by Nathan Maurer
When Jesus calmed the waves in last week’s Gospel, he asked his disciples two questions that must have cut to their hearts and should cut to ours: “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” In this week’s Gospel, which is from the next chapter in Mark, this theme continues: fear may be a common part of our human experience, but Christ desires to replace it with his divine gift of faith. We need only to draw close to him.
When the woman in this week’s Gospel touches Jesus’ cloak in the midst of the crowd, what faith she must have already possessed! To believe that merely touching him would take away her affliction, one that had persisted for over a decade, is an incredible act of trust. And yet, when Jesus calls for her to come forward, it says she “approached in fear and trembling”. This shows that even a strong faith can be mixed up with trepidation in our fragile, human hearts. Fortunately, Jesus sees through the turbulence of her fear to the faith within and allows it to re-emerge by calling her in familial love. “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured…”
Scripture doesn’t mention the woman’s reaction to these words of Jesus, but I like to think her fear would have once again dissipated and she would have gone away rejoicing in the great miracle she had experienced. Drawing close to Christ and listening to his words is shown as an antidote to fear in our lives.
Jesus turns from this encounter to the news that another person whom he had been going to help, the daughter of Jairus, has died. “Why trouble the teacher any longer?”, some servants say. In a powerful expression of his authority and love, Jesus disregards this message and exclaims: “Do not be afraid; just have faith”. Once again, this dichotomy of faith and fear comes to the forefront, the third time in two chapters. It is clear from this repetition that Jesus wants to make a strong point. Faith, or trust in God that he will fulfill his promises, is essential to combating the normal and natural fears that can permeate human life. As we know from this past year especially, fear has a way of taking over our minds, of paralyzing us into inaction, and even driving us away from God and others. If we let it, fear can sever us from the source of salvation itself, the love of God the Father.
Fortunately, Jesus wants to give us the antidote, which is true faith in him. Faith is a gift; we cannot achieve it simply by our own efforts. It is also not “blind”, as some might suggest. It is rooted in the love that we have for God, and a trust that, based on all that he has done for us, he will continue to meet our needs. So let us pray, serve others, frequent the sacraments, and read scripture often. These are all sources of encounter and thus greater faith in our Lord, the conqueror of all fear and death. With this gift of faith, Jesus wishes to speak to us the same words he speaks to Jairus’ daughter at the end of today’s Gospel: “I say to you, arise!”