Sunday, July 9, 2017

JESUS' RESPONSE TO FAITH


Homily for July 10th, 2017: Matthew 9:18-26.

          Today’s gospel recounts two miracles: one a miraculous healing, the other a resurrection from the dead. All the healings reported in the gospels are Jesus’ response to faith. Mark’s gospel tells us that when Jesus visited Nazareth, where he had grown up, “he could work no miracle,” because the people who had known him for years lacked faith. (Mk 5:6).   

          In today’s gospel the first person to manifest faith is a synagogue elder whose daughter has just died. He believes Jesus can bring her back to life. Greater faith than that one cannot imagine. The second person who approaches Jesus with faith is a woman who has suffered hemorrhages for twelve years. Jews had a special aversion to blood. Still today the Jewish dietary laws say that to be kosher, and hence fit for human consumption, meat must have all the blood drained from it before it before it comes to the table. This helps us understand that the situation of the woman with hemorrhages is desperate. She makes her request for healing not in words, but by grabbing hold of the tassel on one of the four corners of the prayer shawl worn by Jewish men. She is so confident in the power of Jesus that even this contact with his garment can bring her his healing.

          Both petitioners receive what they seek in faith. Sensing that power has gone out from him, Jesus turns around and confronts the woman. “Courage, daughter!” he tells her. “Your faith has saved you.”  “And from that hour,” Matthew tells us, “the woman was cured.”

          When Jesus arrives at the house of the synagogue elder, he finds a crowd already mourning the death of the man’s daughter. Hired flute players are playing a funeral dirge. “Go away,” Jesus tells them. “The girl is not dead but sleeping.” Not for the first time in the gospels, the people ridicule him, confident that he has lost touch with reality. When the crowd has dispersed, Jesus enters the house, takes the girl by the hand, and raises her to life.

          What better response could we make to the story of these two miracles than to repeat the anguished words of the father in Mark’s gospel seeking healing for his deaf mute son who seems to have what we would call epilepsy. Asked by Jesus whether he believes healing is possible, the man replies – and we repeat: “Lord, I do believe! Help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).