Gn 28:10-22; Ps 91:1-15; Mt 9:18-26
After the resurrection when Mary and Jesus meet in the garden, she tries to hold onto his physical presence, but he tells her, “Do not cling to me, but go and tell the others what you have seen and heard.” Mary was trying to hold onto the old Jesus, the teacher she knew and loved, but she was sent as an apostle to the Eleven. We cannot cling to any of our experiences of Jesus; we must place our trust in him and move on to grow in faith and help the community of believers to grow in the world. Jacob did not cling in fear to his dream; he did not stay put. Jacob trusted in the God’s promise to protect him, and he continued his journey. Jesus found remarkable faith in the official and in the woman suffering hemorrhages for twelve years. The faith of both enabled the Lord Jesus to journey to the dead daughter and to cure a woman on the way, the one who touched the tassel on his cloak. It is faith that enables us to touch the Lord Jesus in the Eucharist, and it is faith that enables the Lord Jesus to touch and to heal our fears and all that seems to be dead in our lives.
Our Father Jacob needed the shelter of the Most High and he longed to abide in the shadow of the Almighty. Without God’s protection, Jacob would never have escaped the snares of his brother Esau. Now as he has eluded his brother’s anger he lays down his head to rest for the night. In his haste to run away it seems that Jacob forgot his pillow. Jacob takes a stone from the nearby shrine and puts it under his head and lays down to sleep on that spot. Sheer exhaustion must have overcome Jacob; he slept well on the ground with a stone pillow. During the night he encountered the God who reveals himself in dreams—the same thing happened to his father Isaac and his grandfather, Abraham—so Jacob hears the promise of plentiful descendants, more than the dust of the earth. Jacob believes the Lord God who has spoken to him—after all, it’s a family trait. This dream sets him free from the fear of his elder brother and the claim Esau has on the promise of land and future. Now, we can see why he used the stone for a pillow, the next morning Jacob anoints the stone with oil and sets it up as a memorial to mark the place—not unlike the altars his ancestors erected all through their journeys. Jacob adds a vow to his ritual dedication. “If God remains with me, to protect me…the LORD shall be my God.” We, too, must do more than anoint our experiences of the Lord in prayer with many happy remembrances. We must arise and make vows and fulfill them.
The Lord Jesus is encouraged and inspired by the faith of a father who travels to ask the itinerant preacher to come and lay hands on his dead child. This man has complete trust that is revealed in his request, “ come, lay your hand on her, and she will live.” Likewise, the faith of the woman, who had suffered for twelve years without relief, stops the Lord in his tracks. She thought to herself, “If only I can touch his cloak, I shall be cured.” In our journey of faith we have stopped here at this liturgy and cry out in solemn wonder, truly the LORD is here and we have nothing to fear as our journey continues. The Lord who touches us with healing love enables us to reach out to those we encounter and touch them with that same love. Because we cling to the Lord in faith, He will deliver us, answer us, and be with us in all our distress.