Each and every one of us is in need of healing, be it physical, psychological or spiritual. Our bodies, minds, and souls need it. It is a truth of human existence that we are all broken, and while medicine can heal our bodies, we still long for life in all its fulness. The Kingdom of God, proclaimed and inaugurated by Jesus Christ is a place of healing, and through our relationship with Jesus we can find the wholeness for which we long. This is why the Gospels contain healing miracles. These miraculous accounts are signs of God’s restoration of creation through His Son, something which will culminate with His Passion, Death, and Resurrection.
In the Gospel Jesus has sailed back across the Sea of Galilee to the Jewish side. On His arrival He is greeted by the leader of a local synagogue whose daughter is close to death. Jairus longs for his child to be healed, and asked Jesus to place His hands on her, so that she might be saved and live.
While Jesus is going to heal Jairus’ daughter, another miracle takes place. Lots of people are following Jesus, which is understandable since He is a charismatic preacher and teacher, who heals people. In the crowd is a woman with a gynaecological complaint. It would have made her life extremely difficult, and in Jewish ritual terms she would have been regarded as impure. She would not have been able to play her part in religious life. Also she would not have been able to bear children, and her husband, according to Jewish law, could have divorced her. She was an outcast, unclean, thrown on the metaphorical scrapheap of society. What money the woman had, she had been spent on doctors in trying to find a cure, but they only made things worse. Now she was penniless and desperate. But this pale, weak woman had an idea:
‘She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.’ (Mk 5:27-29)
Despite her physical infirmity, this woman has faith. She trusts Jesus, and believes that if she touches His clothing she will be healed. Such healing would restore her to community and allow her to take part in its religious life. She places her faith in God, realising that He can do for her what humanity could not.
Jesus then notices that power has gone out from Him. He is aware of what has happened. Having asked who touched Him, Jesus’ disciples reply that it was accidental: they are surrounded by a crowd, anyone could have brushed against Him. Our Lord remains unconvinced:
‘And he looked round to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”’ (Mk 5:32-34)
The woman comes ‘in fear and trembling’ not because she is afraid of Jesus, but because it is the proper way for humans to act in the presence of God. She is filled with awe at her experience of divine healing. Jesus’ reply is astounding for several reasons. Firstly, that He responds at all: talking to a woman who was not a member of your family was frowned upon, let alone a woman who is a ritually unclean outcast. Jesus is breaking a social taboo. He addresses her as ‘daughter’, a reminder that Jesus’ family are not those related to Him in earthly terms, but those who do God’s will. The woman is a daughter of God and her faith in God has healed her. She trusted God to do what the physicians could not. Faith is the route to salvation and healing, trusting God to be at work. She can go in peace because she has been restored to health. Peace is God’s gift to us, that we may experience wholeness. Finally, Jesus underlines that what has happened is not a temporary healing, but a permanent state of affairs.
While Jesus is still speaking to the woman, messengers come to give Jairus a message:
“Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” (Mk 5:35)
The situation is hopeless, and in their eyes there is nothing that Jesus can do. Thankfully, Our Lord has other ideas:
‘But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.”’ (Mk 5:36)
This fear is not the awe shown by the woman who has been healed, but a lack of trust in God. We know from the Letter to the Hebrews that:
Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Heb 11:1)
Jairus has demonstrated his faith by prostrating himself before Jesus and asking for healing. Now, in the face of his daughter’s apparent demise, Jairus must trust God to be at work.
‘Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi”, which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.”’ (Mk 5:41)
Note the fact that Jesus takes the girl by the hand. To touch a dead body would make a person ritually impure. This is why the priest and Levite in the Parable of the good Samaritan pass by on the other side. Jesus disregards the taboo of uncleanness, and speaks to her. He speaks to her in Aramaic, her mother tongue, and says literally ‘little lamb, get up’. It is a term of endearment which also reminds us that Christ is the Good Shepherd who cares for His lambs, keeps them safe, and saves them from death.
The people who are there: Jairus and his wife, Peter, James and John are all amazed. They are filled with awe, the holy fear of witnessing the mighty works of God. It reminds us that as humans we relate to God primarily through worship. Finally, Jesus tells her parents to give her something to eat, which shows us the reality of her resurrection. This also points towards the feast of the Kingdom, which we hope to enjoy in Heaven, and which is prefigured in the Eucharist. Through physical and spiritual communion Christ gives Himself to feed us, and heal our bodies and our souls, and assures us of eternal life.
Like Jairus and the haemorrhaging woman, may we have faith, and come to Jesus for healing. So that we may come to the Feast of the Lamb and may sing the praises of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. To whom be ascribed, as is most right and just, all might, majesty, glory, dominion, and power, now and forever. Amen.