The Fourth Sunday after Trinity
2 Samuel 1.1,17-end 2 Cor 8.7-end Mark 5.21-end
Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue ‘Do not be afraid; only believe.’
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Pilgrims to the Holy Land usually visit Capernaum where they can see the walls of a 4th century synagogue, which was built over an earlier synagogue that may have been the one where Jairus was a leading official. Everyone in the little town of only 1500 people would have known Jairus and been distressed when his little 12-year-old daughter became gravely ill.
Jesus came there from the other side of the lake of Galilee, where he had restored a mentally disturbed man to sanity, Jairus found Jesus and begged him to heal his daughter. Jesus immediately agreed and when they set off to go to Jairus’s house, crowds followed them. They had gone no distance when messengers came and told Jairus that the little girl had just died. Jairus hesitated, assuming that Jesus would not be able to do anything. Jesus, however, encouraged him, saying ‘Don’t be afraid; only believe.’
At this point in his account, the evangelist, St Mark, tells of a middle-aged woman’s faith in Jesus. She had a serious medical condition, that had lasted for as long as Jairus’s daughter had lived (12 years). No doctor could heal her. She believed Jesus could and decided to get near him and just touch his clothes. She believed that would be sufficient for her to be cured, and it was. Jesus felt her touch because it drew a current of healing power out of him. Jesus wanted to find out who had touched him because he knew that person must have had great faith in him. When she came forward and admitted what she had done, Jesus praised her. ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace and be healed of your affliction.’
Like that woman the Church recognizes the healing power of relics of holy people, the bodies of holy people but also the clothes they wore.
Jesus encouraged Jairus and then he continued on his way to visit the little girl. Jairus had faith even though people tried to tell him that he was wasting his time. The little girl was dead. Jesus said, ‘No she is just sleeping.’ Did he say this to spare the girl from being regarded by folk as special? Jesus just went up to the little girl lying on her sleeping mat, took her hand and gently said to her ‘Little girl get up.’ Then Jesus told her parents to give her something to eat. He downplayed the remarkable miracle and told the parents and the three disciples who witnessed it to say nothing about it to anyone.
We may wonder why Jesus took Peter, James and John with him when he raised up the little girl. Surely it was because he wanted them to heal people as he had done. St Mark says he sent the twelve in twos to preach the Good News and they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them. (Mk 6,13) Jesus wanted the church to continue his ministry to sick and infirm people.
After the apostles received the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost they healed people and even restored the dead to life. For example, The Acts of the Apostles tells us that Peter and John healed a crippled beggar at gate of temple. (Acts 3.6f). When Peter visited Lydda he healed a man called Aeneas, who was bedridden and had been paralysed eight years. (Acts 9.33) and at Joppa he found that a disciple called Dorcas had recently died. He prayed and she was restored to life. (Acts9.36ff) Paul and Barnabas at Lystra healed a crippled man who had never walked. (Acts 14.8ff)
Down the centuries the Church has continued this healing ministry. Bishops, as successors of the apostles consecrate the holy oils- the Chrism to bestow the sevenfold gift of the holy spirit, the oil of catechumens to prepare new Christians to receive the Holy Spirit in Baptism and Confirmation
The oil of the sick for healing of mind, body and spirit.
More than this, the Church has built hospitals, trained doctors and nurses and shown compassionate care for all kinds of sick and infirm people. In doing this the Church continues the loving ministry of Jesus and his disciples.
Some Christians are afraid to use the sacrament of Holy Unction or to lay hands on the sick lest no healing results. Jesus says to them ‘Do not be afraid; only believe.’ He has told us to ‘Ask and you will receive. When the Church or a Christian believer asks in prayer we can be sure that the loving, compassionate Almighty God most certainly responds with his gifts more than we expect or imagine to be possible.
Crispin Harrison CR