Daily Reflection
July 7th, 2003
Gene Selk
Philosophy Department
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Genesis 28:10-22
Psalm 91:1-2, 3-4, 14-15
Matthew 9:18-26

The reading from Matthew gives an account of two miracles, an official whose daughter is revived from death, and a woman who is healed of hemorrhages. 

I will begin with a few comments on the notion of miracles in the New Testament.  Jesus does not perform like a magician, who through some special incantations or the application of some balm, suddenly brings about a healing.  The miracles seem to occur within natural processes.  God acts within the capacities of nature, but a nature transformed by divine activity.   I mention this because ever since David Hume (1711-1776) miracles have been defined as violations of laws of nature.   But these healing stories and many others in the gospels can be viewed as occurring within nature.  Miracles are signs or wonders indicating the special presence of God, or, as some authors have suggested, indicating the breaking in of the Kingdom of God here and now and pointing to the ultimate fulfillment of the Kingdom at the eschaton. 

The second feature of these miracle stories is that they are conferred by Jesus in response to expressions of faith.     The official expresses his faith by declaring to Jesus: “Come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.”  The woman who suffers from chronic hemorrhaging expresses her faith by touching the edge of Jesus’s cloak and telling herself that “if I can only touch his cloak, I shall be healed.”  Faith here has the sense of complete trust in Jesus.  It does not have the sense of blind assent to that which is beyond evidence and reason, a commonplace use of “faith” today, a use which has nothing in common with the biblical sense of faith.

Jesus responds to the woman’s trust with, “Take heart, my daughter; your faith has healed you.”  Notice that faith is not appealed to as a reason for believing, but rather as a consequence of having faith in God.  So our approach toward the miracles stories and our religious faith should not be, “I believe in Jesus because he performed miracles,” but rather, “I am confident that Jesus is God and for that reason the miracle stories make sense.” 

Finally, interpreters of the story about the woman with the hemorrhage suggest that the woman was probably suffering from some sort of menstrual disorder.  In the Jewish world of Jesus’s time, this was regarded as an impurity and accordingly she would have been shunned by her community.  Thus, Jesus’s healing did more than relieve her of her chronic malady; it also restored her to her community.  The healing shows that Jesus “discounts the demarcation of society along purity lines.” * He does not shun the woman regarded by her culture as impure, but speaks gently to her - “Take heart, my daughter.” 

Our prayer for today might be to ask God to give us the ability to share in the confidence in Jesus displayed by the official and the woman, and that we see God in those who today are often regarded as impure – the handicapped, the mentally ill, those with HIV, and the poor. 

    * David E. Garland, Reading Matthew: A Literary and Theological Commentary on the First Gospel (NY: Crossroad, 1993), p. 107. 

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