Hosea 2:16, 17b-18, 21-22
Perhaps you’ve noticed that the Gospels are written quite sequentially. Jesus deals with one task at a time, works through it, brings closure, and then moves on to the next event. But for most of us, real life isn’t like this. For most of us we are perpetually interrupted with needs, and problems of others to the point it is difficult to get anything completed. In our lifetimes these interruptions have become so normative that we’ve actually created the word, "Multi-tasking" suggesting that all of us are expected to be able to attain this. I like the gospel today quite simply because it is one of such few places that Jesus is interrupted. Yes, that is right, Jesus displays his multi-tasking skills.
Most of us are probably familiar with this gospel story and have heard it many, many times. Jesus is on his way to an official’s house to heal his daughter. As he is walking along there is a woman with a hemorrhaging who touches the tassel of his cloak and experiences healing. The Church today gives us Matthew’s version of the story. It has been shortened and has fewer details than the more frequently read version in Mark’s Gospel.
Another significant difference between these two stories is that Mark names this official Jarus, a leader of the synagogue. Mark will have Jairus come to Jesus because his daughter is ill. It isn’t until after the woman is healed that someone will come and announce that his little girl has died. By this time Jesus has already committed to going to the house.
Matthew shortens this story. Matthew leaves the man nameless. He is known as an official or a ruler in another translation. Matthew places less emphasis on the woman with a hemorrhaging. But most significantly, Matthew begins the story with this official coming to Jesus because his daughter has died. This is far different than Mark’s Gospel were Jarus and Jesus begin the journey because the girl is sick, and find out about her death after the healing of the woman with a hemorrhaging. Why is this significant? Because this official now comes to Jesus not to heal his little girl but specifically to ask Jesus to bring her back to life after she has died. Here is a man who is asking Jesus to be resurrection. He comes to Jesus with the truth that his daughter has died. Come and resurrect her!!! Here is a man who believes in resurrection. See, this man is already speaking of death and resurrection! Whether or not he is Jewish or not, he believes in death and resurrection. Now Jesus’ reason for going to this man’s house is completely different than it would be in Mark’s gospel. He is going to raise the dead. He is being asked to do what his mission is about. I also think that he is filled with tremendous compassion.
I need to speculate for a moment. Perhaps you’ve noticed that when people are empowered to do something and given a task they know they can accomplish, especially when it involves tremendous training, preparation, repetition, and anticipation, people seem to rise to a new level. They are filled with confidence, and a sense of purpose and mission. If you have seen this in your children you will notice they carry themselves differently. When people who are in their 50’s and 60’s speak about this to me, it is as though their entire life is culminating into one event or one specific moment. The look in their eyes is filled with light, meaning and purpose, and it is so empowering! It’s empowering for me to witness a person rise to a new challenge, knowing they have the skills, talents, and gifts to accomplish this challenge. Sometimes people whose lives are all coming together for them just start to glow. So I must ask the question, do you think it was any different for Jesus?
A man, who perhaps is not even Jewish, comes up, kneels down in front of Jesus, and requests him to raise his daughter from the dead. To understand the significance of this you must put aside your knowledge of the death and resurrection of Jesus. This story happens before Jesus’s death and resurrection. If Jesus knows internally that he is the resurrection and the life, and this man is asking Jesus to be who Jesus most authentically is, (resurrection) then Jesus must have been tickled and thrilled! As they are walking toward the house, would there have been a difference in Jesus’ eyes? Would he have carried himself differently? My answer to this question is absolutely yes. Why do I say this? Because I see it in human people so frequently. And Jesus was a human person.
I’m left still a little puzzled though by the interjected story of the woman with a hemorrhaging. Matthew edits the story by removing the question and dialogue of, "Who touched me" which Mark was so emphatic about. We frequently interpret the story out of the desperation of the woman. However, given what was said above, if Jesus is carrying himself differently, if Jesus is acutely glowing, then she touches Jesus not out of her desperation but out of his goodness. The first one is about her. The second one is about him. Putting this in terms of ourselves, do we touch Jesus out of our sinfulness or out of his goodness?
I invite you to think about that today, but more importantly, spend some time pondering how you invite Jesus to be resurrection in the midst of your death. I think Jesus gets pretty thrilled about that invitation!
Fr. David Colhour, C.P. is on the staff at Christ the King Passionist Retreat Center, Citrus Heights, California.