Glory to Jesus Christ!
My friends, we find ourselves at the beginning of the Nativity Fast, already. This fast gives us forty days in which to look forward to the celebration of the great feast of our Lord’s Nativity, forty days in which to prepare ourselves.
As I always point out, you see the fundamental difference between the mindset of the Church and that of the secular world in the fundamentally different ways in which they approach the celebration of the Feast of the Nativity. The secular world has already begun their celebration, such as it is. No preparation necessary, nor foresight. And at the stroke of midnight on December 26th, it all ends abruptly. That’s the way the world does things.
The Church, however, invites us to prepare ourselves. To get ourselves ready. And when the great feast comes, it is only the beginning of the celebration. The feast marks the start of the celebration, and the joy spreads itself through the following days and weeks.
With the world, you have immediate enjoyment and abrupt disappointment. With the Church, you have reasoned preparation, and then extended enjoyment.
So how do we prepare to celebrate the feast? One who is training to undertake a physical endeavor will prepare himself to be as strong and as healthy as he can, to be ready to give his best in what he plans to do.
So we, too, who must prepare ourselves spiritually, we must seek to be as strong and healthy as we can, in order to give our best as a fitting gift to our Lord at His Nativity.
And strength and healing is exactly what we hear about in the Gospel presented to us today, in which we hear of the healing of the woman who had suffered from an issue of blood for twelve years, as well as the great miracle of our Lord raising the young daughter of Jairus from the dead.
Two instances of healing in the Gospel today, two great lessons for us to learn if we, too, are to be spiritually healthy in our great preparation during the Nativity Fast.
In the Gospel, we hear of a local leader of the synagogue, named Jairus, who comes to our Lord and tells Him that his daughter, not yet twelve years old, was lying near death. And our Lord sets off immediately to Jairus’ house.
And a great crowd was thronging around, and following the Lord as He went. And among them was a woman, who as the Gospel tells us, had suffered from an issue of blood for twelve years, and had spent all she had on physicians, trying to be cured, and nothing worked. But she said within herself that if she could only but touch the hem of our Lord’s garment, she would be healed. And she came up behind the Lord, while the crowd was pressing all around, and touched the hem of His garment, as was, in fact, healed at that moment.
And our Lord stops, and asks who it was that had touched His garment, for He knew that virtue had gone forth. And He constrains the woman to come forward and announce what she had done and why. And the Lord, in fact, then praises her for her act, and says: Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go thy way in peace.
We see in this woman an answer to our own difficulties, our own sicknesses, our own spiritual diseases. We may spend years suffering, we may spend time, money, our own substance looking for an answer here in this world, here with material means… But what is necessary is to be close to our Lord, to reach out to Him. It need not be anything grandiose, we don’t need to make a show of overcoming our own interior “issues,” as it were… we need only touch the hem of our Lord’s robe, knowing that from Him comes the power to heal. Faith opens the doors of the heart so that it might enter in.
If we seek relief from the passions, from sinful habits, from temptations, from the assault even of our own memories… then let us with the same faith as the woman in today’s Gospel say within ourselves that if we but touch the hem of His garment, we will be made whole. For that is the truth. That is where we will find our healing.
Of course then, we hear that news comes to our Lord and to Jairus that Jairus’ daughter had died. Our Lord was undaunted, and He continued to the house. And those who were there laughed Him to scorn when He declared the young girl to be sleeping. But so, indeed, she was – sleeping in wait for the sound of the voice of Life Himself, who then by His word raises her from the dead, and gives her to her parents, and bids her parents to give her to eat.
So it is the same with us. Each of us have by the word of God and the waters of Baptism been raised from the death of sin. So it can be for everyone in this world.
How often are we all too quick to laugh the Lord to scorn at the thought of a sinner being raised again from the death of sin to new life? Don’t we do that every time we choose sin over grace? Don’t we do that every time we ourselves stand in judgment of another person, stand in judgment of whether or not they are worthy God’s grace?
We are none of us worthy. But we are all of us called. Just as our Lord called to the young girl, and she who was dead heard the voice of Him Who is life and arose, so also does He call us all today.
So as we enter into this period of fast, let us resolve to be firm in faith and to have the unshakeable knowledge and conviction that if we but open our hearts with faith and touch the hem of our Lord’s garment, we can be healed; that if we but open our ears to His call, we can be raised to new life.