Twelve years before this Sunday's Gospel story took place, two things happened.
A little girl was born to a man named Jairus and his wife, and she became, like most little girls, the center of laughter and music. As the years passed, she grew from infant, to toddler, to a wide-eyed young girl who discovered love and charm in every morning. The dinners and evenings passed into months and years, and the delighted parents watched their daughter grow in wonder.
About the same time as the birth of the daughter of Jairus, an adult woman fell ill. She suffered from a chronic hemorrhage of blood, and nothing could be done. The constant pain twisted her face into a perpetual grimace, and the music she had once known as a child froze in the cold anguish of her waist. She seemed to shrink over the years of visiting one physician after another, attempting one more treatment, experimenting with one more drug. The blood kept leeching from her very bones, and the mornings turned grey as this woman shrank, for twelve years, in despair.
It took this woman twelve years to reach this point. It took the parents of the young girl only a moment. The daughter of Jairus now lay dying more quickly than the hemorrhaging woman had ever lay dying before.
He, as would any father, sought out Jesus and begged Him to come. The Lord is Himself the Divine Word of compassion and power. He Himself brings to any person, to any moment, the revolution of Peace. Peace is the atmosphere of the Trinity, the unfolding Presence of beauty, wholeness and grace. Jesus, Who came down from heaven, is God's Offering of Peace to those who ask for God's Mercy: the prayer, "Lord have mercy" is answered by God's Offer of Peace on Earth.
So Jesus went with Jairus to his desolate house ravaged by the fear of death. Quickly, quickly they went, surrounded by the press of the town, not a moment to lose. Like the emergency sirens of a modern age shouting urgency in the streets as life hangs in the balance, so was this father pressing behind every step, every breath. Quickly, almost angrily, he urged away the populace who did not understand his pain, who could not, he thought, feel the grip of panic and a wrenching heart.
But in the middle of this emergency, Jesus stopped, and the sky fell darkly on the heart of the young father. As the moments hemorrhaged away from this last opportunity to save the life of his little girl, Jesus stayed, in one moment, in one place, and asked, "Who touched Me? For I perceive that power has gone forth out of Me."
The Power of His Divine Nature had indeed rested upon an invisible woman – a woman whose sickness was shameful to men and unspoken. A sickness of Mosaic uncleanness, a condition of disqualification and exclusion. She had hidden herself in the anonymity of grief, in the facelessness of impoverished despair. In hopelessness, she had become powerless.
Despite all this, in her naivety she thought to merely touch the hem of the garment of the Peace-Bringer. In her childlike faith, she knew that if crumbs were enough for the Canaanite women, then only an unnoticeable touch, a mere brush of the Master's robe would be enough. If He were God, as He is, then she would be healed, as she was.
But nothing is unnoticeable for Jesus Christ, Who is Creator and Wisdom Personified. He is the Word Who speaks Creation into being, and to Whom all things are known. And this Voice that had called for Adam and Eve once in the cool of the day, now called again.
Out of invisibility and shame she came. There can be no anonymity with Jesus Christ and in His Gospel Age. But unlike the captains of wealth and power at the end of time who will wish for the mountains to fall and hide them from the Face of Him, she the weak and childlike, of just a little hope and a spark of faith that flared into flame in the vicinity of the Light of Life: she came, trembling and falling down before Him, as is the only way to meet the Lord in faith, a gesture forgotten in the arrogant idiom in which we, comfortably numb, normally converse.
"Daughter" – He says. "Daughter," as if she were His child, as if she had been made by Him, as if she had been healed by Him, as if she had never been abandoned by Him to her vortex of shame and facelessness.
But for the Word of the Tri-Hypostatic Sun, the ambiguity of "as if" is always transmuted, in His Will, to the certainty of "as." She, the woman of a twelve-year-old hemorrhage, forgotten by a negligent marketplace and left behind by a society hurtling down its fantasy legend of self-congratulation – she, the older and shameful, Naomi obsolete, the ugly and wan, the rejected and non-productive, Israel hopeless and powerless … she was always, don't you know, just His little girl.
And He is always joyful in the saying of Talitha cumi, "little girl arise."
"Daughter, your faith as made you well; go in peace."
Faith, that is, as the experience of the presence of Jesus, His Word and Sacrament, His Life poured forth for the life of the world. Faith, that is, as the penetrating perception that extends beyond the mystifications and ambiguities of this age, which are spun like a world wide web by the devil the spider, beyond this present doubt and darkness to the certainties of hope, the revolution of joy, and nostalgia of beauty and the bloodlife of peace. That Faith, nothing less, made her well, and she goes, face to face, in Christological Peace.
She hemorrhaged. He replaced. With His Own.
On He goes, having stopped along the Way, on His course, His Will. But Jairus is now, too, on his knees: he trembles in wordless grief. His twelve-year-old life now lay dead: "do not trouble the Teacher any more," the mundane angel did say. He had dared to hope. He had hurried to the Master. He had exposed his unmanly fear to the wind, to God in the face of Time and had cried out for a child, the secret of his life as only fathers of daughters can understand.
And now the Word had stopped and decided to work for someone more deserving. In the calculus of deistic algorithms where the deserving prayers are chosen, and which requests are answered yes or no or maybe or maybe later or I'll teach you a lesson sinner, someone else had won the lottery and he had lost. The Word had stopped and done His good deed for the day. Did not you hear Him? Did He not say that the Power had gone out of Him?
Indeed, the crowd at the house, who are always attracted to disaster as a diversion from their daily boredom, were already hard at work "weeping and bewailing." They had embraced the confirmation of their common sense already. They were somewhat relieved to feel the seconding of their worldview, which had taught them that you'd better not get your hopes up or you'll be disappointed. Better to have never loved, so that you will have never lost. Nothing ever changes in the mind of the crowd: it is always disappointing. It is always boring. It is always too late.
But nothing is unchangeable for Jesus Christ, Who is Creator and Redeemer, Designer and Healer, and the Divine Radical of Change. He reminded Jairus, in the loudness of the crowded dismay, "Do not fear; only believe and she shall be well." He reminded the crowd, in the rhetoric of the Old Testament that was about to be made New, "Do not weep; for she is not dead, but asleep."
Now I know a sleeping face on a little girl, father that I am twice over, and I know the face of the dead, priest that I am of too many funerals. And I know there is a difference between the faces, between the conditions, between the two sets of twelve in this story.
But in Christ, all things are made New. And if the Word Whose Wisdom founds my thought, my language and my family, my people and my world – if that Word speaks forth Light and shatters the darkness and says that she, the girl in whom we recognize the mysterious Church, only sleeps, that death is not defined by the commonality of the bored sense of the crowd, that the quotidian fates are not so sure anymore, and that the devil is beset by self-doubt and death itself is anxious, that the Morning is about to break, then I say, as do all fathers of little girls, sure Master, I only believe, and You will make her – and all her kind – well.
Twelve years ago a little girl was born and a grown woman fell sick. Twelve years later, today in the Gospel Age, a grown woman grows younger in faith and is made well, body and soul. The Creator is revealed as Physician, Healer is Maker.
And today in the Gospel Age, a little girl rises. The Bread of Heaven is given her for something to eat.
And her parents are, in the wellness of faith, still amazed.