The context: The above gospel passage is often called a “Markan sandwich”. One story is encased or sandwiched between the beginning and end of another. Here, we have an unusual combination of two miracle stories, one contained within the other – a healing, and a restoration of life. The story of the woman with the flow of blood interrupts and is sandwiched in between the two parts of the account of Jairus and his daughter. These miracles were worked by Jesus as rewards for the firm faith of a synagogue ruler and of a woman with a haemorrhage.
The parallels: The stories have several common features. One woman is 12 years old, and the other has suffered for 12 years. Both are called “daughter,” and both are in need of physical healing. The girl’s father is encouraged to have faith, and the older woman is praised for her faith. The two stories illustrate Jesus’ power over both chronic illness and death. In each healing, Jesus shows his marvellous generosity by giving the recipients life and salvation in addition to physical healing.
The faith-experiences of Jairus and the sick woman:
1) Jairus: As the ruler of the synagogue, Jairus was a well-respected man in the local Jewish community. He was the administrative head of the synagogue, the president of the board of elders and the one responsible for the conduct of the services. He probably shared in the Pharisees’ prejudice that Jesus was a heretic and a wandering preacher to be avoided. He had to cast aside his rank, his prestige, in falling at the feet of an unauthorized, young, itinerant teacher. But he dared open his mind to the new possibility, and the divine power at work in the person of Jesus. Therefore, he made the venture of faith.
2) The woman with a haemorrhage: The account tells of a woman who came to Jesus with expectant faith, as a last resort, after trying every other cure known in her day. The Mosaic Law in Lev 15: 25-27 declared her unclean and shut her off from the worship of God and the fellowship of her friends. That may be why she decided to try to touch the tassels of Jesus’ garment secretly. Jesus, like every other Jew, wore an outer robe with four tassels on it, one at each corner–the badge of a devout Jew as prescribed in Num.15:38-40.
The faith that was rewarded: The woman’s boldness in touching Jesus’ garment — which, according to the law, made Jesus unclean — could have angered him. Further, because her “chronic bleeding disease” rendered her ritually unclean, any contact she had with others in the crowd, made them also ritually unclean as well. But her faith in the healing power of Jesus was so strong that she risked breaking all the social rules to seek what she believed He could do for her. By affectionately calling her “daughter,” Jesus established a relationship with her and gave her the assurance that she was healed: “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.” In addition, she gained a personal relationship to Jesus as a member of his family (3:35). By trusting in the power of God and doing His will, she was not only physically cured but also fully restored to a normal religious and social life. It was her deep faith in Jesus – symbolized by her touching the tassel of his garment – that was a major factor in her healing.
The faith that brought back life from death: As Jesus sent the woman to her house, Jairus received the shocking news of the death of his daughter. But Jesus insisted on going to Jairus’ house and consoled the father saying, “Do not be afraid; only have faith.” The phrase, “Do not be afraid,” appears in the Bible 366 times. Those who greeted Jairus at his home were professional mourners who wailed, beat their breasts, tore their hair, and rent their garments. There were also flute players who played funeral dirges. The crowd told Jairus: “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” (35). But Jesus assured the crowd: “The child is not dead but sleeping,” meaning that the girl’s death was only temporary, and she would wake up at his call. Jesus took the parents of the little girl with only Peter, James and John into the room, took the child by the hand and said to her, “’Talitha koum,’ which means, ‘Little girl, get up!’” Those who had laughed Jesus to scorn must have been greatly amazed when they realized Jesus’ power.
Dear friends, we need to accept God’s call to health, wholeness and holiness. Jesus accepts us as we are. Hence, let us bring before him our bodily illnesses and spiritual and psychological wounds and ask for his healing touch. We should pray for healing which will give us health in every aspect of our lives – not just in our bodies – so that we may function in perfect harmony with people around us and with the environment
Dear brothers and sisters, finally, we need to have a firm faith in the mercy and divine power of Jesus: The primary condition for the effectiveness of our prayer is our faith in the goodness and mercy of God. Such a faith is possible only if we remain related to God through prayer, the sacraments, and a meditative study of the Bible. Every day we should say a fervent prayer of thanksgiving to God for the gift of active faith. St. Ignatius of Loyola said: “We must work as if everything depends on us, but we must pray as if everything depends on God.”
If Jesus were passing by here today and you had a chance to touch his clothes, would you touch him with curiosity or with a faith that you were going to be transformed and made whole? Well, actually Jesus is here today and you have a chance to touch not just his clothes but his very body. This is what we are privileged to do in the Eucharist. Let us put all our heart and soul into it as we say the prayer before receiving Jesus in the Eucharist, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.”
John Parankimalil (30th June, 2012)