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13th Sunday: Faith that hemorrhages

At the end of the fourth chapter of Mark’s gospel, Jesus said to the disciples, “Let us cross over to the other side.” They moved with him in a boat, not knowing exactly what to expect. Today’s gospel presents what that crossing over presented to both Jesus’ followers and to those waiting for him. Mark begins this way, “When Jesus crossed again in the boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered around him, and he stayed close to the sea.” This “other side” ushers in several incidents prominent of which are the encounter with Jairus, the synagogue official and the woman with hemorrhages. Here we see requests for healing and the concomitant responses from Jesus. The reaction from the crowd is significant in understanding these miracles as they completely contradict Jesus’ mission. Through the healings, Jesus portrays the indisputable value of human dignity by his physical (identifying with their touch), psychological (show of empathy and compassion), and spiritual (healing miracles) for those persons in need.

In the first reading, the Wisdom writer reiterates God’s supremacy in the created universe and reminds us of man’s dignity. The never-ending questions that theologians and spiritual writers grapple with receive a profound response here: “If God is all goodness, how come that suffering and death exist? If God is all powerful, how is evil allowed to exist in the world.” Wisdom asserts that God formed man to be imperishable. God made humanity in his own image and likeness. The devil’s envy is the root of evil. Sin, suffering, and death are consequences of human choice. The Wisdom author maintains that not only does evil exist because of the devil’s envy, rather that those who belong to the company of the devil experience it. Although the woman with hemorrhages had suffered for twelve long years, she is healed by Christ despite the pressing crowd.

There is this young man who came to talk to me about his concerns for atheism. He just couldn’t comprehend why some people choose to be atheist. Personally, I didn’t have the answers, but I told him that one can only profess to be atheist because their ability to encounter God is compromised. He shared with me his experience on a train someday when he prayed out aloud. After his prayer, he said some young man got upset. This young man told him that he’s atheist and doesn’t do God. He said shortly had this happened, there was some bumpy ride. Then, he watched the same young man who warned him yell out, “Oh my God!” He was shocked. I reminded him of what the Psalmist said, “Only the fool has said in his heart, there is no God above. Their hearts are corrupt and depraved. All wisdom is gone.” To know God and to feel his presence, one must “cross the other side” of faith.

Faith is a theological virtue because it pertains directly to God. God is its cause and we can’t do anything to get it or earn it. Faith is a pure gift, an infused virtue from God. Obviously, not everyone has it. The virtue of faith allows us to see as true all that God has revealed to us. Faith helps us to see the truth in all the knowledge we have about God. The virtue of faith helps us to see the truth in the scriptures, the sacraments, the means of salvation etc. The person who does not have faith cannot see it as true. A person without faith cannot see the truth that God has revealed. They reject it. This is why some people believe what God has revealed and some do not. Even in the church, if people have faith they will believe, else, they will not. We should thank God for the gift of faith because not everyone has it. Rather than look down on those who don’t have faith, please pray for them because they in a difficult position.

Look at reactions from Jesus’ followers in the gospel of today, similar to the man who yelled out against my friend searching for Christ. Although they are with Jesus, they seem totally disconnected. They fail to see that someone (the woman with hemorrhages) touched him. However, the woman with the hemorrhage had great faith in Jesus and his ability to heal her. This is why faith is defined as “a guarantee of things hoped for and the realization of things yet unseen” (Heb.11:1). That woman saw what others would not be able to see. On the other hand, the crew who arrived from the synagogue official’s house concluded that the man’s daughter was dead. They urged him to stop troubling Jesus. Their question, “Why trouble the teacher any longer,” showed their ignorance. It showed a lack of empathy for a man who is distressed at her dying daughter but beyond that, it showed a lack of faith in Jesus’ ability to help. The same lack of faith is repeated at this man’s house, those present made a commotion; they wailed and wept. And they ridiculed Jesus because he told them the child was not dead.

The old version of that woman suffered hemorrhages for twelve years because she had not found Christ. Scripture described her this way, "She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors and had spent all that she had. Yet she was not helped but only grew worse." But Jesus would put all that to stop within a blink of an eye, so she came behind in the crowd and touched him. Can you imagine that? Is your faith hemorrhaging? Is it leaking from all over because you're looking for solutions at the wrong places? The faith that hemorrhages lacks the spiritual insight to touch Jesus.

With the new version of the woman who suffered hemorrhages and with Jairus, it is different. Their stories appear similar for several reasons: The woman has been sick for twelve years, Jairus’ daughter is twelve years old. The woman is searching for healing for herself, Jairus is searching for healing for his daughter. The woman faces the intimidation of the crowd, Jairus faces the discouragement of his people. The woman remains undeterred, touches Jesus in faith, Jairus maintains his focus, believing that Jesus would heal his daughter. The faith of the woman attracts Jesus’ healing, Jairus is inspired by Jesus to stay faithful for her daughter’s sake. Both stories made Jesus to reinforce the the power of faith in God. These two individuals walked by faith and not by sight. Hence Jesus said to the woman, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.” And he invited Jairus, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.”

It is important to note what happens as Jesus arrives at the house of the synagogue official, “he caught sight of a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly.” Jesus does not focus on this, does not let this distract him. Rather, he gets to work on the little child. Significantly, Jesus “put them all out” and took only the child’s father and those who were with him (Peter, James, and John). Jesus does not allow anyone to accompany him inside because he knows they cannot cross over to the other side of faith with him. We will travel with many people on this journey called life. However, we remain close only with those who will support our faith journey, like Jesus did with Peter, James and John. We must only identify with persons in the right spiritual frame of mind when things get tough. My friends, the question is, what happens when there’s commotion in your life? Are you able to pick the right friends at the time of confusion? And do you have faith in God to cross over to the other side?

The woman with hemorrhages has great lessons for us. She was sick for twelve long years, yet never gave up hope. She’s got the determination to fight on, the mental capacity to identify Jesus and to move up to him. She shows no concern for the crowd and lets no one intimidate her, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.” That is like the prodigal son after he squandered his own share of the father’s property. He said, “I will set out and go back to my father and say to him” (Lk. 15:18). Crossing over involves a mental capacity, a determination made possible by faith. Be it in the search for vocation, job, or marriage. Be it in the fight against addictions. Be it in the fight against peer pressure and those forces that compromise faith. Be it in the bid to recover from physical illness.

We all know that there is enough commotion in today’s world, enough noise against believers and against the faith. Society (the crowd) presents us with alternative to Jesus, enough pressures to quieten us, to make us not to preach our faith. Those who profess their religious identity openly face ridicule. Learning from the resilience of the woman with hemorrhages and from the synagogue official is necessary. To cross over with Jesus, faith is of primary importance. Jesus He walks with us all the way. He puts all commotions out, persons and things, whatever breeds negative energy. Just stay faithful. You’ll make it through the other side.

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