Some two or three weeks ago an old woman in Poland suddenly lost consciences. The family called an ambulance, but the doctor pronounced her dead. In line with Polish law the body was transferred to a local mortuary and left there. In line with the law the doctor informed the local registrar, who recorded the death and issued a certificate. So, you see the woman herself died in line with the law. A few hours later a watchman heard some noise from inside the mortuary. When he opened the door and entered ha was confronted with alive but very cold woman. So, was this a miracle? Not at all. It was just a doctor’s mistake. But although the woman came back to life she is still dead according to the law. She lost her pension, her insurance, her possessions. According to the law she does not exist anymore. Now the court has to officially declare that she is alive in order that she may recover her pension, her insurance and her possessions. Nowadays performing miracles is much more complicated than it was two thousand years ago.
Today’s gospel shows us a very moving scene: a desperate father asks Jesus to come and heal his dying, twelve year-old daughter. Listen again to the father’s request. He says this: “Do come and lay your hands on her to make her better and save her life”. Can you imagine such a request being made today?
For ten years I worked as a teacher in different types of schools: primary, secondary, even a young offenders home. Surprisingly the youngest kids liked me. Often, during playtime, they surrounded me in the school corridors or the sports field and hugged me; that was really embarrassing… So, you know what I did? I playfully drove them off. But they thought that was a big joke, and it just made them worse. So I had to lift up my hands… Like a defeated soldier.
This is a perfect description of my helplessness. Abuse scandals in various organisations, including the Church, obviously destroy lives of their victims; but I’ll tell you something equally tragic; the scandals seem to have made it impossible for adults to show compassion. Simple gestures like stroking a child’s head, wiping a tear-stained face, holding a hand, a sympathetic hug – all these seem to have been lost. Over many years I learnt that these simple gestures can bring comfort. But more recently I have not been brave enough to use them anymore. I’ve chosen to be a defeated soldier to avoid giving any hint of a bad impression.
This situation shows very, very clearly, how abuse – or using religious language – a sin has vast implications. Sometimes we acknowledge the dreadful results of our bad behaviour, our sins, our abuse – but by then it’s too late to fix them completely.
In the gospel Jesus says that the girl is not dead but asleep. Although the people around him laugh at him, he goes into the room and wakes up the child. At the end Jesus asks the parents to feed the girl.
Many people around us laugh at our faith, our morality, our way of life. And slowly but surely we come to adopt the mentality of the modern world. Overwhelmed by poisonous ideas our hearts have fallen asleep. But the good news is they are not dead yet. You and me need to say to Jesus emphatically, deep inside: “Come and lay your hands on my heart and make it better. Save my life”.