Tuesday February 5, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (2 Samuel 18:9-10, 14b, 24-25a, 30-19:3)
Gospel (St. Mark 5:21-43)
In the Gospel reading today, we see these two individuals who come to Our Lord seeking a favor: the woman who sneaks up behind Him and in faith reaches out simply to touch His clothing, and then the man who comes and asks Our Lord for a favor. Both receive the gift that they seek because both approached Him with faith. That is the point we all must understand even when it seems hopeless.
Here, this woman had spent everything that she had and only became worse. Yet it was in faith that she came to Our Lord. Most of us, at that point, would probably be despairing: We have no savings left; our health is only worse; we have no hope. Yet this woman had complete trust in the Lord and came up behind Him, touched His cloak, and was healed. Then, of course, she had to confess the whole thing. Our Lord was not going to let her simply do this and sneak away. She had to recognize what it was that had happened, and she had to be able to face it within herself. So it was not that Jesus needed to know who it was, but it was that the woman had to be able to deal with it internally to be able to acknowledge what had occurred. It is no different from any of us. That is why when Our Lord tells people to keep silent, like He did with the child's mother and father, how would they keep silent about such a thing? They are going to go out and they are going to tell people what had happened. It is a human thing that we have to be able to do. This woman certainly would have gone and told others, but she had to face herself and she had to face the Lord. It was not enough just to sneak up and do something; she had to be able to face the reality.
And so, too, with the parents of this child. They come to Jesus and He starts going off with the father when somebody comes to report that the child was dead. You can imagine what happened in the father's heart at that moment - once again, the despair. Yet, Jesus looks at him and says, "Fear is useless; what is needed is trust." The man, at that point, had to put his entire trust in the Lord. Despite the reports, despite what everybody knew, he had to trust in Jesus. Even when they are ridiculing the Lord when they get to the house, the parents still had to trust. When it looked absolutely hopeless and absolutely impossible, they still had to trust.
We see the pattern, then, that is laid out for each one of us. No matter what the circumstances, what is required is trust. We have to face the situation, and we have to be honest about it. It is not something that we can ignore and say, "Well, maybe it is not what it really looks like." The Lord will push us right up to the wall and He will require us to trust Him, even when things appear to be hopeless. Then, as we know from our own experience, He oftentimes will not only allow the one situation to be hopeless, but He will bring about a few more just to make sure that we really understand that it really is - on the human level - totally hopeless. And then He resolves the situation in a way that seems absolutely impossible, in a way that we never would have guessed, or never would have even hoped for so that we know that it was not us. We learn in that way how to being to trust. Unfortunately, our faith is so small that it requires doing this over and over and over again before we finally get the point. In our heads, we know the reality; in our hearts, it is very difficult for us. We want to trust. Like the woman, we want to be able to do it, but we are just not so sure that this is real; [only] until it happens, and we see it happen over and over again, will we even begin to trust, even a little bit.
So ask the Lord to help you, to help the trust. Go to Him with confidence and do not back away and try to do it yourself, but recognize that you cannot. Just continue to trust Him even when it appears hopeless. Let the Lord work in your life as He did in these people's lives. Let Him show you that He is the One - and only He - who will be able to work in these kinds of ways to free you from whatever it is and to continue to give you hope when everything appears to be hopeless.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.