Doing Our Part
From today's readings: "By the envy of the devil, death entered the world, and they who belong to his company experience it.... Sing praise to the LORD, you His faithful ones, and give thanks to His holy name.... May you excel in this gracious act also.... Do not be afraid; just have faith!"
In general, our noisy and hectic world can make it hard to think straight sometimes, and thus peace and quiet are rare and prized commodities in our day. And yet, even so, there are times when stillness can be alarming, as when a pulse is so faint it can hardly be felt.
The same dangerous extremes can be observed in the spiritual life. Consider first the detriment of noise and commotion: In the Gospel reading, as Jesus makes His way to Jairus' house, He is surrounded by a chaotic crowd. Now we can presume these were good people, for they evidently wanted to be close to Jesus and follow Him. But, by and large, they were meshed in a mob mentality, and they were caught up in the emotion of the moment, and probably just looking for a little excitement - that's why they were pressing on Jesus! Not because they sought to know Him personally, not because they were listening much to His words of life, not because they were open to His sacrificial love for each of them, not because they had any intention of following Him for more than a few blocks - none of those good reasons were driving the throng to follow Jesus, but simply because there was a crowd, and the rabble wanted to be part of the crowd, and hang out with the crowd, and so that particular day, they happened to crowd around Jesus.
But in the midst of the multitude, there's one person who manages to tune out the din and think and act clearly and deliberately. So the woman with the hemorrhage approaches Jesus, not just to be in the "in" crowd, but because she recognizes His saving power, and so she touches Him in faith. Streams of people are physically brushing against Jesus, but just in the non-personal way that you or I might unintentionally bump into another in a crowded concourse. Only one elevates the encounter to the level of personal contact. As St. Augustine said, "Multitudes are they who throng about Him, but few are they who by faith touch Him." And yet what a difference it made for that woman, and for all who want to do more than just crowd around Jesus, those who recognize His saving power, and touch Him in faith!
And it's the same story with the next miracle: Jesus arrives at the official's house, and there's this commotion of weeping and wailing, people too caught up in their own sorrow to even listen to the Lord's good news, "She's just asleep!" So Jesus puts them all out, so that finally His own words can be clearly heard and felt: "Talitha koum!" In our lives too, Jesus insists that you and I take action, and put out the distractions of our lives, especially on Sunday and in our daily prayers, so that His words of life can be clearly heard and felt....
Yes, we need to do our part too, and that insight returns us to the second danger, for not only do people fail in Christian discipleship when misled by chaotic distractions, but also when paralyzed with morbid inaction. This is a form of the sin of presumption, and the heresy of quietism, which perhaps is more prevalent in our day than most realize. "I'll just let God do it all. If I don't get around to daily prayers, if I miss going to Church on Sunday, if I don't bother to read the Bible or study my faith, if I just ignore my pastors, if I worry more about sports scores than I do about eternal salvation, well, God's big enough to handle all that stuff without my help."
But, quoting St. Augustine again, "God who made you without your cooperation, will not save you without your cooperation." The Lord is too polite to bodily force us to be with Him, so if we decide to crowd Him out of our lives, He doesn't compel us to make room for Him. Are you content with crass "Crowd Christianity," following Jesus every once in a while for a short distance when you're in the mood and there's promise of a little excitement? But that's not enough! You can't just drift with the crowd that hangs out occasionally with Jesus - you need to make a personal commitment, and hang on religiously to Jesus, like the woman who touched the Lord in fullness of faith!
When we hang on faithfully to Jesus, His power touches us, and transforms us. And then there's so much we learn from His words and actions. Did you ever consider, for instance, that if Jesus could raise Jairus' daughter from the dead, He certainly could have raised her with a full stomach as well? And yet, after the miracle, Jesus told her parents to give her something to eat, saying, in effect, "I will do My part, but you still need to do your part!" That's what Jesus tells each of us today: He will do His part, but you and I also need to do our parts!