Following is the prepared text from Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted’s homily for the installation of the Knights of Columbus’ State Officers.
June 30, 2018
“I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.” Psalm 30:2
Today’s Gospel records two miracles of healing, two times when the Lord rescued those in need. From each one, we learn that Jesus wants to do far more than heal physical wounds, although that certainly is of real significance. He wants us all to discover our deepest identity as a child of God.
Notice that Jesus calls each woman He heals, “Daughter.” He knows that their need of a spiritual father far exceeds their need of physical healing. Through the human touch of Jesus, the woman who suffered for 12 years from a hemorrhage and the 12-year-old girl and her father are invited to a personal relationship with Jesus. His love for them far exceeds what they could ever imagine.
In the case of the older woman, it seems as if she is the one who must take all the initiative to encounter Jesus, but is it? Mark’s Gospel text often says, “As Jesus was passing by…,” as if His “passing by,” His being present at that precise place and time was just a coincidence. In fact, all times and seasons belong to Him. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. Time and space were created by Him and He holds all of them in existence.
So, it was not just by chance that Jesus passed near enough to this woman that she could touch Him. He made it possible. Of course, she had to take initiative as well. Faith must be put into practice. She had to push her way through the crowd to get close enough to touch Him. More importantly, she had to believe that Jesus would not be offended by her touch but would really desire to heal her. She had to believe in His love for her. That’s faith.
Then, notice the initiative Jesus takes as soon as the woman touches the tassel of His cloak. At once, Jesus seeks her out, so He can speak with her. For He wants to give her far more than just physical healing. He wants to reward her faith by providing her an unforgettable personal experience of meeting Him face to face. This is the moment when Jesus calls her “Daughter.” There is no relationship more important than the one in which we discover and come to trust in God’s fatherly love. Even Jesus Himself received this blessed experience from His Father. Recall when He was baptized by John, how a voice came from the heavens, saying, “You are my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” Here, Jesus, who came into this world to reveal the face of His Father, provided a similar encounter for the woman. His words, “Daughter, your faith has saved you,” were far greater gifts than physical healing.
Turning our attention now to the 12-year-old girl, we see many parallels in her healing to that of the older woman. Her age matches the number of years that the older woman had been suffering from the hemorrhage, 12. Jesus also calls her, “Daughter” or in the Aramaic language, “Talitha koum!” which literally means “Little one, arise!” Far more significantly, she was also blessed to encounter Jesus face to face and be healed.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, His miraculous healing 2000 years ago is not unique to that time and place. Jesus continues His healing today. In His Church, He proclaims the Gospel not only in words but also in signs that speak of His love in deeply personal and concrete ways.
One more point about today’s Gospel: The Crowd. In the Gospel today, the “crowd” stands out prominently throughout the events. Did you notice how the evangelist St. Mark keeps reminding us of the bustling mass of people, pressing in on Jesus?
5:21 – When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered…
5:24 – [Jesus] went off with [Jairus], and a large crowd followed Him and pressed upon Him.
5:27 – [A woman afflicted with hemorrhages for 12 years] heard about Jesus and came up behind Him in the crowd and touched His cloak…
5:30 – Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from Him, turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who has touched my clothes?” But His disciples said to Jesus, “You see how the crowd is pressing upon you and yet you ask, “Who touched me?”
The Apostles must have wondered if Jesus was losing His mind! Among themselves they were saying: Are you crazy? 1000s of folks are pressing you from every side, tearing at your clothes, shoving and pushing and pulling and you want to know who touched you? What a silly question!
But in fact, Jesus’ question, “Who touched me?” and their responses point to the heart of the matter, to a key point of the Gospel.
The Apostles see the crowd hemming Jesus in on every side. Whereas, in a much deeper way, Jesus is not hemmed in at all.
Indeed, on many occasions during Jesus’ public ministry, it seemed that Jesus was hemmed in by a crowd, especially during His Passion when He stood before Herod, Pontius Pilate, and the Sanhedrin. But in a far more profound way Jesus was not hemmed in at all. He was free. The nails that fastened Jesus to the wood of the Cross did not keep him there. It was not nails but love which kept Jesus on the Cross. He freely accepted death to save the world in this way, “like a sacrificial lamb.” He redeemed us all.
Against the backdrop of the crowd, let us now look again at the woman with the hemorrhage for 12 years and at Jairus, the father of the 12-year-old.
The striking thing about the 2 is that, like Jesus, neither of them was hemmed in by the crowd. In humble yet striking fashion, they set themselves apart by their faith. To believe in Christ is to be free, not to be hemmed in – free of what the crowd thinks, free of what the crowd pushes, free because of a faith-inspired focus on the Lord, and an unwavering trust in His love.
The woman’s faith in Jesus told her she was not an outcast, even though the crowd felt that way. For she had heard about Jesus touching and healing a leper, how he ate dinner with tax collectors and even befriended a centurion of the hated occupying Roman army. So, she determined, no matter the consequences, that she was going to touch Jesus. Her faith set her apart and her faith was rewarded.
A society that is scarred by what Pope Francis calls a “throw-away culture” can make disciples of Jesus today feel small and intimidated. But we do not come to Mass to please the crowd. We come here to encounter the Redeemer of the world. We come because He calls us and frees us; He heals and forgives us.
And Jairus, the synagogue official? What do we learn from him? Is he not like the Knights of Columbus? This man came to ask Jesus’ help not for himself but for his daughter who was dying. His faith carried him to the Lord. He believed that if Jesus just touched his daughter she would recover. So it is for each Knight. His hope is in the Lord, not in his own strength. He knows his own need for the Lord, but he also notices the needs of others; and he is moved to join with a band of brothers in the faith to bring those in need of healing to Christ, or to bring Christ into a society that overlooks and fails to protect its most vulnerable, weakest members.
Jairus’ faith was put to the test when word reached him from the crowd: “Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?” In other words, the crowd was saying: “Look, there is nothing this Teacher can do now. He may heal the sick, tell amazing stories, even multiply loaves and fishes. But we are dealing with death here. Jesus can do nothing for you now. Your daughter is dead. We are sorry, but give up, go home.” Faith, however, does not lose hope. It sets no limits to God’s power. Of course, fears and doubts may challenge our hearts, especially when an unbelieving crowd does nothing, but stand around “weeping and wailing loudly.” Just as Jairus kept clinging to Jesus’ words: “Do not be afraid; just have faith,”so do Knights of Columbus and all who put their faith in Christ. Faith is stronger than the most fearsome of fears. In the presence of Christ, faith fortifies us to cling to those words of Jesus: “Do not be afraid.”
Dear brother Knights, especially State Officers who will be sworn in this evening, and dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let us ask ourselves, do we let ourselves be hemmed in by the crowd? By what others do or say, by what the crowd pushes our way? In Christ, we can be faithful and free.
I know that some have come today to pray for deeply personal needs: for forgiveness of sin, for healing of physical or psychological wounds. Some have come tonight, like Jairus, to pray for someone else whom they love. As we pray tonight for all the Knights of Columbus, especially the new State Officers, we place our petitions, like Jairus, humbly before the Lord. With great confidence we pray with Psalm 30: “I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.”