Clergy Notes — Seventh Sunday After Pentecost, July 7, 2024

In last Sunday’s Gospel, we read of a woman in a state of constant impurity from which she is unable to escape. Transgressing boundaries of law, custom, and personal safety, she chooses to reach out to touch Jesus’ clothes, in assurance that by doing so, she will be healed. Her act of desperation and hope is a final bid for readmittance into community; even as her scandalous acts mark her as an outsider from it.

Of course, the unnamed woman’s gamble pays off. Jesus does heal her – well, sort of. It is Jesus himself who makes clear that the healing was kind of her idea; indeed, he couldn’t have done it without her partnership of faith. “Go,” he tells her, “Your faith has made you well.”

Perhaps the most succinct definition of a miracle is that is a suspension of the ordinary laws of nature. Since this is something only God can do, performing miracles would have been seen by witnesses as verification of the claims Jesus makes about himself. We see him cast out demons, walk on water, and raise the dead. Throughout all these miracles, there’s never any question that he’ll struggle to make it happen, much less that he might fail.

But it’s different when Jesus comes to work miracles on living human beings. Uniquely with Jesus’ healing miracles, he requires the cooperation (or at least acquiescence) of the subject in order for it take effect. He was, in a sense, the original “faith healer,” insofar as he required an affirmation of faith in order to heal.

In today’s Gospel, we find Jesus in his hometown. In Nazareth, Jesus is disappointed – “amazed at their unbelief” – and so is unable to perform the same works of power as he did with the woman who had touched the hem of his tunic. The vital ingredient for personal transformation – faith – is missing. The locals know their former neighbour for who he was, not who he is as the one commissioned by his Father at baptism in the River Jordan.

What these readings show to me is that the real miracle at work is the miracle of faith: a sense of open acceptance to the actions of God in transforming lives in unimaginable ways. Through that miracle, a world of wonders is unlocked.

Fr Neil Fernyhough

Download the Liturgy at Home booklet for Sunday, July 7, 2024.