The two gospel stories we’ve just heard – one of the long suffering woman and the other of the father pleading for Jesus’ help – speak to me of desperation.
Someone referred to this good woman who worked her way thru the crowd just to touch Jesus’ clothes – as a bent woman – bent and burdened by her years of chronic illness and her chronic disappointments at the failure of her many attempts to be cured – desperation.
Jarius – facing the harsh fact that his child was dying had to be at his wit’s end. He begged and pleaded repeatedly for Jesus to come to his home and just lay his hand on his daughter – do something, do anything – desperation.
Both had great hope and trust in Jesus as each reached out to touch him – hoping that he would answer they desperate pleas for health – for life. Both Jarius and the bent woman had that faith to trust that Jesus has the power to confront their desperate life circumstances and make a difference.
We can say that the two stories in today’s gospel are success stories, everything worked out. Jarius’ and the bent woman’s trust in the power of Jesus ‘ payed off’. But what about all those times when there is no Jesus there to touch and heal – no Jesus to take us by the hand and tell us ‘get up’?
A few nights ago I was called to the emergency at NYGH – a three week old baby was dying. The staff at emergency were doing everything to keep a little girl alive – her mother keeping calling her name – encouraging her to fight, fight – finally a decision was made – nothing more could be done – the mother pleaded with them to keep working on her daughter – desperation – the deep sobbing of both parents really took its toll on all of us – everyone in that room had such a sense of helplessness. Actually I thought of today’s gospel that night. – I wished I had the power to turn that disaster around with the simple words – little girl get up. – That young mother and father were absolutely inconsolable. Maybe some future memory of how hard that staff worked to save their daughter – some future memory of how they were supported that night – will help them know they experienced the presence and love of Christ in the people who were with them at the desperate time.
There can be many times in our lives, or in the lives of those we love, when we are desperate – devastated by the unfairness of life – the meanness of people – the infidelity of friends – an injustice suffered – the death of someone we love. So many life situations can bring us to the brink of desperation – cause us to cry out like Job – why? – this is so unfair.
Think on this – despite their desperate situations both the bent woman and Jarius continued to trust in Jesus – trust that He could make a difference in their lives. The bent woman and Jarius stand forever together as witnesses to Jesus’ power to heal and give life – There can be times in our own lives or in the lives of those we love, when we are with desperate, frantic people caught up in some life disaster – and as helpless as we may feel – we do have the power – by our silence presence – to support, sustain, heal and give people trust in the basic goodness of life. They can experience God’s presence and love in our presence and love. Just as we have experienced God’s presence and love in the presence and love of family and friends.
Years ago a woman was telling me of how she got involved in the AIDS ministry. She took all the courses on pastoral visiting etc and then she made her first visit to a young man dying of aids. She told me she was terrified as she opened the door to his room – she was shocked by the sight of this wasted young man. She forced herself to walk to his bedside and sit down – then she took his hand in hers and admitted to him,” I don’t know what to say.” He looked at her and said, “you’ve said everything, you touched me.” We touch people in so many ways and more often than not in those desperate times in our lives or theirs it is the touch of presence that says everything and is life giving.
As we continue to celebrate this Mass with these two powerful stories before us we can pray for ourselves and for each other that we realize the truth that by our presence and support we can reach out and touch family and friends and strangers who find themselves in desperate situations – because our God is a God of the living who sees, cares and in God’s great mercy and wisdom has given us the power to be His loving, caring and healing presence to others.