Imagine yourself in a large, crowded sports event trying to get toward the exit. People are moving in the same direction, jostling along and bumping into one another. A tap on the arm or tug on the sleeve goes entirely unnoticed.
Imagine Jesus in this same kind of a crowd with people pressing in upon him as He walked along the shore of the sea. We can imagine the surprise of His disciples when he stopped and remarked that someone had touched His clothing. How in that crowd could He be aware of a touch?
Jesus was aware of a touch that was out of the ordinary, a touch of faith by a desperate woman. He stops to question, who touched me? He knew power had gone out of Him and He had cured someone, but to Him it was not just a face in the crowd, He had cured a person. He had to meet her face to face, speak with her, reassure her, and comfort her. The woman comes forward, she is fearful and starting to tremble, she needs reassuring, needs kind words. She fell at the feet of Jesus. Jesus simply tells her it is your faith that has cured you, go in peace and be free of this illness.
According to Jewish law, this woman was unclean because of her condition. Therefore, anyone she touched would likewise be rendered unclean. Jesus shows no concern for the ritual laws of purity, His only concern is for her. “Your faith has cured you.”
We also read about Jairus in today’s Gospel. He is an official of the synagogue, part of the establishment. He would normally regard Jesus as an outsider, a heretic, one to whom the synagogue doors would be closed and if you valued your orthodoxy, you would avoid Him. It is not faith that has brought him to Jesus, but desperation.
His child was ill, so he forgot his prejudices, his dignity and pride. He throws himself at the feet of Jesus and begs, my daughter is dying, come and cure her. Then a message comes, and he is told, “Your daughter has died.”
Jesus tries to build his faith, He tells him, fear is useless, what is needed is trust. Just as an aside, notice that the little girl is twelve years old, and the bleeding woman has suffered the same twelve years. The ruler calls his beloved child “daughter,” Jesus called the woman healed of the bleeding “daughter,” but in both cases, Jesus touched someone who was considered unclean. Their wholeness mattered more to Jesus than His reputation.
Both the official and the woman who touched Jesus were religious people. Undoubtedly they had prayed to God to help them with their problems. They must have asked themselves the same question that we ask every time we do not understand what is going on in life: Why? Why pain and suffering? Why does a little girl have to die? Pain and suffering continue as part of everyone’s life, we all know this. We neither like it nor fully understand it, especially when it happens to the innocent and the good
Why does God create a world in which we have to suffer and die?
These are not new questions. Thousands of years ago, the Jews asked the same question and we read in the Book of Wisdom this morning, 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. Then it goes on to say, for God formed us to be imperishable, in the image of His own nature He made us but by the envy of the devil, death entered the world.
Evil is not God’s doing, but ours because of our free will. The two people in our Gospel today had no claim on Jesus, He did not owe them anything, perhaps their faith came more from desperation than anything else and yet they found His power and love waiting for them.
Just prior to this episode Jesus had cured some blind men. They had called out, “Jesus, Son of David, cure us.” The title “Son of David” was a political one, so they had not understood who Jesus was at all, and yet He cured them.
There is a lesson here for us. It did not seem to matter how people came to Christ, as long as they came. If we feel we cannot reach out to touch Christ until our motives, our faith, and our theology are perfect, we will never touch Him. We have to be like the woman and the leader of the synagogue in the Gospel today.
Just come as you are. Come with your sickness, both physical and moral, and spiritual. It is not how we come to Christ that matters, rather it is that we should come to the one who makes all things new. And just by a touch, He is able to make us what we ought to be.
Whenever I read this Gospel passage, I think of the Broadway show, Cats and the song, Memory. Words of that song could have been spoken by Jesus to both the woman who touched him and the child, and in times of trials and tribulations, He says them to us: “Touch me, just touch me and you will know what happiness is. And a new day will begin.”