When I was growing up our family went to Cape Cod on vacation. I was walking on the beach one morning and saw a man picking up star fish on a beach and throwing them back into the ocean one by one. I decided to interrupt the man and ask him “What are you doing?” He actually stopped and answered a teenager.
"Hopefully, I can save them from dying in some shell hunter's collection." Now, it was not possible for him to retrieve them all, but he was giving the ones he could reach another chance to live. Our family returned to the Cape every year for vacation and for years and I remembered that man. I came to believe that he cared for the small, the vulnerable, the lost ones, the failures in life, whether they be fish or human beings.
The God we have come to know and love in Jesus Christ is like the starfish thrower. Thomas Merton calls it "Mercy within Mercy within Mercy." Did not Jesus say, "Inasmuch as you've done it to one of the least of these, you have done it unto me"?
Jesus went hastening with Jairus to his home and was interrupted again this time not nearly so noticeably but stealthily, in fact. From behind, Jesus feels the flick of fingers on the fringe of his outer garment. He stopped and asked his disciples, "Who touched my clothes?" The disciples all but laughed and said, "You see the crowd pushing in on you and you ask who touched you?" I think they may also have added, "Besides, you've got urgent work to do for one of the leaders of the town. Let's be on with it."
But Jesus would not be deterred. He looked all around to see who had touched him, and a woman apparently in her middle years came forward, fell at his feet, and told him the whole truth. She had a chronic illness, a debilitating disease, suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had been to many physicians, spent all she had and was no better. She was worse, in fact. You see, we moderns are not the first to have sought medical care with considerable frustration. She had heard about the wonderful things this itinerant rabbi from Galilee was doing, and she was determined to touch the tassel of his robe in hope of a cure. That was a superstition in that day. If one could but touch the garment of a holy person, one might be cured. And now she had experienced healing. Nobody else would even speak to her openly. She was ceremonially unclean because of her blood flow. But Jesus expressed affection to her! He called her, "Daughter," and said, "Your faith has made you well. Go in peace and be healed of your disease." In other words, it wasn't touching his robe, but her faith that did it.
A poor, diseased, outcast woman, clutching her tattered garments tightly around her, slithering through the throng, frantically reaching out her hand for help and, suddenly, all the love and power of God in Christ concentrated for a brief moment in her. Mark Guy Pierce says, "In that instant she went from 'nobody to somebody to everybody.'"
Sixteen centuries ago, St. Augustine affirmed that God loves each of us as if we were the only person on earth, yet God loves all as God loves each. There's no one on earth today that God loves any more than God loves you, nor is there anyone God loves any less than God loves you. That realization certainly gives us assurance about our own well being; and, hopefully, it gives us greater concern for others.
One more thing: There is an "aha!" aspect to this narrative that ought to grab us all. Here is faith at its finest. This poor woman never gave up hope. At last, she had heard about Jesus of Nazareth and the wonderful things he was doing, the difference he was making in people's lives. She sought him out and acted on her belief. She was wrong about the robe, but she was right about reaching out to Christ in total commitment. Such wholeness as she experienced is God's gift to all who seek him in sincerity and in truth.
Let us pray.
Loving God, in your majesty you number the stars in the heavens; and in your mercy, you heal the broken hearts of earth. In Jesus you entered our human estate as a helpless infant. You have borne our mortal flesh and are acquainted with our grief. You are ever present with us to comfort and uphold. Sensitize us to the hurt of individuals all around us. Use us as instruments of your mercy in a world full of loneliness and misery. Help us to bear one anothers burdens and so fulfill your long love through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.