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109. Fear or Faith? (Mark 5:21-43)

June 27, 2018 by  
Filed under Fr. Bartunek, Meditations, The Better Part

“When the woman suffering from a flow of blood believed and touched the hem of the Lord’s clothing, her flow of blood dried up. In the same way, every soul wounded by sin and punished by a flood of evil thoughts will be saved it if draws near to the Lord in faith.” St. Ammon

Mark 5:21-43: When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered round him and he stayed by the lakeside. Then one of the synagogue officials came up, Jairus by name, and seeing him, fell at his feet and pleaded with him earnestly, saying, ‘My little daughter is desperately sick. Do come and lay your hands on her to make her better and save her life.’ Jesus went with him and a large crowd followed him; they were pressing all round him.

Now there was a woman who had suffered from a hemorrhage for twelve years; after long and painful treatment under various doctors, she spent all she had without being any the better for it, in fact, she was getting worse. She had heard about Jesus, and she came up behind him through the crowd and touched his cloak. ‘If I can touch even his clothes,’ she had told herself ‘I shall be well again.’ And the source of the bleeding dried up instantly, and she felt in herself that she was cured of her complaint. Immediately aware that power had gone out from him, Jesus turned round in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my clothes?’ His disciples said to him, ‘You see how the crowd is pressing round you and yet you say, Who touched me?’ But he continued to look all round to see who had done it. Then the woman came forward, frightened and trembling because she knew what had happened to her, and she fell at his feet and told him the whole truth. ‘My daughter,’ he said ‘your faith has restored you to health; go in peace and be free from your complaint.’

While he was still speaking some people arrived from the house of the synagogue official to say, ‘Your daughter is dead: why put the Master to any further trouble?’ But Jesus had overheard this remark of theirs and he said to the official, ‘Do not be afraid; only have faith’. And he allowed no one to go with him except Peter and James and John ErnestoFontanaRaisingOfJairusDaughterthe brother of James. So they came to the official’s house and Jesus noticed all the commotion, with people weeping and wailing unrestrainedly. He went in and said to them, ‘Why all this commotion and crying? The child is not dead, but asleep.’ But they laughed at him. So he turned them all out and, taking with him the child’s father and mother and his own companions, he went into the place where the child lay. And taking the child by the hand he said to her, ‘Talitha, kum!’ which means, ‘Little girl, I tell you to get up’. The little girl got up at once and began to walk about, for she was twelve years old. At this they were overcome with astonishment, and he ordered them strictly not to let anyone know about it, and told them to give her something to eat.

Christ the Lord Few passages show so clearly the character of Jesus’ Lordship. Jesus is powerful and wise with God’s own power and wisdom, and yet he puts himself completely at the service of others. He calls on his followers to put their faith in him not for his own self-aggrandizement or self-satisfaction, but for the sake of their salvation – in order to put them in a right relationship with God, so that they can experience fullness and meaning in life. Thus he heals the woman with a hemorrhage; he raises Jairus’ daughter from the dead; he never once denies a request made of him with a sincere and humble faith. He is a Lord at the service of his subjects, just as we who are his followers must lead others into the Kingdom not by coercing them, but by serving them. Christian leaders are servant-leaders, mere stewards in God’s houseful of invited guests.

He is also a Lord who knows his subjects. He knows what we need, what we do, what we hope for… When the woman touched his cloak, he knew it. Amid the large, jostling crowd, he felt the touch of faith, the touch of someone who was in need. And when he reassures her, he calls her “my daughter” – was ever a Lord so close to his people?

Christ the Teacher “Do not be afraid; only have faith.” If we really learned this one lesson, it would revolutionize our lives. Do not be afraid of what other people will think of you: follow the way of Christ. Do not be afraid of failure: following God’s will is the only path to everlasting success. Do not be afraid of changing your personal plans in order to follow God more closely: his plans are even better. Fear, confusion, lack of trust in Christ – these are the kinds of things that tie our souls into knots, causing untold needless suffering and keeping us from experiencing the life-giving power of God’s grace.

