He went in, and took her by the hand

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The 23rd Sunday After Pentecost


Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 9,18-26.

As he was speaking these things unto them, behold a certain ruler came up, and adored him, saying: Lord, my daughter is even now dead; but come, lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live. And Jesus rising up followed him, with his disciples. And behold a woman who was troubled with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment. For she said within herself: If I shall touch only his garment, I shall be healed. But Jesus turning and seeing her, said: Be of good heart, daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour. And when Jesus was come into the house of the ruler, and saw the minstrels and the multitude making a rout, He said: Give place, for the girl is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn. And when the multitude was put forth, he went in, and took her by the hand. And the maid arose. And the fame hereof went abroad into all that country.

The Prayer of a Father

Jesus is in the midst of speaking. He allows this certain ruler, called Jairus, to interrupt his discourse. Jairus enters the scene suddenly, almost breathlessly. He adores Jesus, that is to say that he falls down before Him. His prayer goes straight to the point. It is simple and artless: "Lord, my daughter is even now dead; but come, lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live." It strikes me that Jairus must have blurted out his prayer after having prepared it in his heart on the way to Jesus. He has even devised a little "sacramental rite" that includes the laying on of Jesus' hand.

God Arises, His Enemies Are Scattered

Jesus, rising up, follows him. The little phrase "rising up" prepares us for a manifestation of Our Lord's divinity. It tells us that He is about to act in a wonderful way. At the same time, Our Lord acts humbly in that, together with His disciples, he follows Jairus. Faith opens the way for Our Lord to act. Faith opens the procession. God in Christ makes Himself obedient to the faith of a man.

The Touch of Faith

There follows an interruption, a delay. Rather inconveniently, a woman long in distress approaches Jesus stealthily on His way. The procession could not have been going very quickly for this sick woman to steal in behind Jesus and touch His garment. It would seem that after obtaining Jesus' consent, there is no need to rush off to the house where Jairus' daughter lies dead.

Thy Faith Hath Made Thee Whole

The woman, having already decided how to obtain her healing -- another kind of "sacramental rite" -- tries to be discreet, to go unobserved. Her prayer is silent. She repeats within her heart what she has determined to do, saying, "If I shall touch only his garment, I shall be healed." Jesus, touched by her faith more than by her hand, addresses her, saying, "Be of good heart, daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole." The woman's healing, after twelve years of chronic suffering, is instantaneous. Such is the power of faith.

Restored to Life

When Our Lord arrives at the house of Jairus, He sees that, already, the pomp and din of mourning as the world mourns, are in full swing. He calls for silence and calm, announcing that the girl is not dead, but sleeping. And in saying this, he exposes Himself to the mockery and scorn of those who deal in the business of death. The flute-players, wailers, and professional mourners were not there purely out of sympathy for the bereaved; they were there to make some profit out of the girl's death. "An unpleasant business," they reason, "but someone must do it." They resent the arrival of Jesus. Death is threatened in the presence of Life.

When the profiteers of death have been exorcised -- put out of the house -- Jesus enters the girl's room. Rather than touch her, as Jairus asked, Jesus takes her by the hand, thereby giving her life, and breath. She rises from her bed, restored to health. The gesture is the very one seen in the icons of the Harrowing of Hell, where Christ seizes the hands of Adam and Eve to pull them out of death into the radiance of His life.

She Rose

Note the second use of the verb "to rise" in this account. Where Christ rises to act, others rise to life with Him. The devil, on the other hand, forever the fallen angel, causes others to fall into death with him.

Glory to the Prince of Life

What Jesus has done does not remain secret. The news is noised abroad. Like Lazarus, this girl, brought back from the icy grip of death, must have become a sign of contradiction, the subject of whisperings and curiosity. As for her father, what must his gratitude have been to Jesus, the Prince of Life?

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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