Read Mark 5:21-43
When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered around him, and he stayed close to the sea. Read More…
Meet Sister Nancy Citro
Sr. Nancy Citro, SNDdeN is a member of the East West Unit in the United States. Read More…
Not long ago, a request was made on the SNDdeN Intranet to pray for a little girl of 12 who became paralyzed as a result of necessary surgery meant to improve her health. The petitioner gave her the moniker, Hope, as she did not know the child’s name. After showing some initial signs of improvement, Hope passed away. I imagine that Hope’s parents would have given anything for Jesus to speak the same efficacious words to their precious child that he spoke to Jairus’ daughter in today’s Gospel, “Talitha koum, little girl, I say to you, arise!” And I envision that, like the biblical Rachel of Ramah, Hope’s parents cry because their child is not here on earth with them anymore.
It seems that each day, we are asked to pray for persons young and old who are in need of healing. Some are healed, and we all rejoice. Others are not, and this outcome leaves us troubled. It is not difficult for all of us to resonate in some way with the pain of loss felt by loved ones. This loss can be especially difficult, if it is a child who has passed away, or an adult who has not been granted length of days, or if a person has died tragically.
I have sat with loved ones who have experienced such losses, or have received a devastating diagnosis. Some have struggled to understand why God would either cause it or permit it, or questioned what they did to deserve this illness. In some cases, persons do not know or experience the existence of a good and loving God. These persons say that: “A good God would never allow this to happen.” Sadly, at a time when some persons need God the most, their faith can be shaken, leaving them torn and unsure.
Their questions are real. Their emotions are raw and human and understandable. They know that there are no answers to their questions, but they need to voice them anyway. Giving any sort of theological response is inappropriate, at least in the initial stages of grief because the misperceptions they have of God are born of pain. To tell them that their loved ones are in a better place and they will see them again one day also misses the mark. Persons in grief or pain need to know that their questions and emotions are accepted and respected. They need an anchor, something to ground them in the midst of the storm. They need listening ears, compassionate hearts and a true encounter with Christ reflected in a consistent Christian presence with them over time, and more.
Many of us have grappled with some of these questions at some point in our lives. I know I have. Eventually, I came to realize that the resolution to such interior battles lies in the realm of the heart, not of the mind. And if we want to know God’s heart, we need to look at Jesus, the human face of God. The Gospel today and prior passages give us a window into the heart of Jesus. The first miracle, “the calming of the storm” demonstrates Jesus’ power over nature…not only Mother Nature but the storm of terror that was raging within the disciples who were in the boat and feared for their lives. The second miracle reveals Jesus’ power over demons as he heals the Gerasene demoniac. And in today’s Gospel passage, Jesus establishes his authority over sickness and death by curing the woman with the hemorrhage and by bringing Jairus’ daughter, who is thought to be 12 years old, back to life.
These passages and other scripture accounts of Jesus’ interactions with those he encountered reveal Jesus’ heart – a heart that wills the healing of all without exception and regardless of one’s status in society. Jesus is so filled with the desire to heal that even his clothes became instruments of healing. Though we will never be able to definitely understand the mysteries of life, we can be assured that God’s love for us is unconditional and that God wants us “to have life and have it to the full.”
In the midst of sadness and anger and grief, despite negative thoughts about God that may surface as a result of these emotions, with God’s grace and the prayerful support of others, we can grow in faith and hope and trust in God, and we can learn to live with the unanswerable questions, and our wounded hearts can heal.
Below is a prayer by Holley Gerth that I have used to pray for and with others. Please join me in praying it for Hope’s parents and for all who love Hope; for all who are wounded; for all who have made requests on our intranet; for those who hold their intentions in the quiet of their hearts; for those who have no one to pray for them; and for any other intention:
God, our strength and our hope, sometimes this world is hard to understand. And even when we trust you, our hearts still ache. So we come to you today asking for the hope we need. Hope that sees past the here-and-now, to the then-and-there. Hope that believes what we cannot yet glimpse. Hope that holds our hearts up in the moments when life brings us to our knees. You are the only One who can sustain us. You are the only One who can save us. Be the rescuer of our souls, the deliverer of our dreams, the holder of our hearts. We believe that even the darkest night must lead to dawn. We wait with expectation. Give us courage. Surround us with comfort. Love us through to the other side in the way only you can. We put our hope, and our hopes for those we love, in you. Amen.