“ARE WE DESPERATE FOR MIRACLES?” (Mk 5:21-43): 05 February 2008 (Tuesday)
Today’s Gospel reading is about desperate people—two desperate people: One a synagogue official named Jairus; another an unnamed woman who has been ill for twelve years. For each one of them, our Lord performs an extraordinary miracle.
First, we see how Jairus, the synagogue official, falls on his knees before the Lord pleading him to heal his dying daughter. Now remember, here we have a high-ranking official who, in front of a large crowd, humbles himself before Jesus. Not a likely thing for a high-ranking official to do. In fact, he must have looked quite silly to the crowd. But as we know, desperate situations sometimes move us to do desperate and silly things. Jairus must have really loved his daughter, who, we later find out, turns out to be no more than a child. Our Lord sees this, and he goes with him to his house.
On the way to Jairus’ house, another desperate character emerges on the scene: A woman afflicted with hemorrage, one who has been bleeding for twelve years! The gospel writer informs us: “She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors and had spent all she had.” Many of us know what it means to suffer the uncertainties brought about by our illness—or those of people we love. I remember a well-loved Jesuit philosophy professor at the Ateneo, who suddenly fell ill and had to stop teaching. For years, no doctor could figure out what was wrong with him. They tried everything, experimented with all sorts of medication—but all to no avail. Being sick is pain enough. But not knowing what the cause is or its cure—this makes the pain even worse.
No wonder this woman turns out to be desperate like Jairus. No wonder she gets silly ideas. Imagine her: She elbows her way through the thick crowd following Jesus—all because she wants to touch the cloak of Jesus, telling herself that “if only I touch his clothes, I shall be cured.” A really silly idea, when you think about it, but as we said, desperate situations sometimes move us to do desperate and silly things.
We know how both stories end. The woman’s desperate and silly move gets her miraculously cured. Jairus gets a similarly happy ending. By the time Jesus reaches his house, the little girl has already died, and relatives and friends persuade him not to trouble Jesus anymore. But understandably, Jairus gets more desperate, so he does not listen to the people, but believes Jesus’ seemingly silly suggestion that his daughter is only asleep, earning him—and Jesus—the ridicule of everyone. But as we know, his desperation moves Jesus to raise his little girl back to life.
I find it quite hard to believe in miracles these days, especially since the miracles we read about often border on the ridiculous: The Virgin’s face appearing on a banana tree, a medium of the Sto. Niño foretelling the future in a high-pitched voice, etc. We who have been trained to think are tempted to dismiss this whole business of miracles as either completely ridiculous or at least no longer fashionable. We think: Maybe somewhere along the way, God just decided to stop performing them—or he decided to put a quota on the number of miracles he performed. Or, we all just got smarter and found an explanation for every so-called miracle.
So should we still believe in miracles? To answer that question, I think it’s important for us to know that there are two kinds of miracles. The first type is the miracle that brings about faith, the type of miracle that’s supposed to cause us to believe. We wait for a miracle to happen, something dramatic, something extraordinary, something overwhelming—like a dancing sun or a paralytic healed or—why not?—someone rising from the dead—so that we may have faith, in order that we may end up believing in God. The problem with this type of miracle is this doesn’t seem like the kind of miracle that God likes to perform. This type of miracle is magic. And our God is no magician. He refuses to play tricks on us just to con us into believing in him. In the rock opera “Jesus Christ Superstar,” a campy King Herod loses his cool because the Jesus character refuses to entertain him by turning water into wine or by walking across his swimming pool. Many times during his ministry, Jesus walked away from such situations.
The second type of miracle, the type of miracle that Jesus likes to perform, is the miracle that not so much brings about faith, but one that is brought about by faith, one that not so much causes faith, but one that is caused by faith. There is nothing like faith to move our Lord to heal, to cure, to help, even to break the laws of nature to perform a miracle. Our Lord saw this faith in Jairus, that desperate synagogue official and he was so moved he raised Jairus’ little girl back to life. He felt this faith in the touch of that silly woman reaching for his cloak, and he was touched so deeply he healed her even before he knew her.
Of course it is true that in the process, our Lord’s miracles also bring about faith in those who witness his miracles. His miracles are also signs that cause eyewitnesses to believe. But this is not the primary reason why the Lord performs miracles. Jesus’ main reason for performing miracles is people’s faith in him. In other words, for the Lord, miracles are not intended to cause faith. Rather, they are caused by people’s faith.
And so today we ask ourselves two question: First, do I expect miracles to bring about, or to be the cause of, my faith? Do I go around in my life with my arms folded across my chest, waiting for something dramatic and overwhelming to happen before I will concede to believe in God and reform my life? If my answer is yes, then I’d better think about this carefully, because more often than not, God doesn’t perform such miracles. He intends miracles to be the effect—and not the cause—of faith.
Secondly, is there an area in my life now that needs some kind of miracle or healing? Perhaps in my family, my career, or my other personal relationships? If my answer is yes, another question: Do I have faith that God will perform the miracle that I need? Or, to put it more bluntly, but perhaps also realistically, am I willing to be desperate, like Jairus, and even silly, like that bleeding woman, to get my much-needed miracle?
After all, come to think of it, isn’t faith just a nicer word for desperate and silly? In those moments in our lives when we realize that we can’t do it ourselves, that we need God after all, when we grow desperate and believe that God—and only God—can help us, and when we are finally actually willing to fall on our knees and to raise our arms to the sky in prayer—who cares if we look silly?—what else can all this be but faith? And we have been told, we have been promised: Our faith can move mountains—and if our faith is great enough, it will move the mountain of God. And miracles, believe it or not, will happen.