Spiritual Reflection – Faith Versus Hope
She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” (Mark 5:27–28 NRSV)
It’s not uncommon to hear stories of people suffering from life-threatening illnesses who turn to unorthodox or experimental forms of treatment when conventional medicines or treatment fail to provide a cure. In such situations those patients are ‘hoping’ the unorthodox or experimental treatment will work. They are not necessarily convinced the treatment will work, but they hope it does.
The Gospel of Mark contains a story of a woman who has been menstruating continually for 12 years. She has spent all of her money on the conventional forms of medical treatment that were available in her day, but rather than improving, her condition has actually worsened.
She has heard about Jesus and the various healing miracles he has performed, and she believes that he can heal her condition as well. In fact her belief is so strong that she thinks she only needs to touch his clothing in order to be healed, she doesn’t believe that he even needs to lay his hands on her, or pray for her, or anything else. She just needs to touch his clothing. And as we know from the story this is exactly what happens. She touches his clothing and immediately the bleeding stops and she is healed. Jesus then says to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” (Mark 5:34 NRSV)
It’s important to note the distinction here: Jesus didn’t heal the woman, her own faith is what healed. She wasn’t hoping that Jesus would heal her, she truly believed that she would be healed if she just touched his clothing. This is an incredible story of faith.
Perhaps there might be a time in our lives when we are faced with a situation that seems to be outside of our control, or beyond our capability to solve. We might pray for God’s help and ‘hope’ our prayers will be answered. However if we truly believe that God will intervene then He will. It requires complete and total trust in God.
The author of Mark’s Gospel used stories such as that of the faith of the menstruating woman in contrast to stories such as the disciples being afraid when the storm struck their boat on the Sea of Galilee. In that story Mark demonstrates the disciples’ lack of faith.
We know from the Gospels that the while the disciples were with Jesus they were on a journey of faith, and their faith was not complete until they had experienced the resurrected Jesus and received the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Each of us are still on our own journey of faith. Each of us has received the gift of the Holy Spirit at our baptism. Perhaps we have also had our own experience with the resurrected Jesus?