Thirteenth Sunday: The Compassionate Lord
Jairus, the Synagogue official was in a panic. His little 12 year old daughter was dying. The worst possible thing a parent can experience was about to take place. He pleaded with Jesus. Jesus rushed with him to care for the girl.
But there is a crowd he had to get through. In Mark, there is always a crowd pressing on the Lord. The lady with the hemorrhage was there. She touched Jesus in faith, and Jesus felt power flowing out of Him to heal the woman. Jesus was not put off by her condition. The pharisees and Temple leaders would consider her unclean and anyone who touched her, or was touched by her, defiled. Jesus wasn’t interested in that. Mark emphasized that the poor woman had suffered for years at the hands of many doctors who did horrible things to her and demanded whatever money she had. She was still suffering. Jesus saw her and felt for her. She was a good woman, a woman of faith who was putting her last hope in Him. He didn’t see the ailment. He saw the person. And He healed her. What a beautiful story of compassion.
But that is just part of the reading. The little girl was the main reason for Jesus’ rushing away. “She’s dead,” people said to Jairus. I can imagine the man, as any father, screaming in grief. “Do not be afraid, just have faith,” Jesus told the man. The people at the house mocked Jesus when said, “She is not dead, but asleep.” Jesus goes into the room along with three disciples, Peter, James and John, and the terrified parents. He raised the girl up, and then, in one of the warmest moments in the gospels, He turned to the parents and said, “She’s hungry. Give her something to eat.” The Savior of the world, the Second Person of the Trinity, tells the parents to resume caring for their child.
A defiled lady, a dead child, and our Compassionate Savior. His care, love and healing were far more powerful than the prohibitions of Jewish law, far more powerful than the forces of nature, and far more powerful than the forces of death.
There are two ways that we can consider this gospel reading. We can and should look at these healings from the viewpoint of our own needs and those of our family and ask the Lord for healing. That is certainly valid. “Ask, and you shall receive,” the Lord said. We can ask the Lord and receive His care. Many of our doctors and nurses will tell you about the times that they are convinced that a person was healed more by prayers than by medicine. Actually, the prayerful doctor, nurse or medical professional, allows the healing hands of the Lord to work through her or him as they use their intelligence and skill. Still, there is no question but that God does heal people. There are shrines throughout the world with crutches and stories of miraculous healing. There are many people who have been told by their doctors that it is a miracle they are alive. It is perfectly reasonable for people of faith to call upon the Lord for healing and to be healed.
The second way we can and should also look on these healing from the viewpoint of the Lord. We are called to be followers of Christ. We are called to love as He loves. We are called to have compassion for the hurting. We are not called to judge the cause of their pain. We are called to care for them. And yet, sadly, some of us will say that a person’s condition is his or her own fault and then move on and away from them. So many see the cause of the sickness and not the sick people. Do those sick due to their own sinfulness merit less care from us than other people? Of course not. At least, not if we are followers of Christ. Some people may now be sick, but have always been difficult. These are the relatives, neighbors or business associates we are required to see and to endure. And now they need our help. It is not easy putting up with their comments. It is easy to ignore them. Yes, they are a pain, but they are also in pain.
A long time ago, when I was in my last years of theology, I took a course on pastoral care for the sick. Since I was with the Salesians of St. John Bosco at the time and since the Salesians work with children, I took the course at the local Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. One of the first patients I had to learn how to care for was a young teenage boy with leukemia. He was not nice. I was assigned to him because he told the hospital chaplain to get out of his room. He ignored most people who visited him. I would enter his room, and he would make believe that I wasn’t there. He wouldn’t even respond to a simple hello, or answer questions like, “Would you like me to bring you communion?” There were those on the hospital staff who avoided his room. He was too difficult. They didn’t see his pain. They saw him as a pain. But most of us were not concerned with his attitude. We were all more concerned about caring for him in his pain, not just his physical pain, but his emotional pain and his spiritual pain. It took weeks and a lot of really corny jokes, but after a while he warmed up to me and let me help him. As his body deteriorated, he actually became a better Teen. When he died, there was no one who remembered the negative attitude. We remembered him saying to the TV set during the president’s inauguration, “He should wear a hat. We need our president.” He passed away shortly after that, but first he found a way to give farewell presents to his parents and his little brother and sister. His mother went on to become a pediatric oncology nurse herself. Her son was cured, not cured from the cancer, but cured from his own emotional and spiritual pain. And his cure continues through those who saw him sprint to the finish line of his life as a victor over death.
When we get upset over how someone who is hurting is treating us, then we are more concerned about ourselves than we are concerned about that person who is hurting so much. That wasn’t the way Jesus reacted to the sick. He didn’t care if the woman had a situation which would have caused the temple priests to call Him defiled. He didn’t care if curing a person would get Him in trouble with the authorities if that cure was on the Sabbath. He didn’t care of He had to drop everything and rush to the bedside of what the world would see as an insignificant little girl, enduring mockery in the process.
Jesus only was only concerned about those who hurt and who needed his healing. How can we be any different and still call ourselves His followers?