
and they who belong to his company experience it.

The one detail that still remains to be addressed is that sea Jesus keeps crossing. On one side lies the Jewish regions, on the other the pagans; and Jesus in his gospel testament demands that both place their faith in them. One group had been followers of the covenant for generations, the other their enemy and considered to be an unclean and sinful group. That is a cultural divide that even today seems unnavigable, and so pertinent today. Jesus asks that both place their faith in him, just as Jarius and the hemorrhaging woman placed their faith in Him. Certainly both sides of that vast sea challenged Jesus request for their faith, they questioned it, and an many violently disregarded it. Who were the ones that were healed?

Jesus said to the synagogue official,
“Do not be afraid; just have faith.”

Those who listened, and who were unafraid. They approached Him, placed their faith in Him, and were healed.That faith though is not that God would do what we wish, in the manner we expect. It is the faith that God desires to bring healing and life, and save us from death and destruction.There are challenges to faith, obstacles, twists and turns. If there is one message to this gospel it is that perseverance in faith through the many challenges everyone faces, does bring us to life. It brings about its reward even though its actions are far from what we can comprehend or even expect.

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