Fear and faith! The woman touched Jesus; he stopped and asked, “Who touched me?” She came in “fear and trembling,” fell down before him, and told him the truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you.” In the wraparound story of Jairus’ daughter, at this very point, some people come from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter has died. Why bother the teacher any longer?” But Jesus says to the man, “Don’t be afraid; just keep trusting [have faith].” As a child, I had a lot of faith; I also had a lot of fear. As I grew up in my family and the local parish my faith was in the reality of God that is I believed there was such a thing. However, by my experience of the world around me I did not trust in the goodness or compassion of God. As I have grown older, faith and fear have remained in dynamic tension in my life.
Just as my faith has matured and become more sophisticated, my fears have grown less generalised and more realistic. So the question is— as we face these realistic fears, where do we place our faith, our assurance, and our hope for the future? Do we put it in governments, or armies, or Angels or in Buddha or in secret agents or politicians who make promises that play on our fears? The scriptures call us to trust in God. Lamentations as the one by David in 2 Samuel reminds us “that the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, God’s mercies never come to an end.” Lamentations then goes on to talk about those times when one feels abandoned by God. This is a realistic look at faith in the face of fear. Sometimes the psalms are a dialogue between faith and fear. Psalm 30 states “you hid your presence. I was terrified,” while also exclaiming, “Lord, my God, I will give thanks to you forever.” In Corinthians, Paul encourages people to be generous in the face of want to act out of faith not through worry.
Yet, the two stories presented in the Gospel lesson pull on our heartstrings. One refers to long suffering, such as that of the haemorrhaging woman. One refers to the physical battles of an innocent child and the emotional trials of her parents. Many people no matter who we are will find both of these stories painfully familiar. In their pain and desperation, both the woman and Jairus know where to turn in their time of need. Jairus has the advantage of being a leader in the synagogue. He can publicly fall before Jesus and beg for his help. The woman has no such advantage. She is seen as unclean, and knows that. She has to beg for Jesus’ help in a different way. Jesus, however, does not differentiate in his response.
In this the reading from Mark 5, both women who are ill are made well because, we are told, of their faith. Paul encourages the church in Corinth to be generous as he requests their assistance with a special offering. Christ is the model for the eager generosity Paul invokes. This is a challenging example for all Christians. How often are we eagerly generous? How often do we welcome a tug on our cloaks? How often do we respond positively to a desperate plea for attention in the midst of our busy schedules? Paul reminds his audience that the most acceptable gifts are those that reflect what the individual or community possesses, not what they do not possess. A common focus in our modern context on what we do not have often leads to a less than generous response to the requests that come our way. Our generosity is to reflect that of Christ himself, a generosity that eagerly awaits those whose faith leads them to call on him.