Preached at Holy Sepulcher Parish on June 27, 2015 at the 6:00pm Mass and on June 28, 2015 and the 8:00am and 10:30am Masses
When I was young I got to see one the greatest events one of my lifetime, you might be thinking the moon landing, but I am of course talking about the day Franco Harris came to Butler. Few people probably remember that day in the early 1970’s at George Kerr’s Appliance Store on North Main Street, but one 7 year old will never forget that day because Franco was (and is) his favorite football player.
I was so excited. It was all I talked about for days, what it was going to be like to meet him, what I would do, what I would say. After several hours of waiting, the big moment arrived and Franco made his way through the crowd to the table at the front of the store. I couldn’t wait to touch him, but as he went by I pulled my hand back. When my dad and I finally reached the table all I could think was “It’s actually Franco!” Franco asked me my name, but I said nothing. He asked if he could shake my hand, but I didn’t move. My dad tried everything to get me to answer Franco’s questions, but all I could do was stare in awe. My dad tried to push me closer to the table, but I just leaned back further. As we left my dad thanked Franco for doing something that no one else could do. “The Immaculate Reception?” Franco asked. “No, keeping my son quiet and still for five minutes.”
I probably should apologize for the football reference during baseball season, or for having a sports reference at all, but I think it fits well with today’s gospel about Jairus and the woman with a hemorrhage. Unlike me with Franco, both of these individuals dared to approach, touch, and speak to the greatest person who ever lived in Jesus Christ, and their lives were changed forever. If they had been like I was with Franco they might not have received the healing that they desired.
This gospel is about healing, but also reveals important details about Jesus and our relationship with him.
First, today’s gospel shows us that Jesus always has time for those who have faith in him. If you remember last week’s gospel, Jesus calmed the sea. In today’s gospel Jesus and the disciples have now returned to shore after returning from the other side of the sea. The gospel doesn’t say what Jesus and the disciples were doing on the other side, maybe they were speaking to more crowds, or on retreat, or maybe they were on vacation. But the crowds that Jesus had left last week have again gathered and Jesus is about to speak to them when he is interrupted by Jairus who asks Jesus to heal his daughter, “Lay your hands on her that she may get well and live,” and Jesus drops everything he is doing to go heal her. Along the way he is interrupted by a woman who is healed of a hemorrhage by touching his cloak because “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.” Jesus is very busy, but despite the crowds and any other plans he may have had, he makes time for these people because of their great faith. He could have said to Jairus or the woman, “I’m sorry, I am too busy for you right now.” But not Jesus. He takes time for Jairus and the woman. He can see their great faith. Jesus makes time for people of faith and is always available for us to approach him and reach out to him that he might provide healing of body, mind, and spirit.
Second, today’s gospel shows us that Jesus overlooks our faults and our failures. Jairus was a synagogue official, a group that was against Jesus and his teachings, who questioned him about his knowledge of the law and the prophets, and openly criticized him in front of the people. Jesus probably should have ignored or rebuked Jairus, but the opposite happened. Jesus went with Jairus and healed his daughter with the words, “I say to you, arise!” The woman with a hemorrhage because of her condition would have been considered impure and as a result she could not go to the temple or synagogue to worship and she would have been considered an outcast from society. By touching Jesus she should have made him impure and as an outcast Jesus should never have ignored her, but the opposite happened. She was made pure and Jesus spoke with her.
Jesus never mentions the past disagreements or problems with Jairus and the synagogue officials and he never mentions the woman being impure or an outcast. Jesus simply says to her, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” Jesus never treats us as outcasts no matter what we have done or how long we are away from him. He knows our faults and our failures, yet he is always there for us.
Finally, today’s gospel shows us that Jesus wants to encounter us in a personal way. During biblical times when someone died, the family would gather together and weep and wail loudly to let everyone in the surrounding area know there had been a death in their household, as Jairus’ family was doing in today’s gospel. They didn’t have cellphones or the Internet back then to let others know. So they cried loudly for all to hear.
Jesus would have heard these cries as he travelled the roads of the Holy Land and because he had the power to heal even at great distances, he could have randomly and anonymously healed as he passed the cities and towns on the road. But Jesus went into the towns and the cities to heal. He went to Jairus’ house and he sought out the woman with a hemorrhage. He wanted to encounter them personally and his healings in today’s gospel involved touching them, and he most certainly touched their lives. Jesus could have remained in the desert or on top of mountain and have people come to him as the holy men of his time did, but he went to the people to meet them. He wants to know us personally.
Franco gave me an autographed photo that day when I was seven which said, “To David, my biggest fan.” It means so much to me than simply a picture on a wall because I met him and he was real. He wasn’t just a sports figure on TV.
When we are like Jairus and the woman with a hemorrhage daring to approach Jesus, to get to know him, to encounter him in prayer, scripture, and the sacraments, to reach out and touch him and allow him to touch us and our lives, the crucifix becomes more than just a picture on our wall of Jesus dying on the cross, but a gift to us that shows him as he really is for us, with his arms outstretched to embrace us with great love, a love so great that it makes it possible for us to one day hear Jesus say the words that he said to the little girl in today’s gospel, “I say to you, arise!”
Rejoice and be glad!