By Julia-O'Neil-King
(As an active member of the Cathedral Book Club, the author presented this reflection during a celebration of the feast day of Mary of Magdala, following a reading of Psalm 18 and Gospel of Mark 5:21-34.)

A couple of weeks ago, my daughter Emily came home from work and told me that the most incredible thing had happened. “I’m still shaking,” she said, “it was that intense.” She was in downtown Juneau on the cruise ship dock when she saw a little boy standing by himself crying. She went over to him and asked him what was wrong and he told her that he had lost his mother.

Emily picked him up and said, “I’ll help you find your mom. What’s your name?”

“Raydar.” “What is your last name?” “I dunno.” “Hmmmm.” Emily asked, “How old are you, Raydar?” and he held up three fingers and said, “I am this many.” There were five cruise ships docked at Juneau that day, so Emily asked, “Did you come on a big boat?” “Yup,” he said. “Do you know which one?” “Nope.”

Emily is 18 and works as a dock representative for a tour company. She knew one of the ships was going to be leaving in 20 minutes – which, it turned out, was the cruise ship that Raydar and his family were on. She made some phone and radio calls to see if anyone had reported a missing little boy.

Then she asked him, “What was your mom wearing?” “A white dress.” (Now, Emily doubted this was true, since cruise ship visitors were usually dressed more casually.) Then she asked, “Where was your mom the last time you saw her?” and Raydar answered, “She was walking RIGHT in front of me.” Hmmm. Not much help.

Then Emily heard a woman scream, “Raydar!” and come running towards her. The woman was wearing a white trench coat, that looked, somewhat, like a white dress. The woman was crying hysterically. “Is that your mom?” Emily asked. “Yup,” he said casually.

This woman ran up to them, sobbing. She had tears running down her face, her entire body convulsing as she cried tears of joy, and without saying a word she threw her arms around Emily and Raydar and hugged them tightly. Absolute, total, unconditional love. No lecture or angry words. No ‘where did you go?’ or ‘how could you leave me?’ Pure love and happiness.

Emily told me that when Raydar’s mom hugged her, she didn’t introduce herself or say, ‘Is it okay if I hug you?’ She wrapped her arms around both of them and simply cried for joy. Complete love. “It gave me chills,” my daughter said.

That is what God’s love looks like. Unconditional. Joy beyond words. No hesitation or asking permission to hug us or love us. God runs towards us, calling our name, thrilled to see us and wraps loving arms around us and holds us close. This is the image of God that I want to hold on to. Psalm 18 says; You are my rock, my fortress, my deliverer. You delight in me.

Raydar wasn’t surprised when his mother came running towards them. Is that your mom? Yup. He wasn’t surprised that she came for him. Raydar knew his mom loved him with total and unconditional love. My rock, my fortress, my deliverer. You delight in me.

Even though he wandered away and became lost, he had faith. The person Raydar was to follow was walking ‘right in front’ of him, yet he lost sight and ended up alone and scared. Still, he knew that he was loved and would be rescued.

In the Gospel from Mark (5:21-34), we read two stories of faith. The young daughter of Jairus was near death and her father says to Jesus, “Come and lay your hands on her that she may be made well.” We read later that the people laughed when they went to the house and Jesus said that the girl was only sleeping. They laughed at the faith of Jairus.

The next story of faith is of the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years. She was treated as an outcast and was undoubtedly lonely. Twelve years in which physicians had bled her of all her wealth. The conventions of the day would insist that it would be unthinkable for her to approach, let alone touch, Jesus. But she recognized Jesus as Messiah. Somehow she knew that if she just touched the hem of his garment, she would be made whole. The instant she touched his cloak, she felt a healing power. You are my rock, my fortress, my deliverer. My strength. My stronghold. For who is God, but you? And who is a rock, except our God?

I imagine a crowd of people pressing against Jesus, all wanting to be close to Him. Yet when this particular woman touched Jesus, He felt her faith and asked, “Who touched me?” Jesus didn’t scold or shame her, instead he praised her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.” He addressed her tenderly. She was no longer alone, but part of God’s family by virtue of her faith.

The next time we are faced with an opportunity to practice real faith, perhaps we will call to mind this woman, or Jairus, or little Raydar. Perhaps there are times when it is tempting to play it safe, and suppress our faith. For those times, let us pray:

FATHER
Forgive me when I hesitate to believe in your power.
Help my faith grow so I can follow you more closely.
I want to be close to you and feel your healing touch.
Never let me forget how very much you love me.

Julia O’Neil-King has served as a Godly Play facilitator at the Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Juneau and as a member of the Cathedral Pastoral Council. She currently lives in Frankfurt, Germany with her hauband George and daughter Emily. She can be reached at jokcolo@msn.com.