By Father Jacob Dankasa
Special to The Texas Catholic
We hear about faith, and we talk about it all the time. It’s easy to proclaim that I have faith in God, especially when faith is used as a noun meaning a Christian faith or a Catholic faith. Of course, a Christian is one who believes in the trinitarian God. But our struggles arise when faith is used as a verb, as an action word — that is, not only being a believer in the Christian faith but also living a Christian life. Living the Christian faith entails more than attending worship on Sundays or receiving the Eucharist daily. It entails sticking with God regardless of life’s situations or conditions, and believing without a doubt that the will of God will eventually prevail. Such actionable faith is often demonstrated in moments of desperate need.
To have faith in God, to believe in God, is a good starting point for faith. But faith grows deeper when our belief leads us into living in God, totally trusting in his love, care and providence. To have such a transforming faith we need patience, a patience that waits and trusts that God will somehow come to my aid when I’m in need. It’s always in moments of need that our actionable faith is tested. The story of Jairus, the synagogue official in Mark 5:21-43, is a perfect example of an actionable faith.
The synagogue official named Jairus came to Jesus in desperate need of his help in healing his daughter. He said to Jesus, “My daughter is at the point of death. Please, come lay your hands on her that she may get well and live.” At the point of death many will do almost anything as they seek immediate help, and Jairus was in that situation. But on his way to Jairus’ house a large crowd pressed around Jesus, and it was at that point that someone else in need of help — the woman who had been afflicted with hemorrhages for 12 years — came looking for Jesus. The scripture tells us that she had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors and had spent all that she had, but her situation was only getting worse. She touched Jesus’ cloak and was cured. At that point Jesus chose to stop and look for her.
What must have been going on in the mind of Jairus, who met Jesus first and was in a desperate hurry to save his daughter’s life? Here was Jesus, stopping for another person, wasting time. For many of us, if we had been in Jairus’ shoes we would have run out of patience — we would have claimed that we were the first in line. We would have asked why someone else should be allowed to cut in! I believe Jairus was as anxious as any of us would have been, but he waited patiently.
To make matters worse, while Jesus was still there attending to the woman, the bad news came to Jairus that his daughter was dead. Those who brought the news said, “Why trouble the teacher any longer?” But Jesus told Jairus, “Do not be afraid. Just have faith.” Jesus eventually went to Jairus’ house and brought his daughter back to life, and a hopeless situation was transformed into a moment of miracle and joy.
Jairus must have had his fears and anxieties, but his story shows us an example of a patient faith. He remained sane in the midst of a desperate need. He never allowed his impulses or emotions to overcome his focus on Jesus, whom he believed could do anything. This act of belief that God “can do anything,” regardless of our hopeless state, is the type of actionable faith that we followers of God must develop. It’s a faith that comes with patience, a patience that compels us to believe that whatever our situation is, God knows best how to take care of us. For us to have an authentic actionable faith, we need this type of patience. Although our patience can grow thin when things don’t seem to go our way, we must remain focused on the knowledge that our final answer will always be determined by the will of God, not our will. The answer to our wants or prayers may not be what we expect, but we must have the courage to follow the alternative that God may point out to us. Many of us must acknowledge that if we had been in Jairus’ shoes when the news of his daughter’s death came to him, we would have been bitter — and angry with the crowd that pressed on Jesus, with the woman who had interrupted him, and with Jesus himself. It would have been hard to understand why Jesus couldn’t leave this woman alone — since we were in a hurry and she had already been healed, why bother looking for her?
When we are disappointed and things don’t go our way, our human reaction is often that of anger and frustration, which may lead to withdrawal or separation from people we care about, or even separation from God himself. I see in the scripture story of Jairus a lesson in patience in dealing with the people in our lives, and an example of a patient faith that waits for God to meet our needs.
God’s delay is not denial.
Father Jacob Dankasa is pastoral administrator of Holy Family of Nazareth Catholic Church in Irving and a regular contributor to The Texas Catholic.