A Moment of Encounter – Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
This long excerpt from Mark’s Gospel offers two healing stories: the cure of a woman with a hemorrhage and the account of the daughter of Jairus being raised to life.
The story of the raising of the daughter of Jairus starts the excerpt, but then is momentarily paused as we hear about the woman with a hemorrhage. Both stories deal with the need for faith.
The woman has faith and is fully trusting in Jesus whereas the people in the house of Jairus laugh at Jesus’ suggestion that the child is only asleep. He told them, “Do not be afraid; only have faith.”
What causes us to have faith? Or, on the other hand, why do some people have no faith? It cannot be reduced to simplistic answers. Many people who were raised from infancy with faith walk away from it, sometimes permanently.
Others who were not raised in a faith-filled environment experience a change of heart later in life and experience adult baptism. There are many advantages to coming later in life to a place of belief. It is so easy for people raised from infancy in faith to eventually take it for granted.
Those who choose to be Christian are able to name what they sought in being baptized. They made this decision themselves, rather than having it made for them by their parents.
The words that speak most strongly to me are, “Immediately aware that power had gone out from him …” His disciples are incredulous that Jesus would wonder who touched him as people were pressing around, but Jesus was certainly able to feel that something important had happened. It wasn’t an accidental bumping against Jesus.
In that moment of encounter between the woman with the hemorrhage and Jesus, both of them experienced something significant. Jesus was aware that power had gone out of him; the woman was “frightened and trembling because she knew what had happened to her” and that she was cured.
What tremendous faith she had that this man Jesus was able to help liberate something in her! I believe that such experiences are the stuff of conversions.
If we speak to people who came to Christianity as mature individuals who could choose for themselves, we often hear about moments not that different from the encounter in the Gospel.
We all have our own ways of describing those moments whereby we see our life in a new way. The opening lines of Amazing Grace say it well.
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch; like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
The hymn was written by John Newton, a former slave trader turned Anglican priest. He had a near-death experience, when the slave ship he was on encountered a violent storm. This caused him to convert to Christianity.