7th Sunday of Luke, Luke 8: 41-56
In today’s Holy Gospel we hear of the healing of Jairus’ daughter… and not just a healing from sickness, but a much more radical healing… her resurrection from the dead.
Christ and His disciples had just returned from their visit to the country of the Gadarenes and, as the news of Christ’s fame and good works was growing, they were surrounded by a multitude who awaited Him – so many seeking healing and comfort.
We are told that a man named Jairus, a respected ruler of the synagogue, came and fell at Jesus’ feet and begged Him to come to his house and heal his daughter, who was deathly ill. Jairus approached Christ with hope and faith that He could heal his only daughter and make her well. There was urgency in his voice as he knew that she might not have long to live. Christ heard his desperate request and agreed to come to his house, promising to make his daughter well again.
But before they were able to come to the house, the news reached them that Jairus’ daughter had died. There was no longer any need to trouble the Master, for all hope was lost.
But when Jesus heard the news of this death, He answered saying, ‘Do not be afraid; only believe, and she will be made well.’
Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh wrote the following:
Today’s Gospel is not only about miracles and the mercy of God; to me, it is about hope beyond hope. In the story of the daughter of Jairus we see a child already dead; everyone knows about it; there is such certainty that when the Son of God, become the Son of Man, says, ‘No! This child has not died, she is fallen asleep’, everyone contradicts Him: ‘No, this child has died’ … And then Christ, with a word of power, but in an act of love calls the child to earthly life again.
Isn’t this, — apart from being a true event of our human history, — isn’t this also a parable, and an image of so many human situations? How often we would say, ‘There is, no point in doing anything about this person, this person is lost anyhow; there is nothing to do about redeeming a given situation, this situation is beyond redemption’… And we must remember the words which were spoken by Christ to Peter when he said, ‘Who then can be saved?’ and the Lord said to him, ‘What is impossible to man, is possible unto God’.
Metropolitan Anthony calls today’s Gospel a story of hope beyond hope. It is indeed that. And it is also an admonishment and an encouragement to us.
It is an admonishment to us as we see the all too familiar reactions of those gathered at the house of Jairus. Those who knew the child was dead and were already mourning her loss. When Christ entered the home and proclaimed that she was not dead, that she was only sleeping – the crowd mocked and ridiculed Him, knowing that she was dead and there was no hope.
We need to be careful of our own ‘knowing too much’, of our foregone conclusions about people, about situations where we see no hope, and perhaps even about ourselves. How often do we lose hope about people, about situations, or about ourselves? And sometimes our certainty of our own prideful assessments can make us bitter and cynical, so that when we hear the words of hope, we smirk and mock that optimism, considering such hope naïve and preferring the dark assurance of our own calculations.
How can we give birth to hope? What are the two virtues that the Holy Church ties so closely to hope? Faith and love. Faith and love are required if we are to have the humility and the courage to dare to hope. We must have faith in God’s ability to make possible the impossible. And we must have love, knowing first of all how much God has loved us, and with grateful hearts extending our love back to Him. While we have that admonishment to not lose our hope, today’s Gospel is also a source of great encouragement. For our Lord Jesus Christ blows right past the mockery of assembled mourners and takes the child by the hand saying: ‘Little girl, arise.’ And immediately her spirit returned to her and she arose.
My dear friends, I am always brought to tears by this story because it hits me right in the heart of my own experience. My own daughter was stricken some years ago with cancer and the doctors gave her very little chance of living. It was an impossible situation with very little worldly reason to retain hope. Yet hope never died in the faithful and loving hearts and prayers of so many people – including members of this parish who knew us then and were praying for my daughter. Prayers were going up all around the world and those prayers were answered…my daughter arose from her sick bed and, by the grace of God, is alive and well today.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ…let us stubbornly cling to hope! Let us take our lead from our Lord Jesus Christ, Who boldly and with great faith ignored the cynical mockery of those ‘who knew better’. Of our Lord, Who never failed in His determined faith and hope and love to do the will of His Heavenly Father.
May we too have a determined faith and hope and love. The pessimism and mockery of this world gains strength day by day…but this world desperately needs those who will retain their faith, their hope, and their love. For these are the pillars upon which everything good is supported. May God grant us the strength and the courage to hope against hope and to place all things in the capable hands or our Lord.