June 27, 2021 – Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time
The following is a homily I delivered on these same readings back in 2018:
Those who have children insist they play no favorites. In declaring this, they often say, “I love all my kids the same.” It may be a matter of semantics, but what they really mean to say is that they love them all equally. We can’t love them the same because they are not the same.
As a dad, I had to learn this by trial and error, but eventually I learned that while I love my children equally, I cannot love them the same. In fact, if I had tried to love them the same, I would have failed miserably.
I will use a simple example to make my point. Each of my children handled challenging situations differently; therefore, they needed to be loved and comforted, sometimes healed, differently.
Mary was a thinker. I loved her by talking through tough situations with her, brainstorming ideas and coming up with the best solution.
Rick was a reactor. He acted impulsively, without putting much thought to the big picture. I loved him by being there for him after the fact – to catch him if he fell and affirm him if he succeeded.
Laura was all emotions. I loved her by hugging her through whatever the difficult situation was.
Robby was all about time and space. I loved him by giving him both, occasionally letting him know I was available if needed.
I love my kids equally, but I don’t love them the same.
This differentiated love came to mind as I read Mark’s gospel.
We are introduced to two people in today’s ‘miracle within a miracle’ gospel story – Jairus and the hemorrhaging woman.
Jairus was identified by name, while the woman remained nameless, indicating she was insignificant. She was an outcast with no status in her community. She was, at best, on the fringe of society. We know she was poor; the gospel tells us she was afflicted for twelve years and “spent all she had” on doctors.
Jairus, on the other hand, was a synagogue official – a position of honor, wealth, power and influence.
Both the woman and Jairus conveyed a sense of urgency. Each was literally dealing with a life or death situation – the woman with her own fragile health and Jairus with a daughter near death.
On its surface the story is about a strong faith being rewarded.
However, it is clear that the actions of both the woman and Jairus were prompted by desperation rather than by a strong faith.
Neither was a disciple of Jesus, nor did they hang on his every word or help spread his message. They didn’t know Jesus, they only knew of him. To take it a step further, as a synagogue official Jairus spoke out against Jesus and his message.
My point is that the woman and Jairus were not faith-filled followers intuitively turning to Jesus in their time of need.
They were desperate people who were willing to do anything or approach anyone that could possibly help their situation.
The hemorrhaging woman had tried doctor after doctor while suffering for twelve years. She had heard about this Jesus person and the rumors of miracles and healing. When word came that he would be traveling through town, what did she have to lose?
This sickly woman knew she would never get past the crowd for a face to face encounter, so she did what she could. She reached through the crowd in the hope of touching his clothing.
Her actions came out of desperation rather than faith.
Faith came later when she realized it had worked.
Her act of faith came when she dropped to her knees. The gospel says, “She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth.”
I believe the “whole truth” included an honest account of her lack of faith over the years and admitting that it was desperation that led her to reach out and touch his clothing. The whole truth included confirmation that her encounter with Jesus had changed her life forever.
In the gospel account, Jesus said, “Your faith has saved you.”
I was not there at the time, but I believe what Jesus meant was, “This first step toward faith has saved you.”
Jairus, too, acted out of desperation. Wealth put all medical resources at his disposal – to no avail. His money, power, and influence provided no help. His years of studying Jewish law and earning the respect of the community were of no use – his daughter was dying.
So, he set aside his public anti-Jesus stance. Desperate times called for desperate measures.
Jairus humbled himself by dropping to his knees and asking for Jesus’ help. Anyone who knew him or was aware of his position as a synagogue official would have been stunned by his actions. He threw his career out the window in this act of desperation – not act of faith, act of desperation.
Jairus’ act of faith came later. When he was notified that his daughter had died, Jesus told him, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.”
Again, I was not there, but I think what Jesus meant was, “Do not be afraid, just take this first step toward faith.”
Jairus took that first step toward faith when, despite being told his daughter was dead, he led Jesus into his home to lay his hands on her.
Jesus loved and healed the woman, responding to her act of desperation and leading her to faith. Jesus loved Jairus and healed his daughter, responding to his act of desperation and leading him to faith. Jesus loved all who came to him equally – not the same, but equally.
His love continues. He loves those who come to him with unwavering faith, as well as those who approach cautiously, with unanswered questions and lingering doubt. He loves those whose faith is intermittent, a cycle of belief and doubt and unbelief. And, as we heard today, he loves those who turn to him in desperation.
Jesus loves us all equally. He loves and heals us as we need to be loved and healed.