Thy faith hath made thee whole…(St. Matthew ix. 22)
In the course of the green season –when the Church emphasizes spiritual growth and fertility, we read much about the miracles of Jesus. Our English word miracle is a translation from the Greek word dunamis, and it means mighty work or power. Archbishop Trench says that a miracle is an outcoming of the mighty power of God, which is inherent in Christ himself, that great power of God. (Notes on the Miracles of Our Lord) A miracle is a manifestation of God’s power, ready to be imparted from Jesus Christ, the Word made Flesh into human hearts by the Holy Ghost. Most of the miracles found in Scripture can be traced to Christ in the days of His Incarnation. They are disclosures and revelations of God’s power, which are effected directly or indirectly through Christ himself. John Donne tells us that there is in every miracle a silent chiding of the world, and a tacit reprehension of them that require, or who need, miracles.(Trench, p. 16)
Miracles are offered from God to man in order to remind us of that power which we are habitually in danger of forgetting. This is the power that must, at times, startle and shake us out of an otherwise somnolent and sleepy spiritual sloth. Through miracles, God reveals Himself to the Jews. Through miracles, God reveals Himself, in Jesus Christ, to their descendants. Through miracles, we find that curative dynamism of Divine Power that visits men with ease from Jesus Christ and heals them to help in their journey home to God. From what does man need healing? Everyman is to be healed of anything that stands between him and his Maker. The particular instance of healing is not what is important. God intends His power to elicit from man a deeper consciousness of his absolute need for and dependence upon His Maker for his salvation and deliverance. The miracle might cure a man of blindness. What is awakens in him more is his utter dependence upon God’s Wisdom, Power, and Love for his eternal destiny.
In today’s Gospel lesson, we read of two miracles which should encourage us to seek out the power of God in Jesus Christ for our own lives. We read of one healing that is sought out vicariously through entreaty and prayer and another that is sought out directly for the self. There is the healing of those near and dear to the self and then there is the healing of the self. But in the Gospel the order is abruptly reversed. In today’s Gospel, we learn that before a man can pray aright for the healing of others, he must be healed himself. Thus, the power of God is obtained individually so that the sanctified soul might know how and when to pray for others. This, of course, run clean contrary to what most people do. Most people are consumed with praying for other people’s sin and sickness. It may we well-intentioned but most men are more co-dependently consumed with other people’s sins than their own.
So, to today’s lesson. We read that there is the ruler who comes to Jesus, honors him, and begs Him to come down to heal his daughter who has just died. My daughter is even now dead, but come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live. (St. Matthew ix.18) And so Jesus takes His disciples to follow the gentleman home. Then something interrupts their journey so that Jesus can reveal to the ruler what should have preceded his intercession for his daughter. Remember, the order of the healings is all important. Out of the blue and in the press, someone touches Him. Behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him and touched the hem of his garment: for she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole. (St. Matthew ix. 20,21) Someone has interrupted Jesus’ response to a nobleman’s petition.
So, the woman with an issue of blood twelve years impedes the journey into healing, for the benefit of our enlightenment and instruction. This woman is an example to us of that personal diligence and determination that must always preceded our prayers and good works for others. She reveals who and what the ruler should have been before he begged Jesus to heal his daughter. She represents that spiritual character and disposition which must characterize the life of the soul that must be healed before it can know how, when, and in what manner to pray for others.
What does this mean? How can we possibly approach God with cares and concerns about others before we are made right with Him ourselves? No doubt, there is nothing wrong with wanting the healing of others and our loved ones. The example of the ruler provides us with a degree of earnest good will and charity; here we find a man honored and esteemed in the earthly city who stoops down to visit Jesus for a power that he did not possess. Yet can we really approach Christ before we have been sufficiently sanctified?
