Lectio Divina: Matthew 9:18-26
1) Opening prayer
through the obedience of Jesus,
Your servant and Your Son,
You raised a fallen world.
Free us from sin
and bring us the joy that lasts for ever.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - Matthew 9:18-26
While Jesus was speaking, an official came forward, knelt down before him, and said, “My daughter has just died. But come, lay your hand on her, and she will live.” Jesus rose and followed him, and so did his disciples. A woman suffering hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the tassel on his cloak. She said to herself, “If only I can touch his cloak, I shall be cured.” Jesus turned around and saw her, and said, “Courage, daughter! Your faith has saved you.” And from that hour the woman was cured. When Jesus arrived at the official’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd who were making a commotion, he said, “Go away! The girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they ridiculed him. When the crowd was put out, he came and took her by the hand, and the little girl arose. And news of this spread throughout all that land.
• Today’s Gospel leads us to meditate on two miracles of Jesus. The first one was in favor of a woman considered unclean because of an irregular hemorrhage which had lasted for more than twelve years; the second one in favor of a girl who had just died. According to the mentality of that time, the person who touched blood or a corpse or dead body was considered unclean and whoever touched that person became unclean. Blood and death were factors of exclusion! This is why those two women were marginalized people, excluded from participation in the community. Whoever touched them became unclean, and therefore, would not be able to participate in the community and could not relate with God. In order to be admitted to participate fully in the community, it was necessary to go through the rite of purification prescribed by the norms of the law. Now, curing the impurity of the woman through faith, Jesus opens a new path toward God which does not depend anymore on the rites of purification, controlled by the priests. In resurrecting the girl, Jesus conquers the power of death and opens a new horizon on life.
• Matthew 9:18-19: The death of the little girl. When Jesus was still speaking, an official of the place came to intercede for his daughter who has just died. He asks Jesus to go to impose His hands on her so that “she will live.” The official thinks that Jesus has the power to make his daughter rise from the dead. This is a sign of much faith in Jesus on the part of the little girl’s father. Jesus rises and goes with him, taking only His disciples. This is the starting point of both episodes which follow: the cure of the woman who had been suffering for the past twelve years from a hemorrhage, and the resurrection of the little girl. The Gospel of Mark presents both of these episodes, but with many details: the official was called Jairus, and he was the president of the Synagogue. The little girl was not dead as yet, and she was twelve years old, etc. (Mk 5:21-43). Matthew gives a briefer version of Mark’s lively narration.
• Matthew 9:20-21: The situation of the woman. While they were on the way to the official’s house, a woman who had been suffering for twelve years because of an irregular hemorrhage got close to Jesus seeking to be cured. Twelve years with a hemorrhage! This is why she was marginalized, excluded, because as we have said, at that time blood rendered the person impure. Mark says that the woman had spent all she had with doctors, but instead of improving her situation had become worse (Mk 5:25-26) But she had heard some speak about Jesus (Mk 5:27). This is why a new hope sprang up in her. She told herself, “If I can just touch His clothes, I shall be saved.” The catechism of that time said: “If I touch His clothes I will remain impure.” The woman thinks exactly the contrary! This was a sign of great courage! It was a sign also that women were not in agreement with everything that the religious authority taught. The teaching of the Pharisees and of the scribes did not succeed in controlling the thinking of the people. Thank God! The woman got close to Jesus from behind. She touched the end of His cloak and she was cured.
• Matthew 9:22. The word of Jesus which enlightens. Jesus turns and seeing the woman declares: “Courage, My daughter, your faith has saved you.” A brief utterance, but which makes us see three very important points: (1) In saying “My daughter”, Jesus accepts the woman in the new community which has formed around Him. She was no longer excluded. (2) What she expected and believed takes place in fact: she was cured. This proves that the catechism of the religious authority was not correct and that in Jesus was opened a new path which gave people the possibility of obtaining the purity which the law demanded and also to enter into contact with God. (3) Jesus recognizes that without the faith of this woman, He would not have been able to work the miracle. The cure was not a magic rite, but an act of faith.
• Matthew 9:23-24: In the house of the official. After that Jesus goes to the house of the official. Seeing the agitation of those who were mourning because of the death of the little girl, He asks everybody to get out of the room. And He says: “The little girl is not dead, she is sleeping!” People laugh, because they know how to distinguish when a person sleeps or when she is dead. Death was for them a barrier that nobody could go beyond. It is the laughter of Abraham and of Sarah, that is, of those who do not believe that nothing is impossible for God (Gen 17:17; 18:12-14; Lk 1:27). The words of Jesus still have a very deep significance. The situation of the communities at the time of Matthew seemed to be in a situation of death, even though they heard said, “It is not death, you are asleep! Wake up!”
• Matthew 9:25-26: The resurrection of the little girl. Jesus does not attach any importance to the people’s laughter . He waits for everyone to get out of the house. Then He enters, takes the little girl by the hand, and she gets up. Mark keeps the words of Jesus, “Talita kúmi!” which mean, “Little girl, I tell you to get up!” (Mk 5:41). The news spread throughout that region. The people believed that Jesus is the Lord of life who overcomes death.
4) Personal questions
• Today, what are the categories of people who feel excluded from participating in the Christian community? What are the factors which cause the exclusion of so many people and render life difficult for them in the family and in society?
• “The little girl is not dead. She sleeps!” She is not dead! You are sleeping! Wake up! This is the message of today’s Gospel. What does it tell me? Am I one of those who laugh?
• Have I suffered ridicule from others in society for having Faith? If not, why not? Trusting in God goes against many modern beliefs. Should I expect this reaction?
5) Concluding Prayer
I shall praise You to the heights, God my King,
I shall bless Your name for ever and ever.
Day after day I shall bless You,
I shall praise Your name for ever and ever. (Ps 145:1-2)