Hos 2:16, 17b-18, 21-22
Mt 9:18-26 (383)
Two stories of incredible healing are interwoven in today’s Gospel. In the first, we learn that an "official" prostrates himself before Jesus and pleads for help, saying "My daughter has just died. But come, lay your hand on her, and she will live." Already, the story is extraordinary in that a synagogue leader has come to ask for Jesus to heal his daughter.
Needless to say, temple rulers were not exactly big fans of Jesus! Not only does this man come to Jesus openly in front of a very large crowd-a risky move for a temple authority-but he displays unwavering faith in the power of Christ’s very touch. And what does Jesus do? Without pause or question, Matthew tells us, "Jesus rose and followed him."
As Jesus is en route to the official’s home, a sickly woman quietly comes up behind Jesus with the plan of merely touching his robe: "If only I can touch his cloak, I shall be cured." Matthew tells us this is a woman who had been suffering for twelve long years with hemorrhages. Yet, she believes that brushing up against the just the fringes of Christ’s clothing will do for her what no doctor ever could.
In that instant, we learn that she was cured. But it was not the physical contact with Jesus that brought her healing. Christ tells her, "Courage daughter! Your faith has saved you." After this brief but powerful encounter, Jesus makes his way to the official’s home where mourners have already begun grieving for the dead girl. Taking the girl by the hand, Jesus brings the girl back to the living.
Why are these two stories told together? Of course, the magnitude of Jesus’ power to heal is obvious. Perhaps the more subtle similarities are just as important. Both of these individuals are desperate. For the official, he has lost his child. For the suffering woman, she has most certainly been told that she will die of her incurable condition. Yet even in the midst of such agony, both believe Jesus is the answer.
Moreover, both of these people may have well believed they were somehow not entitled to Jesus’ help. (This was a synagogue official and an unclean woman, remember.) In fact, the woman literally tries to "steal" Jesus’ healing without him knowing. We learn that salvation through Jesus is available to all the faithful. And when Jesus seems interrupted along the way to answering our prayers, perhaps we need to look to those moments for patience, purpose and inspiration.