It was faith that brought Jairus to his knees in front of Christ – and that faith raised his daughter back to life. It was faith that propelled the woman to touch Jesus’ cloak, even though doing so was a risk (by the Mosaic Law, her hemorrhage made her ritually unclean, so touching Christ would him make unclean as well), and it was faith that cured her and gave her peace, after a dozen years of uncertainty and fear. Faith, trust in God no matter what, in spite of appearances (Jairus’ daughter, by all accounts, was already gone), in spite of the limited vision of our natural reason (the doctors had concluded that this woman’s sickness was incurable): this kind of childlike trust is what Christ longs for from us; it alone frees him to unfurl the power of his love in our lives.

Christ the Friend The woman with the hemorrhage knew that if she could only touch Jesus’ cloak she would be healed. She had the same amount of faith before she touched the cloak as afterwards. So why didn’t God cure her Mark 5:21-43without her having to touch him? And why did Jesus go all the way to Jairus’s house and take the little girl by the hand in order to bring her back to life? Why not just do it from a distance? It is because God wants to be close to us; he wants to live in friendship with us. And since we are human beings, that closeness, that friendship requires not only spiritual contact, but physical contact as well.

This is the core of the Church’s sacramental vision of faith: God doesn’t have to operate through material elements like water, oil, bread, and wine, but he chooses to do so, because it better fits our spiritual/material human nature. The sacraments, the church buildings, the vestments, the liturgy, the blessings, the art, the music… These are all places where we encounter God, instruments through which he enters into the very flesh and blood of our daily lives – just as Jesus entered into the very flesh and blood of the Virgin’s womb. Our God doesn’t keep his distance; he walks by our side.

Christ in My Life I know people whose souls are sick and dying because they need you in their lives. Like Jairus, right now I ask you to come and heal them. I know you love them even more than I do, even more than they love themselves. You seek the salvation of all people. Please open their hearts to your grace, and make me a bold and gentle ambassador to them of your truth and love…

Thank you for the gift of your Church and all the spiritual riches therein. You are always thinking of me, and always coming into my life in one way or another. Open my eyes to see more clearly your presence and action in my life, and increase my faith, so that the power of your grace will touch me where I need it most…

This woman had been suffering for twelve years. You permitted that suffering. Lord, your timing and your providence are beyond my comprehension. I believe that you govern every life and happening of all times. Increase my faith, Lord, so that I can see things as you do, and always rejoice in whatever trial you may send my way…

 

PS: This is just one of 303 units of Fr. John’s fantastic book The Better Part. To learn more about The Better Part or to purchase in print, Kindle or iPhone editions, click here. Also, please help us get these resources to people who do not have the funds or ability to acquire them by clicking here.

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Art for this post on Mark 5:21-43: Cover of The Better Part used with permission. Raising of Jairus' Daughter, Ernesto Fontana, late XIX century, PD-US author's life plus 70 years or less; modified detail of Christus heilt die blutflüssige Frau (Christ Heals the Bleeding Woman), circle of Simon Jordaens, 17th century, PD-US author's life plus 100 years or less; both Wikimedia Commons.

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About Fr. John Bartunek, LC

Fr. John Bartunek, LC, S.Th.D, received his BA in History from Stanford University in 1990. He comes from an evangelical Christian background and became a member of the Catholic Church in 1991. After college, he worked as a high school history teacher, drama director, and baseball coach. He then spent a year as a professional actor in Chicago before entering the religious Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ in 1993. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 2003 and earned his doctorate in moral theology in 2010. He provided spiritual support on the set of Mel Gibson’s "The Passion of the Christ" while researching the 2005 Catholic best seller, "Inside the Passion"--the only authorized, behind-the-scene explanation of the film. Fr. John has contributed news commentary regarding religious issues on NBC, CNN, Fox, and the BBC. He also served as the English-language press liaison for the Vatican’s 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist. His most widely known book is called: "The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer". His most recent books are "Spring Meditations", "Seeking First the Kingdom: 30 Meditations on How to Love God with All Your Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength", and "Answers: Catholic Advice for Your Spiritual Questions". Fr. John currently splits his time between Michigan (where he continues his writing apostolate and serves as a confessor and spiritual director at the Queen of the Family Retreat Center) and Rome, where he teaches theology at Regina Apostolorum. His online, do-it-yourself retreats are available at RCSpirituality.org, and he answers questions about the spiritual life at SpiritualDirection.com.

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