“Do not be afraid; just have faith.”

This quote, from today’s gospel (Mk 5:21-43), is taken from the New American Bible, Revised Edition for use in the Lectionary.  I rather favor the translation from the 1970 NAB: “Fear is useless; what is needed is trust” (v. 36; thanks to Fr. Ruff for the reference), because it brings home the point more forcefully.

And what is the point?  In the reading, Jesus utters the words at top to the synagogue official, Jairus, who earlier approached Him to heal his sick daughter, but now has learned that she has since died.  Undoubtedly devastated by the news, he may well have begun to turn away, with the people from his house, from the Lord.  Why would he be afraid at this moment?  A hint may be in the words of the people who brought the news: “Why trouble the teacher any longer?”  Maybe the official was concerned that he had wasted Jesus’ time.  Also, by seeking, in desperation, this controversial figure, now with nothing to show for it, what repercussions from his peers and other members of the synagogue might be coming his way?  And what about a future without his beloved daughter?  An only daughter, or an only child, possibly?  How would he and his wife go on?

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Jesus disregards the people from Jairus’s house in telling Jairus to not be afraid.  Had he not raised the dead before (this story also appears in Luke [8:41-56] after the raising of the son of the widow of Nain [7:11-15])?  Of course, in one of the most beautiful scenes in scripture, Jesus goes to the girl and brings her back to life (I love to envision Jesus kicking out all the mourners who ridiculed Him).

Lessons for us?  Let’s take them one by one from my speculation about Jairus’s experience:

  1. Are we afraid we are troubling God with our problems, wasting His time?  Maybe we feel we don’t deserve any favors?  Maybe fear overcomes trust?  Maybe interior or exterior voices say “don’t bother”?  Do what Jesus did, and ignore these murmurings.
  2. Are we afraid of what other people with think about our appeal to the Lord?  Does appealing to prayer bring ridicule from those who don’t believe or who think physical actions are the only hope?  Do accusations of being a “holy roller” or believing in “superstition” give us pause?  Might we fear straining or losing friendships or uncomfortable future interactions with colleagues and acquaintances?  Or maybe someone (especially ourselves) might intimate that we are not deserving of favors (read Job for an object lesson).  “Put out” the naysayers.
  3. When the news is devastating do we trust unreservedly “that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28)?  Augustine, dealing with the problem of good and evil tells us, “God judged it better to bring good out of evil than to suffer no evil to exist” (Enchirid., xxvii) (see here).  We might not see how this works now, or even in our lifetimes.  But we will know on the last day, when God’s entire plan will be made manifest (see CCC 1040).  Do we unreservedly trust Jesus?

“Fear is useless; what is needed is trust.”  Another challenge from Jesus.  Are we up to it?

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