By Fr David Barton, LC (Chaplain at Notre Dame Center)
February 2nd, 2024 - Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center
As a chaplain here at Notre Dame Center, one of the joys I have is to celebrate Mass on a regular basis which we offer in English each evening in Our Lady of Peace Chapel. As many of you are aware, part of the celebration includes a brief homily given by the priest which is usually a commentary on the liturgy of that given day.
I was stuck the other day by the readings and how they brought to light a lot of what I have been feeling and experiencing here in the Holy Land these last few months, and I would like to share that with you. The reading from the New Testament of the Bible that we read was taken from the Gospel according to Mark and was the following story from the life of Jesus. It is a bit of a long story but I think it is well worth the read:
When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered round him; and he was by the lake. Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, ‘My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.’ So he went with him.
And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, ‘If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.’ Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my clothes?’ And his disciples said to him, ‘You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, “Who touched me?” ’ He looked all round to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.’
While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, ‘Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?’ But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, ‘Do not fear, only believe.’ He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James.
When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. When he had entered, he said to them, ‘Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.’ And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha cum’, which means, ‘Little girl, get up!’ And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.
Sometimes I find myself feeling like Jairus, the synagogue official in this story. I have things that I feel I want from God, things that I actually need from Him for myself or others that I can’t get by myself. Yet sometimes I wonder if the Lord really knows what He is doing. Jairus has reached the end of the road in trying to help his dying daughter and now he throws himself at the feet of Jesus. And at first he seems to get the response that he has hoped for: Jesus will visit his house and look after Jairus’ daughter who is at the point of death and urgently needs help!
But then the unexpected happens. This lady who has been suffering for twelve years touches Jesus’ cloak and Jesus stops in his tracks. He has healed this woman who has been suffering physically (and also spiritually since because of her blood flow she was considered unclean), but now Jesus starts looking for her and it is taking up precious time. Jairus must have been thinking “she has been this way for twelve years now, she can wait a little longer but…my daughter is dying right now!”. And it gets worse. Jairus’ worst nightmare comes to life. They come from his house to inform him his daughter is dead. Why did Jesus get distracted with helping this woman and not go to what was more urgent?
Of course as we read, everything works out well and Jesus brings this young girl back to life in the most touching and gently of ways. But I imagine the thoughts that were going through Jairus’ head as he saw his dead daughter laying there when they arrived to his house.
I have felt a bit like Jairus these past few months. When will the suffering of war stop and when will peace return to this Holy Land? When will pilgrims be able to come and visit the holy sites again and when will the hotel and chapel be full so that I can meet people and serve them as a priest? I have learned that even in the face of suffering, the Lord is watching and continues to care for me. What a beautiful lesson Jairus learned that day about Jesus – and I hope that I can at some point learn this lesson of trust in the Lord and his timing. I want to believe more deeply that there truly is no time better than God’s time.