The woman in this morning’s Gospel provides us with a witness to that faith that seeks out and finds, that perseveres and persists until it has secured the power of God for its own healing. She needs Christ’s healing. She has suffered physically for twelve years with uninterrupted menstruation. Yet, she is humbler than the earthly ruler. Her ongoing and unhealed sickness has ostracized her from society and she seeks a cure. St. John Chrysostom reminds us that she was ashamed on account of her affliction, accounting herself to be unclean. For if the menstruous woman was judged not to be clean, much more would she have the same thought, who was afflicted with such a disease; since in fact that complaint was under the law accounted a great uncleanness. (Hom. Xxxi) She knows that she cannot help herself, and so her faith convinces her that the mere touch of Jesus’ garment will heal her. With faith and courage, she will push through the crowd to touch Jesus. She feels unworthy to even articulate her plea. But she believes that because of who He is, the very garments that He wears must be conduits to the newness of life that emanates from His being.
She touches him. Then, Jesus, perceiving that virtue has gone out of Him (St. Luke viii. 46), says to her, daughter be of good comfort, thy faith hath made thee whole. (St. Matthew ix. 22) Jesus has been moved by the faith that has sought Him out and found Him in a unique way. Her silent gesture prays God be merciful to me a sinner and hopes to return to her hidden obscurity.
The woman is a sign of our need to judge ourselves, feel our spiritual sickness, and seek a cure. She is a sign too of those whose faith reveals a trust that Christ knows what is best for her without her asking. To reach out to God in Jesus Christ, to touch the hem of His heavenly garment, and to desire His power with a humble passion that cannot be put into words are of highest value to Christ our all-merciful Lord! A sick and sinful woman in need reached out to Jesus Christ with faith. There can be no doubt that Jesus was thronged by a multitude of sick and diseased people. But one woman touches Him with humble faith. The commentators remind us that she might have touched His garment, been healed, and gone away with a healing and restoration that was as concealed and hidden as her original disease. She must have thought, also, that her own healing paled in significance to that of the ruler’s daughter. But Jesus would have none of it. The unique humble faith of this woman must be brought out into the clear light of day so that its earnest passion might inspire others to imitation. This is the faith that must travel out of fear and trembling into the clear light of Christ’s healing embrace.
She hoped to remain in concealment out of a shame, which, however natural, was untimely in this the crisis of her spiritual life; but this hope of hers is graciously defeated. Her heavenly Healer draws her from the concealment she would have chosen; but even here, so far as possible, He spares her, for not before, but after she is healed, does He require the open confession from her lips. She might have found it perhaps altogether too hard had He demanded this of her before; but, waiting till the cure is accomplished, He helps her through the narrow way. Altogether spare her this painful passage He could not, for it pertained to her birth into the new life. (Trench, Ibid, 150)
Daughter, be of good comfort, thy faith hath made thee whole. (Idem) Her faith has conquered Jesus’ heart and procured His virtue and Jesus will hold her as an example to us all.
Again, John Donne tells us that in every miracle there is a silent chiding of the world. (Idem) The woman with the issue of blood chides or reproaches us all. Do we have her deep humility and faith that persistently pursue Christ’s power to heal? Christ brings out the faith of the woman with the issue of blood to make public what must shame us.
Many throng Christ; His in name; near to Him; in actual contact with the sacraments and ordinances of His Church; yet not touching Him, because not drawing nigh in faith, not looking for, and therefore not obtaining, life and healing from Him, and through these. (Trench, Ibid, 149)
Will we pursue Christ persistently in the crowded ways of modern life with humble and faithful hearts that seek His cure for our sins? The woman with the issue of blood committed no sin but is ashamed and alienated. Christ intends for us to imitate her humility, faith, and persistence. We must be humbled. Our faith must feel deeply our need for His healing power. We must never think that Christ’s Redemption is for other people. We must never take Christ for granted. We must stop thinking that we can touch the hem of Christ’s garment in the Sacraments without believing in the power that they convey! The Son of God paid for our Salvation with His Blood. Do we receive His Body and Blood as what alone can cure our sin sick souls? Christ is God’s Word. If we touch the hem of His Garment, we must intend to receive His healing power.
Jesus displays the woman’s faith to all for our imitation. (St. J. Chryst.) We wonder why we don’t heal. Our faith is too weak. Our faith is a private affair. Jesus says, thy faith has made thee whole (Idem). In our lives, this miracle should reveal to the world an outcoming of the mighty power of God, which is inherent in Christ himself, that great power of God. (Idem)