The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke 8:41-56
This week I read an interesting statistic that said that more people have died this year due to drug overdoses than due to car accidents or gun violence. Now why would I start our message today on such a grim note? The rise in drug fatalities tells me that as people in the United States of America, we are lonelier, more depressed, more fragile and more emotionally disturbed than ever. It’s a reminder. It reminds us that when we imagine and engineer a world without God, we get ungodly results. We are born spiritually hungry and thirsty. And without an infinite God that we can know and who knows us intimately, the hunger remains but there is no proper way to fill that void.
All of these issues are symptoms of a worldview that makes God distant and irrelevant or completely non-existent. Our Lord Jesus Christ took flesh and became man to show us a better way. That is good news. He took flesh to become one of us. He took flesh to know our physical limitations, to know fatigue, to know hunger, to know pain. He took our flesh and entered into time and space to be a part of our lives.
What we see in today’s gospel passage are people who are like so many in our day and age…at the depths of despair. They have hit the darkest hours of their lives. One man is about to lose his only daughter to an unknown illness. Another woman has been very sick, bleeding for 12 years. Where do we turn when things get bad? Where do we go for help? In our culture people turn to everything from yoga to videogames to mental help specialists, to drugs (both legal and illegal). As a people we have become quite good at searching for help in obscure places, but we’ve forgotten to look up to heaven. The people in today’s gospel passage do not share our modern sickness. They know when they are defeated and they fall at the feet of the Lord. They don’t simply come and beg the Lord to help. They have finally come to believe that He alone can help!
One of the most important lessons in this passage is that we have to come to a full realization that our only true help is the Lord. In our daily lives it is easy to fall into the habit of turning to God only in cases of dire emergency. The woman in today’s passage went everywhere looking for help for 12 years. She spent her livelihood trying to get well. That is not obedience to the first and greatest commandment to love God “with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength and all your mind.” When God is the safety net that means He is a secondary, not a primary consideration. God can’t be the safety net. God has to be the first thought in our lives. But a funny thing happened to the woman who was sick all that time. Slowly but surely, the sickness wore her down and sharpened the senses of her soul. She woke up to reality after chasing shadows for so long. She finally had this life changing realization, healing comes through Jesus Christ.
My dear friends, this is the message that the world needs to hear and the world needs to hear it from your lips: “healing comes through Jesus Christ.” But we have to take that statement one step further to give it flesh, to bring it to life. “Healing comes through Jesus Christ, and His Church.” But we can’t simply believe in Jesus in an abstract or theoretical way. We have to really accept Christ as a way of life and that is what happens within the life and the sacraments of the Holy Church, the body of Christ. The woman wasn’t healed simply because she stumbled across Jesus. She was saved because she had hit rock bottom and at that point of her despair she recognized Christ as her only savior and only hope. The Lord confirmed this when He said to her “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”
Every moment of her life in those last twelve years, all her difficulties, all of her pain and suffering…created in her a faithful heart. These difficulties could have turned her against God. They could have made her bitter and given her an excuse to betray or ignore God. She could’ve complained and said “why has God allowed this to happen to me, why doesn’t God love me?” Instead, all of this pain and suffering pushes her to reach even further for the hem of the garment of the Lord. She didn’t gave up on God.
As the Lord drew near to the house of Jairus, a messenger stopped them along the way and told them to turn back. The little girl had died. Jairus’s heart would have sank at that moment. He was crushed as any father would be. He could’ve told the Lord to turn back. He could’ve run away and blamed God for all that had happened. But he didn’t give up on God. With no hope in sight Our Lord said to Jairus “Do not fear, only believe, and she will be made well.” This powerful statement was not for the benefit of Jairus alone. It is for each of us: “Do not fear, only believe.” God knows our struggles. God sees our pain. He doesn’t know them from a distant, far-away place. He knows these struggles and these pains intimately because He dwelt among us as one of us. What we see in this passage is that God has not abandoned the people who are in desperate need, and God has not abandoned any of us. When there are many questions but no answers in sight, where do we turn? Does God become another one of the questions or does He become the only answer?
What happened in this passage is not something magical, it is a promise shared with each of us. Yes there will be trouble. Yes there will be pain. Yes there will be sickness and even death. The Lord says to us “In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” He suffered and overcame all of the tribulations of the world in order to graciously share that victory with each of us. It is only a matter of time before we will each have to face some of these great difficulties. May we ever remember these words “Do not fear, only believe”! And glory be to God forever AMEN.