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What will we not do for our children? Is there no limit to what we are prepared to sacrifice in order to protect them? What chasm will we not cross to bring them to the promised land? And there is no age limit to our concern and our willingness to shield them from the messy realities of life. For many mums and dads their joys and dreams are inextricably linked to their children.

If that sounds familiar to you then you already are building a good picture of Jairus, who we meet in today’s gospel. Jairus is described as a synagogue official, he was a man of considerable authority and stature in the Jewish community. He was a leader and a person that people looked up to and admired. Yet he was also a father and his 12 year old daughter lay gravely ill. In an era when child mortality was high, this young girl’s fate hung in the balance.

What Jairus does is what every parent does, for the sake of his precious daughter, no stone will be left unturned in order to make her well. This is why, in spite of his standing within the community, he puts aside both his pride and his fear of losing status by approaching Jesus with the request to heal his daughter. Jairus’ determination reminds us that a parent’s complete and unconditional love is the very reflection of the love of God in our midst.

Then just as Jesus, Jairus and the crowd head off, another person is thrown into the story. An unnamed woman with a haemorrhage secretly touches Jesus from behind and is immediately cured. In response, Jesus turns and asks who touched him. Jesus’ disciples, always a little clueless in Mark’s Gospel, help us imagine the scene. The crowds are pushing in on Jesus, and yet he, knowing that power has gone out of him, asks who touched him.

The woman could have remained anonymous, but at Jesus’ question she steps forward and acknowledges what she has done. She realises not only the power of Jesus to heal her but the depth of his love and compassion to want to heal her. Her faith is rewarded. It is only then that Jesus continues on to Jairus’ house and his daughter.

The contrasts between Jairus and the woman with the haemorrhage are stark and revealing. One is a man, the other is a woman. One is a public official, an important person in the community. The other is a woman who has lost everything to find a cure to a condition that separated her from the community. One approaches Jesus publicly. The other approaches Jesus secretly.

But curiously, what unites them is their fear – fear of losing a daughter, fear of continuing to be isolated and shunned by the community. They are desperate! It is because of that fear that they ultimately take the great risk of reaching out to Jesus. Jesus is certainly moved by their faith but I think the boldness of their actions and the courage to overcome their fear and take the first step also plays a significant part. How could He say no to them? And what if, because of fear, these two people had not approached Our Lord?

We all know the fear that paralyses us from taking action and makes excuses for justifying delay. There are many areas in our lives and relationships where we wonder “is it worth the risk?” Perhaps Jairus and the unnamed woman remind us that when it comes to faith it’s always worth the risk!

Fr Peter Brannelly



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