Fr Brian Broaders
All of us who watch TV, listen to the radio or follow social media, will be used to advertisements. Snippets of information or little clips of a movie, used to whet our appetite for more, for the real thing. On one level, you might say Jesus used miracles in a similar way; they were trailers of what was to come. St Mark has used these extraordinary occurrences in his gospel to remind his readers that while we live in this present age, we look forward to the future New Creation, as the letter to the Hebrews puts it; “There is no permanent city for us here; we are looking for the one which is yet to be”.
Miracles are signposts, they point us to something bigger than what the disciples saw unfold before their eyes. The miracles that Jesus worked were a manifestation of his power, a sign of God’s presence and compassion. The calming of the sea, read last week, was Jesus’ way of saying, we are not at the mercy of malevolent and dark forces; Jesus will save us from evil, he will set us free and not let us sink into nothingness. Today, St Mark tells us, Jesus came back to the lakeside where the waiting crowds want more from Jesus; they have so many needs.
One of those waiting for Jesus, was Jairus. He approaches Jesus on behalf of his sick child, and Jesus responds. While on the way to the sick house, a woman - who was haemorraging for twelve years - is healed as she touches Jesus’ garment. Sensing the power leave him, Jesus looks to see who touched him. Falling to her knees, she confesses, she is the one. Even though she is ritually unclean and should have kept her social distance, Jesus praises her faith. He continues his mission to see the sick girl. The delay must have increased Jairus’ anxiety and the worst news of all comes, his daughter is dead. What’s the point of Jesus going with them any further! His power is over sickness not life and death.
Death is unknown territory and the unknown brings fear, so Jesus says to the father, “Do not be afraid”; now more than ever is the time to have faith, keep believing even in the face of death. The neighbours are dismissed and taking the girl by the hand Jesus commands - “Talitha, kum!”; “little girl, get up” and she got up at once and began walking. Jesus has power over death, he leads us to the new Creation.
The detail of these miracles give some pointers as to how we might journey to the New Creation. Jairus is a synagogue official, a member of a religious group that had become very cynical about the preaching of Jesus. A big barrier stands between the two and so it takes great courage for him to approach Jesus. In his hour of greatest need, he reached out for the hand of Jesus. The sick woman does not let the barrier of her being ritually unclean stop her reaching out to touch Jesus, perhaps, she would not be noticed. With great faith and courage, they make contact with Jesus.
So many barriers - real or imaginary - are erected to stop us from reaching out to Jesus. Pope Francis in his book ‘Let us dream’ talks about the barrier of ‘indifference’. He says, “Covid has unmasked the other pandemic, the virus of indifference, which is the result of constantly looking away, telling ourselves that because there is no immediate or magic solution, it is better not to feel anything.” He warns against “looking the other way” saying, “So what? What’s it got to do with me?” Jesus by his actions show us, God is never indifferent. These miracles speak about the importance of touch. Pope Francis says; “Social distancing is a necessary response to a pandemic, we are fearful about hugging and shaking hands with people. We yearn for the touch of those we love, which we must sometimes give up for their sake and ours. Touch is a deeply human need”. But today’s gospel reminds us of the importance of touch, that we are born for contact not just connections. That’s why it is important, as Pope Francis says, to seek new ways of closeness to people while observing social distance. To see new possibilities, to imagine another way of living together, of serving our fellow beloved creatures.
These miracles are an invitation to look towards heaven, to recognise the greatness of our God; to open our eyes and hope with unwavering faith that the Son of God has power over sin and death.