Ask any particular person, “When do you pray?’’ Often the answer will be, ‘”when I have a problem”. This is well and good for Jesus wants us to turn to God in prayer. However, often we miss out on many other opportunities to turn towards the Lord for help. This is due, on one hand, to our own ignorance and doubt or on the other hand to the prodding influence of other people.
In today’s gospel reading, the 7th Sunday of Luke 8:41-56, we have two excellent examples of how this works. First, there is Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue. His only daughter, a young girl at 12 years of age, was dying. Jairus falls down at the feet of Jesus and beseeches Him to come to his house. Second, there is the woman, we don’t know her name, with the hemorrhage of blood for twelve years who touches the hem of Jesus’ garment and is healed immediately.
Let us notice what Jairus and the woman had to overcome in order to experience the healing grace of God. During this account, Jairus’ daughter dies and people come from his house to tell him, “Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the teacher” (v.49). Later, when Jesus tells them she is not dead, but sleeping, they ridiculed Him (v.52-53). The woman, because of her flow of blood was considered ritually unclean, and outcast of sorts. Unlike the prestigious Jairus who ruled the synagogue, she needed to fight through the multitude of other people who were surrounding Jesus and could only get close enough to reach out and touch the hem of His garment.
These are classic examples of barriers that can get in our way of approaching Jesus with our problems and our needs. The message is ‘Don’t bother Jesus. Your problem is unsolvable. It’s too big. Others are more important. You’re unworthy of His help.’ Let me explain further. When we have a problem, whether it’s a physical illness of our own or someone we love and care about, we probably/hopefully pray to God for healing. Yet, there are many other avenues to approach the help of Jesus.
Have we ever gone in and out of the hospital without calling a priest to let him know so he can pray and anoint us with the healing oil of unction? Perhaps, we’ve had a legal issue, a family quarrel, a nagging/chronic illness, an addiction and we’ve approached a lawyer or counsellor but we have not approached a priest for guidance. Perhaps, a loved one has died and we decided to stay away from church, our family of faith, because we did not want people to see us grieving. Perhaps we have read a self-help, pop-psychology book, a horoscope, our palm, our coffee grounds as opposed to reading the scripture and the lives of the saints or going to bible study. These are all expressions of ‘Don’t bother Jesus,’ either stemming from doubt of self or doubt of God’s power and care.
Some of these things or people we turn to are not inherently bad/wrong and some of them are. However, anything used in place of God becomes an idol and then it becomes a problem. We cannot conceive of physical death and dying apart from spiritual death and dying which is separation from God, the source of life and truth. The physical and the spiritual are intimately connected. If we think otherwise, we deny the incarnation and become dualists.
Sometimes, we ignore a spiritual problem so long that it festers and turns into an illness of the mind and/or the body where the intervention of a psychiatrist/psychologist is required. With their help, the person is healed but the underlying spiritual crisis remains that will eventually manifest again in another symptom. It’s somewhat like the woman with the hemorrhage. It says she ‘had spent all her livelihood on physicians and could not be healed by any (v.43).
What is Jesus’ response to the doubters: To the woman He says, ‘Daughter, be of good cheer; your faith has made you well. Go in peace’ (v.48). To Jairus He says, ‘Do not be afraid; only believe, and she will be made well’ (v.50). Thus, it is our faith, our belief and trust in God, that makes us well. This faith cannot merely be an intellectual assent to a statement but it must be a deep, abiding, self-abandoning trust and total dependence on God that is lived out each day in our thoughts, words and actions.
The Devil and his demons constantly are telling us, ‘Don’t bother Jesus. He can’t help you. He doesn’t want to help you. He’s too busy. Your cares are too small. They’re too big. You’re not worthy. It’s too late. You’re too sinful.’
Do not listen to all these lies. Listen to what Jesus says, ‘The hair on our head is numbered’ (Mt. 10:30; Lk. 12:7). ‘The things which are impossible with men are possible with God’ (Luke 18:27). ‘If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.’ (Mark 9:23). Even on the way to the Cross, Jesus shows this deep, abiding trust when He says, ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will’ (Mark 14:36).
So please, bother Jesus. Trouble Him with our many issues and problems and requests. Push through the crowd. Don’t listen to the doubters and skeptics and complainers. Let us use the many resources that He has provided in His Body, the Church. Contact a priest, receive the sacraments, read the scriptures and the lives of the Saints. Share your burdens with other faithful Christians so they may help you. As we do this, our will conforms to God’s will. Eventually, we learn to ask for the very things that God already wants to give to us. Amen.