|06 - Jairus' Daughter and Woman with Issue of Blood, Nov 8, 2015|
It says – with our eye on the Greek – that the people received Him gladly for they were all waiting for Him in hope. (Lk 8:40) They were gathered with their faces turned to the shore, waiting expectantly for Him to come. And so, the Church is calling us to turn our faces toward the Cave of Bethlehem and to take up the cross of the Fast, the “work of faith” (I Thes 1:3), to get ready to receive the LORD who comes from Heaven, born of the Blessed Virgin.
One must get past the Sergeant Friday (of the Old TV series, Dragnet) style of the evangelists to feel the profound poignancy of these Gospel events. “Just the facts, ma’am,” Friday would always say without emotion. I think the evangelists want to stay out of the way so that the reader, according to his faith, can encounter the full force of the LORD’s tender, saving grace directly.
This woman with the issue of blood, it says, had been sick for 12 years. Even beyond the disease’s inherent debilitating effects, according to Levitical law, that means she had been unclean and separated from society for 12 years. (Lev 15:15&19) Can you imagine what she felt when she simply touched the hem of the LORD’s garment and was instantly healed, and when He called her out so that He could speak to her Face to face? “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace!”
Can you feel how sick with worry Jairus was for his little girl, and how devastated he must have been when they pulled him aside to say, “Your girl has died, no need to trouble the teacher any longer”? From other Gospels, we hear how viscerally compassionate the LORD was. You can feel it in his word to Jairus: “Don’t be afraid, only believe, and your girl will be saved!” Do you think it went through Jairus’ mind: “how can she be saved? She’s dead!” Or, was he too stricken with grief to think?
St Luke may not have meant it to be; but, I find humor in the raising of Jairus’ daughter. After He raises the little girl to life, the LORD commands her parents: “Don’t tell anyone what happened!” But, they are already struck dumb with astonishment (existemi). They couldn’t tell anyone if they wanted to! It’s like telling a stone statue: “Don’t move!” He says to the women outside who were “weeping and beating their breasts in grief” for the girl, “Don’t weep,” He says; “she hasn’t died. She’s only sleeping very soundly.” (v. 52) It says they laughed Him to scorn because they knew – they could see with their own eyes – that the girl was dead! Can you see them looking at each other when the girl comes out of the room alive and well, not knowing if they should be astonished or embarrassed? Can you see how the LORD’s word effectively silenced them, too? Do you think they’re going go around telling everyone they were weeping and carrying on over a girl who, as it turns out, was only taking a nap after all? Nor can I see them wanting to give their husbands another reason to roll their eyes and say drily: “Doris, you’re such a drama queen!”
But, the beauty of Our LORD and Savior made visible in the moving tenderness of these stories is not what I want to dwell on this morning. Our Gospel contains a lesson on faith critically important for us as we approach the blessed season of Advent. “By grace you have been saved through faith,” says St Paul in his epistle this morning. (Eph 2:8) “Your faith has saved you,” He says to the woman with the issue of blood. “Only believe, and your daughter will be saved,” He says to Jairus.
We already see this faith in the opening verse of this morning’s Gospel in the people who have turned their faces to the sea, waiting in joy and hope for the LORD to come.
It says that God breathed into Adam’s face and Adam became a living soul. (Gn 2:7) Adam’s face was turned toward the Face of God. Otherwise, God could not have breathed into his nostrils or his mouth to make him a living soul.
The Greek word for “belief” or “faith” means an inner orientation, to turn inwardly towards something. The Hebrew, nephesh, translated in Greek and in English as soul, means mouth or throat. In the bible, the mouth oftentimes is the door onto the heart. And, the Hebrew word for heart, lev, is deep. And so, we read in Jeremiah: “The heart is deep, and it is the man.” (Jer 17:5 or 9 LXX)
The face of Adam, his nostrils and mouth that God breathed into, and his soul (nephesh) that became living, all turn us to the “inner man” of the heart. I.e., Adam’s face that God breathes into is, theologically, his heart, his spirit, his inner man, his true self. Adam turning his face toward the LORD is therefore the movement of faith. In it, he received the Holy Spirit and became a living soul. Faith, then, is the face of our heart turned toward God. The “work of faith” (I Thes 1:3) is turning the face of our heart away from the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life and toward God.
You see from this that faith is of the heart or spirit, our inmost self. If the face of our heart is turned away from God, our spirit remains undeveloped, shriveled up because, turned away from God, we cannot receive the gift of faith, the breath of God, and faith cannot be born in us or grow.
The work of faith by which we strive to turn the face of our heart toward God is the discipline of the Church’s ascetic life. Through prayer, inner vigilance, fasting, giving of alms, we fight to master ourselves and to turn our secret heart towards God as we turn our soul away from our belly, our mind away from impure thoughts, our eyes and hears away from impure images and sounds, our hands and feet away from impure deeds.
Can you now see the faith of the people, of Jairus, and of the woman with the issue of blood? The woman with the issue of blood, it says, was following the LORD from behind. Her face was turned toward the Savior. She caught up with Him, reached out and grasped the hem of His garment. We grasp the hem of the LORD’s garment when we turn the face of our hearts to the constant remembrance of the LORD through prayer, fasting, deeds of mercy, so that it is the Face of the LORD and not the face of the world that our inner man gazes on as we in our heart wait in joy and hope for His blessed coming, when we will become like Him for then we will see Him face to Face.
See what happens in this morning’s Gospel when the LORD feigns ignorance of who touched Him. In feigning ignorance He brings the woman out of hiding so that she stands before the LORD face to Face. St Luke doesn’t tell us, again in his typical Sergeant Friday way; but, what must it have been like for her to look with her face into the Face of the Savior? Says the Psalmist, “The Face of the LORD shines on His servant, and she is saved in His steadfast love.” (Ps 31:16)
Where is Jairus’ faith? He was standing with the people, his face turned with theirs to the shore, waiting for the LORD who comes. He receives Him into his house (cf Jn 1:12) and by the touch of the LORD’s hand, his daughter becomes a living soul, raised from death to life. (cf. Wis of Sol 1:1:13 & 2:23) How should we understand the LORD’s command: “Give her something to eat”? Might it refer a veiled reference to Psalm 17:15? “When I awake,” when I, like the Prodigal, come to my senses and turn my face to the Heavenly Father, “I shall behold Thy Face in righteousness (life). I shall be satisfied (the word means I will be filled with good food) when I behold Thy Form.”
If we could see with inner eyes turned toward the Holy Gospel the beauty of the Savior Jesus Christ who comes, born of the Virgin, I think we would desire to go beyond the fairy tale of Santa Claus to behold the real Christmas! Might we help one another to take up the Nativity Fast of St Philip as our Cross, and with faces turned towards the Cave of Bethlehem, go in Spirit, our company now joined by the “certain man” of last Sunday cleansed of unclean spirits, by Jairus’ whole family and by the woman healed of her issue, to look with them and with the shepherds and the angels on the Virgin and the LORD of all whom she has brought forth in the flesh, even Christ Jesus our most blessed LORD and Savior! (Festal Menaion, p. 201) Amen!