Take a Leap
"I know God will not give me anything I can't handle. I just wish he didn't trust me so much."
--Mother Treasa of Calcutta
--Mother Treasa of Calcutta
Faith is a tricky thing it seems. Sometimes one who claims to be acting on faith is simply avoiding the responsibility to apply any rational effort to see the truth; other times, Christians feel that acknowledging mystery is a throwback to the Middle Ages and superstition. Like most extremes, the wisdom of faith and reason is more like a dance than a recipe. It is helpful, I think, to see the foundation of our belief in God, in the mission of Jesus as the Christ, our salvation and resurrection, and other essentials of Christianity as matters of faith rather than logical constructs that have a beautiful internal consistency; Christianity makes, I think, a rather shabby philosophy with all its demands on passionate belief based on an encounter with a person rather than theory.
We have two such personal encounters in today's gospel reading: one with a "synagogue official named Jairus" and the other with a woman afflicted with "hemorrhages". Jarius wants Jesus to heal his daughter; the woman also seeks Jesus' healing while he was en route to his first appointment. What both these stories have in common is the linking of faith to healing, and of healing to salvation.
Jesus' life on earth was one of preaching and healing, full of passionate encounters and the revealing of the kingdom as a kingdom of restoration and grace. In the first century, disease and death were all "unclean" and associated with sin. Jesus' announcing the Good News brings an end to sin and death through healing and grace; these were lived experiences, not propositional arguments made by Jesus. The woman, pushing through the crowd, touched Jesus' cloak and became "aware at once that power had gone out from him". Jesus did not willingly give his "power" of healing to the woman, but she received it because of her faith, her bold determination to associate her healing with touching Jesus, or failing that, at least his cloak. Jesus declares "Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction."
Faith is also associated with the healing/salvation of Jairus' daughter. Jesus doesn't anoint her or say prayers, he simply told her to get up after declaring to her anguished father "Do not be afraid; just have faith". Jarius' faith, like that of the hemorrhaging woman, was faith in desperation. They had nowhere else to turn. Jesus was their last hope. They knew they did not merit the healing, but sought it anyway because they had nowhere else to turn. If logic were applied here, we would question Jesus' declaration of adequate faith. Faith borne of desperation for many is not faith at all; it's simply the last chance.
Faith doesn't sprout from a certainty; it springs from profound, experienced uncertainty. Like the woman plowing through the crowd of Jesus' entourage, we have to plow very often through the "faithful" who surround Jesus. Sometimes, it is not enough to follow those who follow Jesus; we must somehow make it up to the master's robes and touch them ourselves if what we desire is salvation. But even if we trip and fall, the Master knows our effort and our direction; we never need to make it to the cloak to receive healing. Our faith drives us because at the root of our faith is passion. It could be passion born of profound gratitude, or of desperation and fear, but what is important is that our faith drives our will to trust. To trust not in the all too fallible institutions, not even in those who are pointing the way, but to the destination of our yearning: the person of Christ, himself.