“Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.” (Mark 5:21-24)
Today, we listen to those early chapters of Mark’s gospel and the lives of people in crisis over an illness. We read about Jairus, the prominent synagogue official, and his young daughter, and then, there’s a woman of means who touches Jesus’s cloak to draw on his healing powers.
These life-stories reveal something more about Jesus’s identity that of a healer and worker of miracles. He is a witness to people’s authentic lives in the middle of a “health crisis.” So I wish to comment about two themes in today’s gospel – “health crisis” and witness.
When a “health crisis” or “family emergency” occurs in our time, we telephone 911 for the assistance of a “first alert team” of emergency and medical professionals.
Back in 1999, film director Martin Scorsese produced a film entitled “Bringing Out the Dead.” Actor Nicholas Cage plays Frank Pierce, a paramedic, who, along with his sidekick John Goodman drives their ambulance on the streets of mid-town Manhattan. Together at night on the “graveyard” shift in the heat of summer – they are hot, sweaty, and everything around them smells.
Unseen radio dispatchers alert them to emergencies of all kinds, and they race from city block to city block and witness gruesome automobile accidents, heart attacks, and drug overdoses. All so many people in such grief, and, in such randomness, make these “guardian angels” dizzy from fall out. Both are worn out and worn down. In the case of Frank Pierce, he is haunted by the people he could not save. There is an urgency to help people in need, and both men are deeply touched by — what they see but cannot control.
Nick Cage as Frank Pierce, as the narrator in the films, says:
“I realized that my training was useless in less than ten percent of the calls, and saving lives was rare. After a while, I grew to understand that my role was less about saving lives than about bearing witness.”
Yes, “bearing witness” is what we do as Christians and like these “Guardian Angels” in the film — we too senseless control over our lives.
So we hear of Jairus and the woman “bearing witness to Christ.” What do we see?
First, we see Jairus’s courage to break rank with his synagogue and go directly to Jesus – this passing healer. It’s his witness that Jesus’s power to heal might change the life of his daughter for the better. When all else fails, it’s worth a try.
Second, we see Jesus’s ability not to discriminate among those he came in contact with – the young daughter, the bleeding women, and those people in the crowd requesting his attention and healing. As we read the news most notably this week – we must remind ourselves, no matter how different others may appear to us, no one is unworthy of Christ’s love. He brings his comfort and healing to all those in need of his mercy.
Third, the women of means who go from doctor to doctor to find a cure for her bleeding – and finds Jesus’s power of touch brought her deeply felt and personal healing. For and so many troubled hearts, there is an urgency here, and Jesus himself is touched by what he sees and feels.
So with Jesus – and like perhaps to our two “guardian angels” in the Scorsese film, we become a witness to others in need, and we witness to the power of Jesus in our lives.
As a prophet, teacher, preacher, and healer, we witness his power to calm the “stormy sea” of last week’s gospel and explore how he uses the “mustard seed” as an image of spiritual growth.
That if you have the faith of “even the size of a mustard seed,” you too can believe in miracles! That’s what’s it about, in the midst of a “family emergency,” because of Christ, we can find in miracles.
Final words: In light of this sermon, take note of two items.
You’ve heard of “ambulance chasers,” two friends of mine are “miracle chasers” — Katie Mahon and Joan Hill have written a book about our capacity to see the miracles in our lives. Worth the read.
Check out their book – “The Miracle Chase,” http://www.themiraclechase.com/index.html#
Also, in today’s New York Times, Nicholas Kristof writes a compelling column about Dr. Tom Catena, who ministers to the sick and dying in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains. What a remarkable man read, “He’s Jesus Christ” by Nick Kristof.
San Carlos Cathedral, Monterey, CA.
Here’s the “Taking care of Mr. O” scene from Martin Scorsese’s “Bringing Out the Dead: