Sermons

Summary: Engage all your senses as you walk with Jesus and His other disciples into the town of Capernaum by the big lake.

Tuesday of the 4th Week in Course 2020

Tal'itha cu'mi

If, with Ignatius of Loyola, we meditate for a while on the Scripture we hear every day proclaimed at Mass, and do so with our well-honed imaginations fully awake, we see so much more than the words first suggest. It is particularly helpful to engage our imaginations if they have been fertilized by the actual experience of visiting the Holy Land. So take this first reading from Second Samuel. In 2005, we made pilgrimage and started in Jordan. Down by the Jordan the thicket is so–well–thick that it’s easy to imagine a whole army or two being lost and unable to form battle lines. Absalom lost a huge army not far from the place where Jesus was baptized, and then he lost his life when general Joab went rogue and pierced his heart while he hung helpless from one of those trees. David’s army won a great victory there, one that restored him to his throne and reunited Israel. But the struggle was internecine, and he was in no way lifted up by winning. It was as if he had lost the war because he lost his son. His army “stole into the city that day as people steal in who are ashamed when they flee in battle.” Imagine yourself one of David’s soldiers, sneaking back home in the deepening dark while the whole town wept and wailed.

Engage, too, all your senses as you walk with Jesus and His other disciples into the town of Capernaum by the big lake. You can’t miss the synagogue president, Jairus, with his splendid robes of office as he approaches the Lord. His words are fraught with emotion, and all of us who have had a deathly sick child can hear them imploring Jesus: “"My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.”

The Master’s reputation was well established by this point. Many had witnessed His healing power, and we know that some of those He had forgiven and healed were in the huge throng that hemmed Him in on every side. Now imagine being a woman who had been made unclean, and anemic, by almost continuous menses for almost forty-four hundred days. She tries to be unnoticed by Jesus, approaches Him from the rear and merely touches His robe. Instantly, what the primitive medicine of the time was unable to heal had been healed by the power flowing from the Son of God. She felt like she had felt at the age of ten–clean and vigorous.

Now the humor of the situation comes forth. Jesus immediately knew His divine power had been drawn down by the faith of the woman. And believe me, He turned and saw her and loved her, as He loved all whom He touched. He knew who had benefited from His divine love, but He asks, “who touched my garments?” He did so not because He didn’t know, but because He wanted the woman to testify about her experience, to strengthen the faith of the others, especially the Apostles. The woman comes forth “in fear and trembling”–the emotions of those who experience the presence of God–and does testify. “Go in peace,” the Master says, but then is interrupted by little men who insensitively tell the synagogue leader, “your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” But Jesus tells all of them what He tells each of us every day, “Do not fear, only believe.” Would that we could take that advice more seriously.

For the rest, I turn to a poem written by my mentor and high school English teacher, Martin McMurtrey, reflecting on the three that Jesus raised from death:

“Lazarus came from winding sheets

As if reluctantly and only after loud call.

The son of the widow of Naim must have been dazed

By the mob keening to a lonely mother and an empty bier,

But the daughter of Jairus–did she ever know

Or did she think afterlife but a moment

Interruption of a child’s dream

When He took her gently by

The hand to waken her,

And then commanded

Food be brought?”

Those that Jesus raised from death would eventually die once more, but after Christ’s rising from death, and the belief and baptism of us His followers, death is swallowed up in victory, and we can all proclaim our belief in the resurrection from the dead, and the life of the world to come. Blessed be God in His angels and in His saints. Amen.

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