Saturday, June 30, 2012

This Week’s Focus: Never Give Up

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. 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 around 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. Mark 5:21-43 

Dear Friends,

In the darkest days of World War II, in one of the shortest and most powerful addresses ever delivered, Winston Churchill famously admonished the boys of Harrow School to: “Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever give up. Never give up. Never give up. Never give up.” Not surprisingly in this week’s gospel, Jesus easily tops Churchill in both brevity and content: Don’t be afraid. Just have faith.

The cynic in us says advice is cheap. But Jesus is the font of grace, not of platitudes. For our salvation, he walked the walk all the way to Calvary and beyond. To fully appreciate the message of these miracles, we must dig a little deeper into the culture of the times. The hemorrhaging woman was judged by Mosaic Law to be unclean. She was untouchable. She had suffered through twelve years of isolation and anemia, rejection and decline. All her money had been squandered on useless nostrums and cures. But she never gave up. When she heard about Jesus, hope stirred in her. She was not permitted by law to speak to him. He was not permitted by law to lay hands on her. But her faith and her hope were such that she felt: If I can but touch his clothes, I will be healed. And she was. With perfect humility and perfect clarity, Jesus explains to her and to us: You are made well because you believed.

Pity poor Jarius at the feet of Jesus. He is a leader of the synagogue. His colleagues consider Jesus a blaspheming fraud. Seeking Christ’s help will make Jarius a laughingstock and an outcast. But his daughter is dying and he is desperate. Prostrate in the dust he begs Jesus over and over to save his daughter. And then the worst news a parent can hear: it’s all too late; his daughter is dead. Amid the wailing, Jesus lovingly went to the child’s side, whispered to her and gently raised her by the hand. And as if waking from a nap, she came back to life.

How many times have we given things up for dead: good intentions, relationships, chances to forgive, chances to seek forgiveness, opportunities to help, opportunities to witness Christ’s love. Sometimes we act in pride; sometimes in anger; perhaps, most often in indifference. Potentially it can all lead to despair. But not if we act with the hope of Jarius, the faith of the suffering woman and the resolve of Churchill: Never give up…especially on Jesus. He never ever, ever, ever, ever gives up on us.   

God love you!

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