4Bs and Jairus’ Daughter
Nobody wanted to know the boys of 4B. They were the B-streamers, the also-rans, a motley collection of the unteachables. They had fallen off the edge of most people's arena of hopeful consideration: the failures that everyone failed. In a North London school in the seventies I was their Science and Maths teacher. I found them to be hard work. They were either lost in apathy or eager to engage in psychological warfare.
One day I had the idea of giving them a taste of research science. Perhaps they would be inspired and have energy for learning. The task was to try and measure the growth of crystals coming out of a solution.
Each boy has a beaker, a microscope slide, some coloured crystals, and a simple microscope. With this gear I knew that nothing would explode, as had happened in the previous science class. 4B had loved that; and there was still a mark on the ceiling to show where it had happened! I sometimes have this vision of having a wildly appreciative audience in 4B as they watched their school burn down. But back to the crystals. The crystals started to appear. The blue crystals slowly made their way across the field of vision, in some beakers crystals streaked across. I gave them instructions on how to measure the rate of growth. There was no response - no one was listening. Every boy was glued to his microscope.
There had been a transformation: 4B was transfixed. They had never seen crystals grow before. Apart from an occasional “ooh” or “ahh” there was a deep holy silence. 4B had met the MYSTERIUM TREMENDUM or whatever the Latin should be. In previous classes the end of class saw an unruly stampede - now I could not get them out of the classroom.
Such is the power of the wonderful sight. I feel sure that most of you can recall an awesome moment.
A. There is a need to be open-hearted, open-minded and blessed with noble naivety to capture the holy moment. On reflection many of the boys in 4B came from deprived backgrounds. They had not travelled far in London, some had never seen the Thames and no holidays anywhere undertaken. For most of them, parents had not extended their experience of life -and some had one parent or none. Even the sight of growing crystals was a wondrous marvel and extended their experience. As such they took on the wondrous; their minds unsullied by cynicism and lost innocence.
Like the boys of 4B, we too need a clarity of heart and mind. In our spiritual being we need to regain a noble naivety.
From this stance:
there comes the humility to learn
the readiness to apprehend
and the sharpness of mind to advance oneself
We need a Simplicity to see the HOLY.
B. There is so much to gain but we allow ourselves to be robbed of the moment.
Such is the case when we try to appreciate the story of the raising of Jairus’ Daughter. We are torn away from the story by the impatience and disbelief of waiting. Jairus comes to Jesus in great urgency.
Jairus' daughter is close to death. The story as told is interrupted by the story of the haemorrhaging woman. As we look for the story to be completed, we are made to wait. In our own story it is a common experience to need to wait. An unwillingness to be patient can rob us of the moment of healing. The author of lamentations acknowledges the need to wait. I quote: “It is good for one to bear the yoke in youth, to sit alone in silence when the Lord has imposed it”.
As news comes of the daughter’s death, the observer and we ourselves are almost pulled away from knowing the healing moment. The crowd’s commotion, and their mockery pull away from the waiting and the gift of a healing moment.
These are the forces that rob us of knowing the moment, knowing the healing. In our own struggles we encounter those who discourage and would cheat us of the healing moment in the “mysterium tremendum.”
We capture the moment, we arrive at the point of healing, we find life after the struggle
despite our desperation
despite the cynics
despite the mocking crowd and those who are blind to the Holy One.
C. I believe that today's gospel calls us to be focused on the holy moment of healing. To stay in the waiting, the discernment, and the search for a healed creation.
Today's Gospel tells us of a woman whose faith made her well and a man called Jarius who experienced overbearing stress and the disbelief of others before his beloved daughter was made well.
I do not know where the boys of 4B are now. They taught me about noble naivety and the simple heart. I hope that some of them, at least, learnt about the track to healing and the tenacity to wait.
From our responsorial psalm:
“Heaviness may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning “