It is interesting to read this week’s gospel with last week’s readings. We might remember that last week, we had Job as our first reading and then Jesus asleep in the storm on the boat for our Gospel. I mentioned the temptation to dictate terms to God. Job tries to accuse God when he cannot see the big picture like God. The disciples accuse Jesus of not caring and try to pull Jesus into their panic. In both cases, God rebuffed the accusation by asserting the divine reality. God is God.
I also mentioned the temptation to do this in our prayer and our moral life. We are tempted to only pray on our own terms. We are tempted to only be good on our own terms, which when we really boil it down, is more about our comfort than actual goodness.
Perhaps then we might read today’s gospel along similar lines. Perhaps we might see part of this story in relation to our temptation to tell God how to be. The temptation to ignore divine freedom and force God to act the way we want. Which of course is bad when it comes to other people, and completely ridiculous when it comes to God.
How might we think about this in relation to today’s gospel? Well, I want to take the lead from Bishop Barron. Some of you may know his word on fire website and programs. We have a link to it on our website. In his homily for this Sunday, he follows a protestant preacher by focussing on the figure of Jairus. Bishop Barron points out how frustrating this whole event must have been for Jairus.
First, he comes to Jesus in all humility and in all desperation. He will do anything to help his dying daughter, including throwing caution to the wind and trying out this so-called miracle-worker Jesus. We hear that Jairus is a synagogue official. We know that Jesus though welcome in some synagogues was on the wrong side of many. Thus, publicly going to him to seek help must have been a risky choice for Jairus. Remember Nicodemus, who was in a similar situation, only visited Jesus at night at the beginning.
So, Jairus seeks out Jesus publically, basically risking everything. Jesus agrees to come with him, and then on their way to his dying daughter, we have the scene of the woman who seeks to be healed. For Jairus, time is of the essence, and seeing Jesus stop in the middle of the crowd to try to determine who touched him probably drove Jairus crazy. Bishop Barron then highlights how much this frustration would have been amplified when they arrive finally to find his daughter to dead. Similar to Martha and Mary when Lazarus died, there would have been a feeling of: Jesus, why did you waste time?
This is a very common experience in prayer. Perhaps we all have an example of this. We are praying in relation to matter X, seeking guidance, seeking resolution, and instead God gives us matter Y to do. We are looking in one direction – sometimes urgently – but then God turns us around to consider something else. And sometimes, it feels very minor.
We might be asking for help in a very serious matter – someone we know might in trouble, we might be fighting a deep temptation, or we are just struggling generally. This is the centre of the world and the focus of our prayer. But instead of addressing that matter, God points out something small. He might want to us to help the hungry person next to the supermarket. God might remind us of the need to resolve an argument with a family member. God might point out an area of my life in which I am being selfish, or even rationalising poor behaviour away. Whatever it might be, we know God is speaking to us. We know this because we know God is right: we do need to address something. This voice definitely sounds like God. God has a point, but we think to ourselves that is not the point at the moment.
Again, when we think about it, trying to get God to realise what is important is fundamentally foolish. It is assuming that God does not know what is going on. It is assuming that God does not know what is best for us. It is assuming that we are in a better position than God to judge what is needed.
This is a hard lesson. Trusting in God at such moments. On that note, I would recommend looking back on our lives when we have faced such moments. Look back over them and think through what happened. Especially think through those moments when you followed God’s promptings. What happened? How did things turn out? We usually find that God really is God.
Let’s pray then for this faith. The faith to really put our lives on the altar – our worries, our needs, our people. But also the faith to receive back God’s word in whatever way he seeks to become incarnate in our lives, knowing he holds nothing back in his love for us.