PARISH LENTEN MISSION 2018, "THE MIRACLES OF CHRIST"
Conference III, March 9th, 2018 A.D.
“And while [Jesus] was yet speaking, some come from the ruler of the synagogue’s house, saying: Thy daughter is dead, Why dost thou trouble the Master any further? But Jesus having heard the word that was spoken, saith to the ruler of the synagogue: Fear not, only believe. And He admitted not any man to follow Him, but Peter and James and John the brother of James. And they come to the house of the ruler of the synagogue. And He seeth a tumult: and people weeping and wailing much. And going in He saith to them: Why make you this ado and weep? The damsel is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed Him to scorn. But He having put them all out, taketh the father and mother of the damsel and them that were with Him, and entereth in where the damsel was lying. And taking the damsel by the hand He saith to her; Talitha, cumi, which is, being interpreted: Damsel, (I say to thee) arise. And immediately the damsel rose up and walked: and she was twelve years old. And they were astonished with a great astonishment. And He charged them strictly that no man should know it: and commanded that something should be given to her to eat.” –Mark 5:35-43
In our last Conference we considered how a representative number of the Miracles of Christ are recorded for us in some detail among the Four Books of the Gospels. These we can count and organize, set, as they are, against a general background of the proliferation of signs and wonders performed by Jesus.
There are 9 Miracles of Nature, 20 special cases of healing, 7 special cases of deliverance, 2 cases that appear to involve a supernatural display of power over hostile human wills, and 3 cases of resurrection: 41 detailed cases of miracles in all.
I want to consider one particular Gospel Miracle tonight–the raising of the twelve-year-old girl from the dead (this is one of the three cases of Resurrection), and to look for something of the pattern it shows us about how Jesus uses His divine power to truly draw people to recognize Him as their Savior.
The account of the Miracle I just read is taken from St. Mark’s Gospel. From St. Luke’s Gospel we learn also that this ruler of the synagogue’s name was Jairus. Here is how he came to Jesus: “And it came to pass that when Jesus was returned, the multitude received Him: for they were all waiting for Him. And behold there came a man whose name was Jairus: and he was a ruler of the synagogue. And he fell down at the feet of Jesus, beseeching Him that He would come into his house: For he had an only daughter almost twelve years old, and she was dying.” (Luke 8:40-41)
Let us try to imagine this scene. We are in the middle of the time of the Public Life of Jesus in Galilee. The Lord Jesus has no peace. Wherever He goes He is thronged and pressed by the multitudes of people. They are scenes of chaos. We can imagine the Twelve Apostles, so many of them Galilean fisherman (and very strong and burly men), acting as Christ’s security cordon, pushing people back none too gently in order to make way for Jesus to pass.
And here is the desperate father. Though he may be the ruler of a synagogue he has no privileged access to Jesus. He has to physically push his way into Jesus’ presence past all the rest and through the Apostles. “And he fell down at the feet of Jesus, beseeching Him that He would come into his house: For he had an only daughter almost twelve years old, and she was dying.”
The Lord Jesus, who sees all things and knows the secrets of all hearts, understood well the anguish of this father and his love for his daughter that was driving him there when all other hope was lost. And the Lord Jesus also knew well what He was going to do for this particular family.
Christ consents to be led to the man’s house. But then, when they get there, the worst has happened. The child has died. Jesus has come too late. Let us try to imagine further: can there by anything more horrible than the death of a child? Any greater sorrow that can be laid upon the hearts of parents?
St. Mark’s Gospel is traditionally received as the record of St. Peter’s preaching to the people of Rome, that is to say, to the people of Rome who were coming to faith in Christ from a heathen background. They were not Jews. They had no familiarity with the inner workings of Jewish Law and culture. So they are to hear directly from Peter the Fisherman from Galilee, without any attempt at style or formula, what Jesus of Nazareth, “Jesus Christ the Son of God” did. Mark was Peter’s secretary or his interpreter as one ancient source describes him. Mark wrote down, as the source “John the Priest” says: “very exactly, but without any precise order, all that he recalled of the words and actions of the Christ...Mark is not to be blamed for having written only a small number of details, just as he remembered them: for he had only one object in view–not to omit anything he had heard, and not to allow anything untrue to creep into his narrative.” (Constant Fouard, Saint Peter and the First Years of Christianity, Chapter 20, 1892, Roman Catholic Books reprint edition)
Thus, the account of the raising of Jairus’s daughter from St. Mark’s Gospel helps us to see the scene as Peter himself saw it: There is a tumult, “people weeping and wailing much”. (The expression of such raw emotion would leave anyone coming into it badly shaken.) And the Lord says, “Why make you this ado and weep? The damsel is not dead, but sleepeth.” How could He be so insensitive! “And they laughed Him to scorn.” Imagine the collective explosion of temper directed by the people there at Jesus.
But Christ takes the parents with Him in to the little girl’s deathbed, together with Peter, James and John. Only these five will witness what He does. He takes the dead girl’s hand and speaks quite simply: “Talitha, cumi” (We hear the very Aramaic words the Lord used at that moment: “Little girl, arise.” ) The child immediately comes back to life–stands up and walks. The sense of it is that she is going back and forth with the restlessness of a young child who is hungry. Therefore the Lord “commanded that something should be given her to eat.”
Here is the Miracle. What might we see as the pattern? Three things.
First: Christ’s miracles are directed miracles. He is not performing miracles willy-nilly, making a display of divine power in order to impress. This Miracle was a divine favor specifically for those parents and their only daughter. It is not given to us to know all that was behind it. But Jesus Christ personally reversed the unrelenting power of nature that day and gave back to the father and mother a living, healthy daughter.
Second: Christ’s Miracles are not for the sake of publicity. Sometimes, He does a sign where there is a general public to see it: at other times, as in the raising of Jairus’s daughter, it’s a private Miracle. “And He charged them strictly that no man should know it.” In either case Christ has need of any human publicity and praise and admiration—in fact, He scorns it.
Thirdly, finally: Christ’s miracles are outward signs of inward grace. This is what is carried over in the Sacraments of the Church. The Sacraments too are “outward signs of inward grace”. The Miracle of the Raising of Jairus’s daughter is but the visible part of what God was doing in the souls of that little family. The further extension of the Miracle was to hear Christ’s call to conversion in their hearts: “And Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the Gospel of the kingdom of God. And saying: The time is accomplished and the Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the Gospel!” (Mark 1:1-15)