#How Touching is the podcast for July 1, 2018. Touch is important for life. Just like an abused dog comes to life through touch, a leader of the synagogue and a bleeding woman experience life from touch. Listen here and find out more: Download it into your phone. #Mark #Mark5 #AnimalAbuse #ASPCA #Touch #Jairus #JairusDaughter #BleedingWoman #OpenToBeingHealed
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For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Fr. Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 7/1/2018 The 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Mark 5:21-43.
[I have posted a video of a dog that was abused being lovingly touched for the first time.] [There is a video of a dog on youtube who was abused that is being touched lovingly for the first time.] I find it to be so very heartwarming. (I first wrote, “I found it touching,” but then realized my pun.) The woman in the video speaks lovingly to the dog which at first howls and objects at the touch, waiting for a blow of abuse. When the dog sees there is no abuse to follow, it turns itself to the woman and is touched, petted, spoken to lovingly, and loved.
The demeanor of the dog in the video is amazing. At first, he is not so open to the woman, fearing what she can do. Then, as the dog realizes that there is goodness flowing from her, the pup acquiesces and then leans in, desiring the touch, moving into the touch. As the video shows little clips of the dog’s recovery, you can see how the love and safety of the care changes the dog in every way. The more the dog is loved, the more open to love it becomes. The more the owners love the dog, the more the dog trusts, the more the dog leans into the touch. Inherent in the dog is the desire to be loved. When it is fulfilled, the dog flourishes.
In our Gospel today, we have two very different people. The first is a leader of the synagogue, Jairus. Jairus is an accepted and authoritative member of the community. His job, as part of the leaders of the synagogue, is to stand afar and scoff at Jesus and to work to discredit Jesus. The last person who should be asking Jesus to heal anyone is a leader of the synagogue. Yet, in this passage, there is something that causes him to cast aside the proprieties and acknowledge that through Jesus God works. That “something” is his desperation that his daughter, his very heart, is dying and soon will be dead. If only the teacher would ‘touch her.’
The other is a woman who has been bleeding for 12 years. These facts are significant because as a woman she would not have standing and would not have been accepted as a person to be around Jesus. Not only that, but she is a woman who is bleeding. Anyone who is bleeding is considered “unclean.” Just like the lepers we have talked about who had to go around shouting, “unclean” so that people could stay away from them, the only people who really had anything to do with this woman were physicians. All that the doctors did was take her money and have no solutions, compounding the problem. The outcast status of the woman and her financial ruin causes her to break social norms and reach out to touch Jesus in the crowd.
For Jairus, the desperation to save his daughter leads him to withstand the ridicule that follows. The text tells us that they mocked Jesus when he said, “The girl is not dead, she is just sleeping.” What should not be missed is the tremendous ridicule and loss of position that this leader of the synagogue loses by merely having Jesus come to his home. His home!
Let’s be clear, Jesus was not preaching something different than Judaism, but he was espousing the power of God and teaching with authority in a way that was unfamiliar to the synagogue leaders, and thus suspicious. The risk was incredible. Jairus’ trust of Jesus in the midst of the incredible social scorn should be a lesson to us to trust God even when everyone around us tells us we are crazy.
For the bleeding woman, in the crush of all the people, she is so believing in Jesus’ power that she doesn’t even think she needs to touch Jesus himself, just his garment. Her openness to God’s work through Jesus is shown by her willingness to be punished by society, too. Her risk at approaching the crushing crowd, pushing her way through, and then barely touching the fringes of Jesus’ garment is also immense.
The woman in the video of the abused dog touched for the first time is important, too. She is like Jesus, like God. She gives love and offers love that heals this abused puppy for no other reason but that love and healing are worthy pursuits. Her words are words of healing. Her touch is reassuring. With Christ, his words are reassuring to Jairus and they are surprisingly reassuring to the woman, who had no standing.
We can see that it is not just the touch that heals. The woman is barely touching the garment in the midst of all those people who are touching Jesus in a scrum. The little girl is not whacked on the head like so many faith healers who make a spectacle of the thing. Jesus simply touches her hand and raises her up. It is not unhealthy touch or touch without love that is on display here.
Jesus is not a “miracle worker for hire”, either. His touch here is not touch for the purpose of advancing his own power or his own position in the world. It is not touch for the exploitation of the powerful Jairus or the vulnerable bleeding woman. The touch is for the purpose of healing the one who comes risking it all to be healed. Healing they desire, healing they shall receive.
There are some things that we should note from these two stories in the Gospel of Mark. First, Jesus Christ and his healing is for all. We should offer that healing to everyone; those who are members of the synagogue and accepted by society and those who are outcasts rejected by the world. We sometimes forget that people who are wealthy, socially privileged, or of social status have needs, too. People are people. Our faith communities should be equally made up of those who are the outcasts and those who are the social elite. The only factor that should unite us is our belief that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world and can heal us all.
Healing is not a side show or a fee for purchase item. Those who are healed are not healed because they made a deal. They are not healed because they made a bargain with God in a psychological or existential foxhole. People are healed because they trust and believe in the power of Jesus Christ to heal them. It is as plain as that.
Unfortunately, it takes some of us to be driven by the death of a child or physical and financial ruin to trust in God. So many of us torture ourselves through years of abuse, neglect, difficulty, or shame until we are finally at the point where we can take no more. It is the final exhaustion of oppression that leads us to leave behind what ‘everyone else thinks’ and do what we need to do to be healed. Usually, it is not that God was unwilling; it was that we were unwilling. That is when we finally do something about our dilemma and situation. We look back and think, “Well, well. Jesus was there all the time. Why did I wait so long?”
There is a life of healing with Jesus Christ. It is real and it is waiting for us to open up our hearts and either be touched by Christ or for us to reach out and touch Christ. Do we believe that we can be healed? Do we trust that God is able? Do we believe? Like the puppy in the video, maybe it is time for us to ‘lean in’ to the healing touch of Jesus Christ. Amen.
This audio is under the copyright of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated. My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated, 2018.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian