Touch the Light of Christ – A Healing Meditation

13th Ordinary Sunday

June 27,  2021

Before I read today’s gospel, I want to share this photo of a painting (“Encounter,” mural by Daniel Cariola) that spans a large wall in a downstairs chapel in the Israeli town of Magdala (above).  There is a beautiful modern church dedicated to Jesus’ invitation to cross the sea of Galilee (Luke 5:4) from this small fishing village of Magdala. 

Magdala is famous because Jesus invited his disciples to set out into the deep to fish.  The Latin phrase “Duc in Altum” means “go out to the deep.”  Eventually, they return with an overload of fish, after which Jesus makes a comment.  Impressed as everyone was with the catch, Jesus commented: “From now on, you will be catching men and women.”

Magdala is also the hometown of Mary whom we call Magdalene.  And it is the place where the miracle [happens] within a story of two women: Jairus’ daughter and an older woman with an incurable hemorrhage.

The Sanctuary of the Church is impressive because the altar is a replica of a first century fishing boat, behind which is a glass wall; on the other side of the window wall is an infinity pool-type flowing stream of water which flows into the water of the Lake of Galilee.

In the basement grottoes are three chapels, one where on the wall behind an altar is the interpretation of today’s older woman reaching out to Jesus, to touch the hem of Jesus’ tunic.

So, I invite you to remain seated, to look at the painting, imagine the painting, its full 50 feet by 30 foot size.  All that the woman sees are the feet of men walking with Jesus, and her hand reaching between the feet to touch the bottom of his tunic.  There is a bright light where her finger touches his cloak.  Let us listen to the story. (Mark 5:21)

Jairus’s Daughter and the Woman with a Hemorrhage

When Jesus had crossed again [in the boat] to the other side, a large crowd gathered around him, and he stayed close to the sea.

One of the synagogue officials, named Jairus, came forward. Seeing him he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, saying, “My daughter is at the point of death. Please, come lay your hands on her* that she may get well and live.” He went off with him, and a large crowd followed him and pressed upon him.

There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years.

She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors and had spent all that she had. Yet she was not helped but only grew worse.

She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak.  She said, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.”  Immediately her flow of blood dried up. She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction.

Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who has touched my clothes?”  But his disciples said to him, “You see how the crowd is pressing upon you, and yet you ask, ‘Who touched me?’”  And he looked around to see who had done it.  

The woman, realizing what had happened to her, approached in fear and trembling. She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth.  

He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”  While he was still speaking, people from the synagogue official’s house arrived and said, “Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?”

Disregarding the message that was reported, Jesus said to the synagogue official, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.”  He did not allow anyone to accompany him inside except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James.  When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official, he caught sight of a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly.

So, he went in and said to them, “Why this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep.”  And they ridiculed him. Then he put them all out. He took along the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and entered the room where the child was.

He took the child by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!”  The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around. [At that] they were utterly astounded.  He gave strict orders that no one should know this and said that she should be given something to eat.

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Let me share with you an interpretation for the story:

Both women find themselves in a desperate situation.  Jairus is a man of influence, who may not think much of Jesus’ reform for the Jewish religion or his preaching, but is focused on [Jesus’] ability to heal and [willing] to pay for it.

The unnamed older woman, must have been wealthy in her own right, but spent her fortune on doctors and a cure that never worked.  Because of her situation and hemorrhage of blood, she was considered an outcast, somewhat like a leper.

As Jesus’ group stop, you see the [hand] just reach around the feet and legs of others to reach the light, the power, the healing.  The father of the young girl just wants his daughter to be healed.  The older woman believes in Jesus before she sees him.

There is no exchange of trust or love in the Jairus story.  Jesus does create a new relationship with the older woman, however.  He calls her “daughter.”

Jesus became a “Father” to her. The older woman seems to understand that he is offering her more than healing — an encounter with him and his Father.  Not only is there a physical healing for both, but for the woman, Jesus becomes a light, a healing presence, ever present.

I invite you to keep the card, return to the picture.  More than answering prayers and needs, God wants to encounter us, to save us, to heal us.  In the light is the presence.  All we have to do is touch the light.

So let us, each one, take one minute to stare at the light on the image and imagine Jesus standing right next to us to give us the light, the healing and the courage.

Listen to the ocean waves crash as they did on the Sea of Galilee (Video by Natalie Dib Bardelli)

Today’s Book of Wisdom reminds us that God formed us “to be imperishable, in the image of his own nature he made” us.  (Wisdom 2:23)  The one who opposes God brings death into the world.  The inspired author is not talking about physical death.  He is talking about spiritual death.

Did Jairus’ daughter ever know the difference?  Certainly the woman with the hemorrhage did, and she became a real daughter of God.  Did Jairus’ daughter grow up to be an “entitled daughter” or a gracious and grateful servant of Jesus?

It is clear that the woman in today’s painting picture remained ever gracious and grateful as Jesus noted: “Daughter, your faith has saved you.  Go in peace and be cured.”

May we do likewise and return always to touch the light!

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