Oh, what a gospel reading this is for us! Mark, inspired by the Sprit, blends these two events, these two healings by Jesus. He sandwiches them together so you and I won’t miss the point. Two people confront Jesus on this day in Galilee – two very different people.
The first is Jairus. Now Jairus was an important man, an official of the local synagogue, the man who oversaw its administration and finances. And because he was an important man, everybody knew him, or wanted to be known by him. Everyone who was anyone wanted to be his friend. That’s how it is with important people.
We all know men like Jairus. He’s the first to know, the first to have, the first to shake your hand, to slap you on the back, the first to be invited, the first to be served, the last to be overlooked. You couldn’t miss Jairus even if you tried. He was a man to be noticed.
|'...he fell at His feet and pleaded..."|
How different from those important people in the last synagogue Jesus visited. There they were plotting to kill him. But perhaps none of them had a dying child. On his knees, looking up, Jairus asks Jesus to come and lay hands on the girl, to mediate God’s grace and power and deliver his daughter from death – his little girl who has lived only 12 years.
Moved by this father’s love, Jesus accompanies Jairus. They are followed by the crowd, the crowd that always followed Jesus. And it’s in this crowd that we encounter another in need of healing.
For 12 Years Jairus has enjoyed the presence of his daughter. But unlike Jairus, the woman in the crowd has spent those same 12 years on the outside looking in. For 12 years, she was the last one at the well, the last one at the marketplace, the last to be noticed, and the first to turn away. For 12 years, she lived life on the fringes, avoiding people, avoiding contact, avoiding everything… everything except shame. For the past 12 years, she in effect stood among the captives, longing to be free; because for 12 years a flow of blood had made her unclean according to Jewish law.
Her friends had likely disappeared a long time ago. They were lost, along with her money and her pride. If she had anything -- anything left at all, she would have given it up just to be healed. By the time she encountered Jesus she had been 12 years without real human contact; 12 years without the prayers of the synagogue; 12 years of loneliness. Lonely, even in a crowd, she had learned long ago how to be almost invisible.
There are men and women just like her today. They’re all around us. You see them at the soup kitchen or in line at the food pantry or hoping for help at the free clinic. You see them on the streets and alleyways of our cities. You see them in your neighborhood, eating alone, living alone, always alone. She’s the one whose eyes are on the ground, the one you might notice -- just for a moment, out of the corner of your eye -- before she slips away. I know you’ve seen her. Sometimes she’s in front of you at the checkout counter, counting out her change to buy a small bag of groceries. And sometimes you see her in the city, the one who lives her life along the edge of the curb, among the empty wrappers and the discarded cans. Of course sometimes, perhaps most times, we don’t even notice her. Or when we do, we wonder why they let these crazy people out on the streets. Yes, the woman who reached out to touch Jesus is with us still.
You and I, then, along with Jesus, encounter two very different people – both in desperate need, both turning to Jesus filled with hope. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Mark asks us to look at these two people, to look at them together, as he nests their stories one within the other.
They’re so different, these two. Jairus, the man of importance, doesn’t hesitate. Sure of himself, he goes in search of Jesus, finds Him, approaches Him directly. He’s the kind of man who can say, “Jesus, help me!” and trust he’ll be welcomed and heard.
But the woman buries herself in the crowd…she’s different, isn’t she? She’s too timid, too ashamed to approach Jesus directly. 12 years of hiding, 12 years of shame have had their effect. Without place, position, privilege, and power, she believes she will have no welcome. The thought of more rejection is just too much for her. Instead of approaching Jesus openly, which would only bring on more shame, more public humiliation, she decides instead to sneak up on Him. If she can just touch His garment, His healing power will flow through her; then she can slip away silently.
|"If I but touch His clothes..."|
But Jesus sees her, doesn’t He? He feels her presence. He sees her just as clearly as He saw Jairus. Yes, He sees them both that day in Galilee. Jesus never allows the person in front of Him to hide the person lost in the crowd. Unlike us, His eyes are never so focused on the obvious that He misses those who live on the fringes, those who hide just out of view. No, Jesus never lifts His eyes to gaze up at those who are so caught up in their own importance; for then He might overlook those who have stumbled and fallen. Jesus sees what you and I so often ignore.
But perhaps you did notice that both Jairus and the woman fall to the ground as they approach Jesus. Yes, Jairus, blessed in life, knows the source of those blessings. And so he falls at Jesus’ feet and begs for one more blessing. But the woman…she’s so very different. Jesus must call her to Him. Filled with fear and trembling, she too falls at His feet. She knows she’s been healed, and knows too that the power of God flows from this man whose garment she touched.
Two very different people – one in comfort and position, another in poverty and obscurity – but both come to Jesus in faith; both approach Him humbly and hopefully. I suspect both came away from their encounter with Jesus fully aware that, as Paul told the Corinthians in our second reading, we own nothing; everything comes from God.
Maybe we’re not supposed to wonder whose need was greater, or whose faith was stronger, or why Jesus stopped to talk with the woman when a little girl was dying and needed him so desperately. Maybe it’s enough for us to know that Jesus saw them both, was there for both!
That’s the wonder of being a Christian, brothers and sisters. Jesus will see us too and be there for us if we approach Him in humility, in hope, and in faith. Of course, the other part of being a Christian is recognizing Jesus in those who stand before us, those who hide in the crowd waiting for us to see them, waiting for us to love them as Jesus loves them.