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Fr Billy Swan

Dear friends. We human beings are needy by nature. We are in need of many things every day – food, drink, clothes, shelter, love, friends and family. I believe that God created us that way so that we might know our need for him and for each other. Can you imagine what life would be like if everyone could take care of their own needs or if we had no needs at all? Life would be pretty dull and isolating.

The Gospel this weekend tells the story of two people who have a desperate need. The first is a man named Jairus whose daughter was very sick. He comes before Jesus and begs him to come and help her. The second person in need is a woman who has suffered from an ailment for twelve long years. She too approaches Jesus in need of healing. In both cases, we see people who are aware of their need and who present those needs before the Lord.

These two people represent all of us. We too are in need of many things. Sometimes we are like the two people in the Gospel who need healing and strength because of our health or the health of loved ones. Sometimes our need is for something else – like guidance and wisdom in dealing with a difficult situation; like strength at a time of bereavement; like the renewal of a relationship that has been damaged or gone stale. Sometimes the need we present is not for ourselves but for others, like Jairus who intercedes for his daughter. From the smallest need to the great, we too are invited in faith to place that need, whatever it is, before Jesus in prayer.

Think of Our Lady at the wedding at Cana. The wine runs out. There is a need for more wine. What does she do? She approaches her son and presents the need to him: ‘They have no wine’. Notice how she does not add – ‘Please provide some’. No, she just leaves it with him and anticipates that he will do something: ‘Do whatever he tells you’. Mary’s is a prayer of need; her perception of need is a prayer. She takes it, holds it, allows it to ache before her son. And that precipitates his glory.

This is our way too. What do you need? What do you lack? Name it and hold it before Christ in love and hope. Like Mary, don’t dictate to the Lord what the answer should be or what he should do about it; simply hold the need before him. Notice too from the Gospel how the expectations of Jarius for his daughter and the woman who was sick were blown away by what Jesus actually did. What Jesus did far exceeded their expectations of what he could do. A love which does not spell out what it needs or wants but holds out its need so that God might do what pleases him, is especially powerful.

In the words of St John of the Cross, this is true for three reasons: ‘firstly, because the Lord knows what is best for us, better than we do; second because the Beloved’s compassion is more deeply moved when he sees the need and the surrender of the one who loves him; third, because the soul is less vulnerable to her self-love and possessiveness when she holds out the need before him than when she spells out her own view of what it is she needs’ (St John of the Cross, Spiritual Canticle, II, 8).

Here is the beauty and simplicity of faith. Rejoice in your need, it will lead you to God; name that need and bring it before Jesus in prayer, like Mary did; hold that need there before him; don’t demand how that need should or should not be met; await for his response that will come in God’s own time and way. If God’s power raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead then any need we might have is never too great. So do not be afraid but have faith. ‘Entrust your ways to the Lord. Trust him, and he will act on your behalf’ (Ps. 37:5).


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