In this Sunday’s Gospel, Saint Mark presents us with two miraculous healings that Jesus performs in favor of two women: the daughter of Jairus, a leading synagogue official, and a woman who suffered from hemorrhage. Both miracles have two levels of interpretation – the purely physical – Jesus bends down to meet human suffering and heals the body – and the spiritual – Jesus heals the human heart and offers salvation, which demands faith.
When Jesus heard that the daughter of Jairus was dead, He said to Jairus, “Do not be afraid; have faith!” Jesus went to the place where the girl was and said: “Little girl, I say to you: Get up!” She promptly got up and walked around. She was cured, not by her merits, virtue, or power, but by God’s grace.
In the story of the hemorrhaging woman, we see how Jesus liberates the whole person. Here the miracle takes place in two phases: the first is the physical healing, but this is closely tied to deeper healing, because of the woman’s faith. She was open to Christ in faith, and God, being generous with His grace, bestowed it. Jesus said: “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
These two healing miracles invite us to overcome a purely materialistic view of life. I think this is what made the pandemic difficult for so many. Everything depended on finding a vaccine, and many, without much of a spiritual life, saw their material projects, their financial endeavors, and their athletic and academic plans vanish. The lockdowns and progressive isolation were just too much for some.
Others had faith, but it needed to be deepened. Often, we ask God to solve our problems and to relieve our concrete sufferings. As Catholics, we naturally do this, learning to depend on God. During the recent pandemic, we asked God to bring healing to the suffering and courage to those who ministered to them, especially to healthcare providers who often acted heroically. This is right, but did we ask for a stronger faith or for the grace of perseverance? Where was our faith or our hope, even when our prayers were not immediately answered?
In the hemorrhaging woman, we see someone who had suffered for twelve years, yet she persevered, and thought, “If I could just touch Him, I could get well.” She recognized Jesus as the One who renews our lives. Through her act of faith and that of the synagogue official, we learn to have a firm trust in His love, in His providence that does not abandon us.
Just as our Archdiocese celebrated its bicentennial last weekend, so too I am discovering that the church in the United States has a very rich history. A couple of weeks ago, I came to learn of the Shreveport Martyrs (www.shreveportmartyrs.org). Priests from Brittany in France came to attend to the French settlers of Louisiana. Unfortunately, a Yellow Fever Epidemic struck Shreveport from August to November 1873. Two French priests, a pastor and his assistant, became ill after tending to the sick and dying.
Another priest, Father Louis Gergaud brought the two dying priests the last sacraments. He then ministered to the people so they would not be without the sacraments, but then he also contracted Yellow Fever. Father François LeVézouët, then volunteered to go, saying this was “the surest and shortest path to heaven.” He left for Shreveport and made sure that Father Gergaud had the last sacraments, and then provided the sacraments to the people there. Finally, he contracted Yellow Fever, and another priest was sent to take his place, but the People of God were never deprived of the sacraments. God does not abandon us!
Throughout His ministry, Jesus was attentive to human suffering and reminds us of the need to accompany those who are suffering, helping them to carry their crosses. In our day, emerging from the pandemic, we must express our gratitude once more to health care professionals and those who provide care to those in nursing homes and in assisted living facilities, and to those who visit the homebound.
Beyond the clergy and healthcare professionals, who often act as “reserves of love,” which bring peace and hope to the suffering, there are the multitude of lay faithful, who animated by the love flowing from the Heart of Christ, continue to learn from Jesus who is “meek and humble of heart.” There is a formation of the heart which occurs in the homes of our parish and an education of the heart which takes place on one’s knees in this parish church, which helps develop a “heart that sees” where compassion is needed and moves us to act.
In the Gospel, it is not just that Jesus drew near to Jairus’ daughter or the woman with the hemorrhages; rather, the synagogue official and the woman drew near also to Jesus. The parish is the place of encounter between God and man, and it is my sincere hope that this encounter which “opens up new horizons and gives our lives a decisive direction” will continue to happen in this parish, as we celebrate our 75th anniversary, and for years to come!