God wants to do incredible things in your life! Today we hear the stories of two people’s whose lives were profoundly altered by coming into contact with Christ: the woman with the hemorrhage and the daughter of the synagogue official. These two miraculous healings show us the incredible power of Christ to triumph over every form of sin and death.
First, the book of Wisdom reminds us that death is a consequence of sin. We read that, “God formed man to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made him. But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world, and they who belong to his company experience it.” (Wis 2). Our first human parents were created immortal, and lost that gift of immortality because of original sin, passing on mortal human nature – subject to death – to the rest of us as well. But it was not meant to be that way. We were meant for life, not for death! Jesus raises the daughter of the synagogue official today to show us that He is here to triumph over death and over the ultimate cause of death: sin.
This is why St. Paul tells us today in the second reading “that though [Christ] was rich, for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (2 Cor 8). Christ is rich because He is not subject to death, the pain due for sin, but yet He was willing to share in our poverty, paying the penalty that we deserve, so that we might share in His richness of eternal life.
Just as God’s original plan was not for men and women to experience death, nor likewise was it for them to suffer the pains of illness. But this too came to us through the sin of Adam and Eve. Christ shows us today that He is also triumphant over pain and suffering when He heals the woman who has suffered from the hemorrhages for twelve years.
This healing happens in a unique way. The woman dares not to address our Lord directly, but her great faith leads her to believe that if she merely touches the hem of his garment she will be healed. Why is she healed instead of all the other people who are in the crowd around Jesus? Surely she is not the only sick person there. The Gospels tell us that people were constantly bring the sick before Him to be healed (c.f. Mt 15:30, Mt 4:24, Lk 4:40, Mk 1:32). Why is she the only one there who is healed?
When the Lord asks, “Who touched me?”, the disciples are amazed at His question because there are many people touching Him in the crowd. They tell Him, “You see how the crowd is pressing upon you, and yet you ask, ‘Who touched me?’” (Mk 5). There are countless persons coming into contact with Christ in the crowd, [PAUSE] but there is only one who touched Him.
What the woman with the hemorrhages does is very different than the crowd. They are bumping into Him, but she reaches out to touch Him. This is a profound lesson for all of us.
So often we merely bump into Christ instead of reaching out to touch Him. It can happen in our prayer, when we content ourselves with doing prayerful things in the Lord’s presence rather than entering into a deep spirit of communion, like clicking through our rosary beads without allowing this to be a meditation on the life of our Lord as seen through the eyes of our Lady. It happens when we pray as a family before meals, but we don’t take this opportunity to sincerely raise our children up before the Lord’s sight, giving them over to the Lord as a pure offering. Don’t merely bump into Jesus. Reach out and touch Him by entering into a spirit of true prayer.
We bump up into Jesus when we fail to acknowledge His presence in one another. When you’re at the grocery store on a holiday weekend just trying to get through the checkout line, but the person in front of you has two carts full of groceries, and the 15-year-old boy at the register doesn’t know the code for avocados, and is that curly or flat leaf parsley, and what is baby bok choy anyway? And then the customer wants to fight about her expired coupons that she wants to use, and that pop didn’t ring up at the sale price it was supposed to, and no, child, you can’t have that candy bar, and when will she just get out of the way?
But what if God sent you there to pray for that young man just starting a new job? And what if the lady with all the groceries is stressed because she’s trying to take care of all her kids while her husband is deployed in Afghanistan? At that moment, she is Christ for you and you are called to be Christ for her. Don’t just bump up into Jesus; reach out and touch Him. Smile, offer an encouraging word, give her the look that says you understand and it’s okay.
Most importantly of all, we bump into Jesus when we come to receive His most holy Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Eucharist while distracted and unaware, not out of a desire to encounter the living God, the Lord and creator of all the universe Who has become present for us on the altar, but rather out of rote habit. Don’t just bump into Jesus. Reach out and touch Him by fanning into flame the ember of His love that is in your heart. Prepare your heart for this encounter with Him by developing a habit of appreciating His inestimable gift to you by saying a prayer of thanksgiving after Mass, or – better yet! – by taking time to visit Him during the week, present in the tabernacle or exposed on the altar (every Thursday evening from 6:30 – 7:30 p.m.). Don’t just bump into Jesus.
When you reach out to touch the Lord with a sincere and loving heart – in prayer, in one another, and in the Eucharist – incredible things will happen in your life, things no less amazing the curing of the woman with the hemorrhages or the raising of the daughter of the synagogue official. So often we experience so little of God’s infinite grace because we expect so little of Him. Have big expectations, and don’t just bump into Jesus.
The Rev. Royce V. Gregerson
Parish Church of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist, Goshen
XIII Sunday through the Year, A.D. MMXVIII