Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 8 (June 30, 2024): 2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27;
Psalm 130; 2 Corinthians 8:7-15; Mark 5:21-43

Today’s gospel includes two miracles of healing. In the first, there is a woman who has hemorrhaged for twelve years. I always respond to the sentence about her suffering viscerally, I want to speak to her, to tell her how sorry I am, do whatever I can. This is miserable in so many ways, physically and psychologically. And in Jewish society, menstruating women were unclean. The many physicians who had seen her had done no good. Having heard about Jesus, she thinks that just touching his cloak would heal her. And remarkably, it does. It’s an almost invisible exchange in the crowd, and only Jesus is aware of her. He tells her that her faith had made her well. But it was not just her faith: it was Jesus’ power.

“Your faith has made you well” is one of the frequently quoted phrases from Jesus. It has often been used to blame the sick for their illness. But that’s not what Jesus is doing. All of us have known people of great faith who suffered terrible illnesses and despite prayers and the wonders of modern medicine, they were not physically healed. Like the woman in the story, they seek out medical help as well as spiritual help. And they have been healed: they are loved and cared for, and in my experience, are at peace. What faith does is to acknowledge that this is not under our control. The message here is not that faith is enough; but that you go to the doctor and have faith.

Jesus’ power is also called upon in the other miracle story. Jairus has asked Jesus to come heal his sick daughter: he is on his way, followed by a crowd, when the woman touches his cloak. After he had spoken to the woman, people came from Jairus’ house telling him that his daughter was dead. Jesus asks why everyone is mourning, as “The child is not dead but sleeping”. H goes to her room, takes her by the hand, and tells her to get up. And she does.

Both these stories recount miraculous healing. But the woman in the first story is touching a corner of a cloak, unwilling to make demands. Jairus is the leader of the synagogue, and expects to be able to ask Jesus to come. Jesus does not choose between these two people seeking help: he helps both.

These stories remind us of two important things. First, there are different ways to approach Jesus, ways we all take at different times. Sometimes we think we can just about reach the cloak, a reminder of Jesus’ presence. And that can be enough. At other times we need Jesus to come, to be exactly where we want him and take care of what we need. The other is that healing means many things, and happens in ways we do not expect. We need faith.

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