· Vatican City ·

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Don’t be afraid, just have faith

 Don’t be afraid, just have faith  ING-026
28 June 2024

By Fr Luke Gregory ofm

“Daughter, your faith has saved you” (Mk 5:34).

“Don’t be afraid, just have faith!” (Mk 5:36).

Today, in the Gospel account, the dramatic relationship with illness and death is portrayed vividly. However, it is not intended to terrify us or to make us fall into anguish, but rather to show us the true remedy for what we would otherwise perceive only as the inevitable end of earthly life.

There are two women at the centre of the narrative: one afflicted, for twelve long years, by persistent bleeding; the other, a little girl, the daughter of the ruler of the synagogue, who died at the age of twelve.

Two women. With all the richness that this brings. A new life is born from the woman’s womb, yet the first of the two women is experiencing a harsh confrontation with the disease: instead of giving birth, she, for twelve years, has had continuous bleeding, and blood is the main symbol of life.

In Scripture, the woman is often the image of the people who await the beauty of their relationship with the Lord, described as the bridegroom who leads human life to fullness. The girl, in fact, is twelve years old, the age that for Jewish girls marks the entrance into the season of engagement and the expectation of a groom and motherhood.

Marriage and motherhood are two events of joy, of fullness, of openness to the future and to hope. On these two women, however, looms the painful spectre of illness, sterility, and death.

It is the very experience of the people who have forsaken the Lord. It is the experience of each man and woman every time he or she presumes to do it by himself or herself, without trusting in the Lord, without waiting with desire and passion for the encounter with the Lord and Saviour.

Isn’t this a sad reality that we often have before our eyes?

The lives of the two women change radically with the passage of Jesus and the encounter with Him.

The haemorrhaging woman is now at the end of her strength, she has made a thousand attempts, she has relied on every human remedy, but her condition has always worsened. Now, purified of illusions and deceptions, she can only rely on the only credible and reliable hope. She defies every rule of purity and every cultural convention and uses her last energies to “touch” Jesus, in hope she might enter into a relationship with Him. Lo, this contact with Jesus frees her from death. It is Jesus himself who reveals the quality of that “touch”: “Daughter, your faith has saved you” (Mk 5:34). Many surrounded the Lord as He passed, but it was only at the touch of that woman that Jesus felt a force coming out of Him.

Even the ruler of the synagogue dares to defy the judgment and condemnation of his community and turns to Jesus as one turns to God Himself, asking for salvation for his little daughter. And when the announcement of the girl’s death seems to freeze all hope, Jesus exhorts him: “Don’t be afraid, just have faith!” (Mk 5:36).

Jairus perseveres in faith and the Lord turns death into sleep: “talitha kum!”

Jesus is the presence of God Himself, faithful to His promises, who brings all hope to fulfilment, who generates life even where death seems to reign. Jesus is the real Bridegroom. Indeed, those who await Him, with desire and readiness to encounter, receive the gift of salvation and life.

The Church is the Bride of Christ, moreover, by virtue of Baptism; in the Church, each one of us is a “bride”, ready for the Bridegroom.

To the question: What is the opposite of death? The obvious and immediate answer that we would all give is: life. The Gospel takes us beyond the apparent and the obvious, it takes us deeper and seems to give us another answer. What is the opposite of death? Faith!

Life is fragile, it is always exposed to the danger of death. Faith is more powerful than life, because it leads to eternal Life, which does not suffer the threats of death.

True faith overcomes the drama, the darkness, and the inevitability of death.

True faith opens us to a relationship with God, the source of life and the conqueror of death.

True faith generates charity and moves us to the service of God and our brothers and sisters. Saint Paul taught us this when he wrote to the Corinthians:

“(Brothers and sisters), now as you excel in everything — in faith, in utterance, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in your love for us — see that you excel in this gracious work also. I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine” (cf. 2 Cor 8:7).

* Custody of the Holy Land