Two years ago as I was preparing for my Ordination to the Diaconate, I happened to attend a Diversity and Inclusion Workshop at work. During this they had an exercise, which was meant to show us how we can unwittingly find ourselves travelling along with like minded people and at the same time maybe inadvertently excluding others who have different interests or beliefs. There was around 100 people in the room, and they asked us to group together with people by using the following criteria. Group one were people who had never watched an episode of Game of Thrones, Group two were people under the age of 35, group three were people who had a faith and groups four and five were based on other cultural topics, which I cannot remember.
Regardless of what they were, the only group I really fitted into was people who had a faith. However, when I say group, I am exaggerating, because I actually found myself standing there alone, which was quite disconcerting. This is not to say that the other people in the room did not have a faith, they may well have thought that they fitted more neatly into one of the other groups. It was obviously quite noticeable, so much so that one of the facilitators came over to check I was okay and stood with me so that I did not feel alone. My biggest fear, I must admit, was that when we returned to the whole group again that they would want to ask me how it felt to be alone in my solitude; highlighting the difference even further. Thankfully for me that did not happen, but I have to admit I experienced that fear for the fifteen minutes or so that the others spent getting to know one another and discussing the things they had in common.
Today, we hear Jesus say “Do not be afraid; only have faith”. Now I am not telling this to show how good I am; that I was prepared to stand all by myself admitting that I had a faith, when others didn’t. I honestly don’t know how I would have responded if I had fitted in to one of the other groups. But as I didn’t fit into any of the others and with my imminent Ordination in my mind, my choice was made for me. Today we hear about fear and faith.
The lady who was ill, had been ill for twelve long years; her faith convinced her that just by touching something which belonged to Jesus; that she would be healed. However, she was frightened when she realised that Jesus knew that power had been drawn from Him, with courage she came forward and was rewarded for her faith and honesty. Jairus’ daughter had lived for only twelve short years; Jairus and his family were fearful of losing their precious daughter and in faith Jairus came forward to ask Jesus to help. Jairus asked Jesus to lay His hands on his daughter and make her well again. When news came that the young girl had died, Jesus said “Do not be afraid; only have faith”, that faith was rewarded. I came across a beautiful reflection on this by Dom Placid Murray, which I think is worth sharing.
The Hand of Christ
The instinctive prayer of this little girl’s father had been to fall at Jesus’ feet and say, “My daughter is at the point of death. Come lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.’ Jesus did exactly as the father had asked; he took the child by the hand. It was the same saving hand that Jesus reached out to Peter as he sank beneath the waves. It was with this saving hand that he took the loaves in the desert and the bread in the Upper room. The priests of Christ repeat his gestures and his words; the power comes from him. The words are plain and simple, whether at Mass, in Baptism, in confession, in the anointing of the sick. If we had eyes that really saw, and ears that really listened, we like the people spoken of in today’s Gospel we also ‘would be overcome with astonishment,’ we would see and hear Christ in our midst.”1
This view of priests’ hands is shared by Pope Francis, in a reflection he said “I think the hands of the priest, rather than expressing routine gestures, must tremble with excitement when administering baptism or giving absolution of sins or blessing the sick because they become instruments of the creative power of God.”2
According to Jewish laws, the lady who had been ill for twelve years would have had to live outside of society, she would have been considered unclean, in fact anyone touching her would also be considered unclean until the cleaning rituals had been observed. Jesus was demonstrating here that the old laws were no longer valid; the new way to reach heaven would be by following His example. Jesus shows compassion and love, he rewards those who believe in Him. He takes away our fears when we show faith in him. Jesus restored the older lady to the Community and raised the young girl from the dead. Through the Sacraments Jesus offers us life and life to the full. Today and every day Jesus says to us, “Do not be afraid, only have faith.” The question for us is – does our faith allow us to leave our fears behind and be touched by the hand of Jesus?
Please keep in your prayers
- The new Confirmation programme, which started on Friday 25th June, for all the young people, the Catechists, their families and sponsors.
- The continued success of the Belong and Believe course, as it reaches the final week.
- Those preparing to return to Mass.
- Tinashe Nyamagodo who will be baptised this weekend and her parents and Godparents.
- Those preparing for ordination to the Priesthood, Diaconate and Permanent Diaconate.
- The Year of the Eucharist, which has now started, that this will lead to a fresh outpouring of love by the people of God for the Body and Blood of Christ.
- Those who have been unable to receive the Eucharist during the pandemic.
1 Placid Murray OSB, 100 Liturgical Homilies, (The Columba Press, Dublin, 1988) 89.
2 Pope Francis, A Year With Pope Francis – Daily reflections from his writings, (Claretian Publications, Macao, China, 2014) 211.