B Cycle – 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time 21
Our human nature is to be strongly independent in most matters. It is that independent nature which forged our country out of the wilderness and fostered the growth of many nations. I have witnessed that desire for independence while living overseas among other people. This characteristic seems to be a universal characteristic lodged within the human heart. We see that nature in our two year old children, as they demand the right to “do many small tasks “by themselves.” They do not need mom or dad to dress them any longer or tie their shoes. Yes, this independent nature is part of who we are and yet it is a characteristic that does not help us when it comes to matters of faith and discipleship.
How many times have we heard the words of Jesus telling us to die to self, to surrender to his will or to sell all we have and follow him? The parable of the vine and the branches is precisely aimed at reminding us that apart from him we can do nothing. Yet we have taken our spiritual lives into our own hands, and we are determined to “be holy as the Lord God is holy” by our own plan for our spiritual growth. The amazing fact is those efforts do help us grow spiritually and because they do, we keep doing them. The real question is are we growing because our hearts are changing or is something else going on within us.
It is easy to fall into a pattern of spirituality which has us convinced we are doing what God desires of us, while at the same time we are doing what is comfortable for us. Our spiritual lives are not challenged by the Spirit speaking to our hearts, or the Word of God speaking to our hearts. We can easily go to mass daily, or pray the office, or even spend time with some meditation aid without taking the time to listen to God. In one sense we are that two year old child dressing ourselves in righteousness without ever considering if our dress is appropriate or not. Remember the parable about the guest who was thrown out of the banquet because he did not wear a wedding garment?
God has always been clear about what he requires of us, and it is not our conformity to a set routine of religious practices. God desires our hearts and a willingness to listen to him and respond to the challenge to step into the unknown world of taking that first step into the world of discipleship. The disciple hears the voice of God telling them to do something that is contrary to our instinct. Think of that first encounter of Peter and Andrew with Christ. Cast your nets on the other side Jesus told them when they fished all night on both sides of the boat and caught absolutely nothing. It did not make sense and yet they did it. Feed thousands with a few fish and a few loaves did not make sense and yet they carried the food into the crowd.
It was their trust in Jesus that had them responding to his words, not their instinct because what Jesus asks of us is not intuitive it is an overcoming of our nature by a desire for the more God offers us.
We see that in today’s gospel story of the woman with the hemorrhage and the synagogue official named Jairus. Did you ever wonder why these two people are linked together in the gospels? Jesus was always challenging us to understand the heart of God and by doing so move away from the “do it yourself instinct.” Jairus was the local synagogue official, and the woman would have been a member of his congregation. She by being declared unclean was denied access to the temple by Jairus. But more importantly she had a hemorrhage for 12 years and was denied access to the temple for the entire time life span of Jairus’s daughter -12 years.
The woman who touched Jesus had the courage to “break the law” in the presence of Jairus. Therein lies the heart of this story. It is not a story of another miracle by Jesus by healing and then raising someone who died. It is a story of getting rid of the things that hinder us from responding to the call of Christ to allow him to show us the Father’s heart. There is another aspect of the story we can easily overlook for it is a minor detail but a very important detail. When Jesus heals the woman he says to her, “daughter your faith has saved you.” She is identified as God’s daughter, and it is the only time in scripture Jesus uses that term when speaking to a woman.
Jairus, hearing that phrase would have realized how he had denied access to God the Father by the restrictions of the law he demanded she follow. Here he is seeking the hand of God to touch and heal his daughter while his actions kept others away from God. The miracle of the story goes beyond the raising of Tabitha. The miracle began with the awakening within Jairus of the very message Jesus spoke to the Pharisees about how they were “placing of heavy burdens on the people to follow the law” while ignoring the opportunity to help people grow closer to God.
This is our greatest challenge in becoming all God desires us to become. The understanding how dependence on practices, customs, law, etc for our righteousness becomes a sedative keeping us in place and missing out on real spiritual growth. The God of miracles is waiting for us to respond to his call to seek him first and to listen to him. Simply put, we cannot be independent and control our own spiritual growth. No, we must become dependent on the Spirit to guide us to real spiritual growth and invite the Spirit to transform us into disciples.