“Little girl, I tell you to get up”
“Touching of Jesus”
by Dc Paul Binh Xuan Tran SDB
The Gospel of this Sunday shows us two ways of healing from Jesus. The woman touches Jesus’ cloak that cures her from a haemorrhage. The little girl is brought back from death by Jesus’ touching. Either touching Jesus or being touched by Jesus bring the same effect.
We need to come to Jesus and let him touch us each day of our lives. Like the little girl, we also need Jesus to take our hand and say: “Get up.” Get up from illness and death, so that we can live a life of joy and freedom as the children of God. Jesus still touches us every day through different ways, He still takes our hands to help us ‘get up’ from suffering and sin. Do we recognise that?
The Gospel also emphasises the importance of the woman and Jairus’ faith. The woman manages herself to touch, even just, Jesus’ cloak that is enough for her to be saved. However, in the little girl’s situation, she gets healed because of the humble faith of her father, Jairus, that makes Jesus make his way to their home. If their faith is not shown, Jesus cannot have worked the miracles. With faith these people get what we want.
This Sunday’s Gospel reminds us not forget to attach our lives to Jesus. He is the only One who can help us to be free from illness and death, and bring us to the life of eternal.
Scripture readings: Courtesy of Universalis Publishing Ltd. – www.universalis.com
Reflections and Prayers by Fr Jack Finnegan SDB
1st Reading – Wisdom 1:13-15,2:23-24
Death was not God’s doing,
he takes no pleasure in the extinction of the living.
To be – for this he created all;
the world’s created things have health in them,
in them no fatal poison can be found,
and Hades holds no power on earth;
for virtue is undying.
Yet God did make man imperishable,
he made him in the image of his own nature;
it was the devil’s envy that brought death into the world,
as those who are his partners will discover.
Our first reading today is a selection of verses from the Book of Wisdom. The selected verses remind us of two things. First, ours is a God of life who wondrously created all things to be! Second, God made each one of us according to his own image and nature! We have been chosen as children of the light, to be God’s likeness in the world. The human spirit is lit by a divine spark. Nonetheless, we are confronted by challenges: the reality of illness and death and the powers of darkness in the world. The challenge is to face these realities with compassion and wisdom, seeking to be bearers of God’s love in the world as we make space for bighearted creativity of spirit.
LORD, Adonai, you are a God of life! You are the Ground of our being! You created us in your own awesome image! You call us to be children of light, your likeness in the world! Help us grow in your likeness. Listen to our songs of gratitude and praise! We glorify your Name and acclaim your wondrous mercy and compassion. Raise up women and men to look after the created world for you! Show us how to leave behind the spores of darkness. Bless our creativity and show us how to live lightly and wisely on the earth. Amen.
Each one of us has surely experienced God’s helping providence in times of need and difficulty. Can you remember moments when the right word or gesture came to you out of the blue? Or moments of turmoil when the wise way forward suddenly became obvious? Or healing blossomed in a time of need? The poet recalls times of rescue and deliverance, the gentle touch of God’s favour in an hour of need, and times when tears were turned into joy and dancing. Now we have the opportunity to proclaim our gratitude to God and lift up heartfelt songs of thankful praise!
Psalm 30:2, 4-6, 11-13
LORD, Adonai, we glorify and honour you today! How wonderful your providence and care! You are our Rescuer! You are our Protector! You are the Lifter of our heads! Your mercy is beyond our imagining! Your love and awesome compassion are everlasting! You are our Helper, our Rock! You change our mourning into dancing! May your favour blossom yet again in our families and lives and may you be praised forever! Amen
2nd Reading – 2 Corinthians 8:7,9,13-15
You always have the most of everything – of faith, of eloquence, of understanding, of keenness for any cause, and the biggest share of our affection – so we expect you to put the most into this work of mercy too. Remember how generous the Lord Jesus was: he was rich, but he became poor for your sake, to make you rich out of his poverty. This does not mean that to give relief to others you ought to make things difficult for yourselves: it is a question of balancing what happens to be your surplus now against their present need, and one day they may have something to spare that will supply your own need. That is how we strike a balance: as scripture says: The man who gathered much had none too much, the man who gathered little did not go short.
The background to our second reading is the collection that was taken up to help the community in Jerusalem. St Paul reminds us of the vast generosity of Jesus who gave everything for us. Such generosity is the spiritual basis of the Christian willingness to offer material relief to those in need. Paul focuses on balance here, balancing one’s present surplus with another’s present need. The practice of practical mercy does not call for exaggeration. It calls for wisdom, generosity and a compassionate heart. God has been good to us in our need and so we seek to be actively helpful to others.
Lord Jesus, you call us to be generous people. You invite us to be bearers of mercy in a world of poverty and need. Deepen our oneness with you. Give us a share of your compassion. Give us a share of your wisdom. You inspire us to be generous with material aid. Help us to be spiritually generous, too, with our prayer and our faith. May our hands never be empty! Give us compassionate hearts as we seek to build a humble, caring and helpful Church. Amen.
Gospel Reading – Mark 5:21-43
When Jesus had crossed in the boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered round him and he stayed by the lakeside. Then one of the synagogue officials came up, Jairus by name, and seeing him, fell at his feet and pleaded with him earnestly, saying, ‘My little daughter is desperately sick. Do come and lay your hands on her to make her better and save her life.’ Jesus went with him and a large crowd followed him; they were pressing all round him.
Now there was a woman who had suffered from a haemorrhage for twelve years; after long and painful treatment under various doctors, she spent all she had without being any the better for it, in fact, she was getting worse. She had heard about Jesus, and she came up behind him through the crowd and touched his cloak. ‘If I can touch even his clothes,’ she had told herself ‘I shall be well again.’ And the source of the bleeding dried up instantly, and she felt in herself that she was cured of her complaint. Immediately aware that power had gone out from him, Jesus turned round in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my clothes?’ His disciples said to him, ‘You see how the crowd is pressing round you and yet you say, “Who touched me?”’ But he continued to look all round to see who had done it. Then the woman came forward, frightened and trembling because she knew what had happened to her, and she fell at his feet and told him the whole truth. ‘My daughter,’ he said ‘your faith has restored you to health; go in peace and be free from your complaint.’
While he was still speaking some people arrived from the house of the synagogue official to say, ‘Your daughter is dead: why put the Master to any further trouble?’ But Jesus had overheard this remark of theirs and he said to the official, ‘Do not be afraid; only have faith.’ And he allowed no one to go with him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. So they came to the official’s house and Jesus noticed all the commotion, with people weeping and wailing unrestrainedly. He went in and said to them, ‘Why all this commotion and crying? The child is not dead, but asleep.’ But they laughed at him. So he turned them all out and, taking with him the child’s father and mother and his own companions, he went into the place where the child lay. And taking the child by the hand he said to her, ‘Talitha, kum!’ which means, ‘Little girl, I tell you to get up.’ The little girl got up at once and began to walk about, for she was twelve years old. At this they were overcome with astonishment, and he ordered them strictly not to let anyone know about it, and told them to give her something to eat.
The longer form of the gospel recounts two miracle stories, one concerning a little girl who is terminally ill and the other a woman suffering from a long illness. The short form focuses on the healing of the little girl, the daughter of a synagogue official named Jairus. Notice the importance of faith in both stories. Jairus opens the way for God to act in his daughter’s life and the woman opens the way for power to go out of Jesus and liberate her from a debilitating condition. Notice how Jesus praises her courage in reaching out to touch what she needed. How do we care for those who are ill? How open are we to the gift of life? How generous are we? In both of these stories Jesus gives witness to a God of life. He also shows us the true generosity of compassion and mercy: Jesus allows himself to be touched and interrupted. Do we?
Lord Jesus, Jairus came to you openly in faith seeking life for his young daughter. You responded to his need and prayer. Then, surrounded by people, you felt the woman with the haemorrhage touch the hem of your cloak. Her faith and openness helped you to liberate her from years of suffering. We are amazed at your sensitivity and compassion! Jairus and the woman opened their lives to your loving presence and grace and healing flowed. Help us to imitate their faith and honesty. Help us honour life in all its fragility, in all its stages, and in all its forms as you did. Thank you. Amen.
Today’s gospel sheds light on one of the great mysteries of human existence, one that we find difficult to understand, and the one that we fear most – the mystery of sickness and death. By healing a woman and raising a child from the dead, Jesus shows that he is the Lord of life and death. We should take this gospel passage seriously. What happened to the disciples of Jesus then, can happen again to today’s believers. The disciples were always at his side, they had come to know him and to regard him above all others. And yet, they did not dare to ask anything special from him and they even found fault with those who did. It is possible that we too, who believe in Jesus as the Lord of life, do not think of him or have recourse to him, when we feel threatened by evil, even though we know well that, left to ourselves, we cannot free ourselves from evil, nor add one day or one minute to our lives.
Read: understand what the text is saying, focussing on how it says it
The miracles worked by Jesus reveal his personal identity and also show the saving power of God at work among men. Mark summarizes the evangelizing work of Jesus in a discourse based on a parable (Mk 4, 1-34), and then shows how Jesus’ ministry is fulfilled through a series of miracles (Mk 4, 35-5, 34). Jesus’ power knows no limits. He has power over nature (Mk 4, 35-41) and death (Mk 5, 35-42). It reaches beyond the borders of Israel (Mk 5, 1-20). In Israel he is not deterred even by the internal obstacle of legal impurity (Mk 5, 24-34). The only witnesses of his unlimited power are his disciples. They are granted the privilege of knowing the secrets of the kingdom and a chance to see its saving power. Following Jesus always brings the reward of seeing the miracles he works.
Now Mark presents two miracles that deal with death. Death has already been victorious in the house of Jairus, and is about to claim victory in the case of the woman suffering from a haemorrhage. Mark relates the incidents in a way that highlights the struggle of Jesus against evil. He interrupts the account of the raising of the girl to tell of the healing of the woman. It is one single battle with death that is fought over two rounds. The first round begins with a request from a man who was not ill. The second comes from a woman who has been ill for a long time. In the first instance Jesus agrees to visit the dying girl. In the second case, he heals the woman from a distance, without knowing exactly whom he is healing. In both, Jesus found a desire for healing together with faith in him, either publicly expressed or held in secret. In all this there is, however, one notable difference: the woman suffering from a haemorrhage was healed because her “strategy of anonymity” was recognised by Jesus as a consequence of her faith in him. Jairus came to Jesus hoping for a visit from him, and was encouraged not to lose faith, even when his daughter was already dead. If we do not have faith in him, Jesus cannot overcome the evil that afflicts us or our loved ones.
Meditate: apply what the text says to life
Into the story of the resuscitation of a little girl, the evangelist inserts the account of the cure of a sick woman. In both cases blind faith is an indispensable condition, with no motive other than their own helplessness. In both cases, the situation is desperate. The family of the dead girl, and the woman suffering from a haemorrhage, were living without hope. The parents had lost their daughter and the poor woman had lost the savings of a lifetime. At her wit’s end, and crushed by the crowd, the woman “stole” a miracle from Jesus. Jairus pleaded insistently for a miracle, even though his daughter had already died. His helplessness led him to put himself in Jesus’ hands. His faith in Jesus was nourished by his own inability to restore his daughter’s life.
Belief in Jesus helps us to realize that the evils that afflict us are passing and will not last forever. As long as we are still alive, they may seem like a bad dream from which we will awaken, if we have complete trust in the power of Jesus. But if we have not yet had a profound experience of our own helplessness, we will not know how much we need Jesus. Will we have to wait until we are powerless against evil before we turn to him for salvation? What a terrible waste of time that would be! But at least, we know we will not be overcome by evil.
What brought both the synagogue official and the sick woman to Jesus was the awareness that they were incapable of freeing themselves from the evil that threatened them. The father could not save the life of the child to whom he had given the gift of life. The woman had spent all she had, but found no relief. The former could not save the life of his own child. The latter knew that bit by bit she was losing her life. Neither of them could see anything but death awaiting them. They went to Jesus with their anxiety and their need. The father begged publicly for a miracle. The woman was afraid to do anything other than approach him secretly. One pleaded insistently for his daughter to be saved. The other believed that it was enough to touch his garment for her to be healed. In both cases a miracle occurred. The dying child “awoke” and the woman felt herself suddenly cured.
It was not, therefore, the manner of pleading, nor the request itself, that brought about the desired healing. They asked, each in the way they knew best – one with a loud plea, the other silently. Each of them wanted to obtain what they knew they needed. They prayed because they knew they were in urgent need of what they wanted, for they knew well the gravity of the evil that threatened. Why then do we, who are disciples of Jesus, not find reason to turn to him? Is it that we are so well off that we don’t need anything from him? That we can cope so well with our ills that we do not need Jesus? We are aware of our needs and of our inability to save our own lives or the lives of others, but we have not yet resolved to come to Jesus with the faith of the man who feared for the life of his daughter, or of the woman who had lost everything she had in her search for a cure. If we do not turn to Jesus to touch him and be healed, or to plead with him to heal us, it cannot be because we are so completely healthy or so sure that we will not get sick. More likely, it is because we still do not recognise the ills that threaten us.
Although our life is gradually passing, and we know this life will end, we still do not turn to Jesus. If we do not cry out to him in our need, or seek to grab hold of him and touch his garments in silence, there is no hope of improvement in our situation. Healing was granted to those who knew they could not help themselves, and not to those who were close to Jesus but thought they had no need of him, and so did not ask for help. We should have no fear about approaching Jesus. It does not matter to him what prompts us to go in search of him, or what words we say. Even if our hands are empty and we have nothing to offer him, it is enough that we want to cling to him as our last hope. It is enough that our hearts are in anguish and we have no one else to turn to. If our ills weighed a bit more heavily upon us, we would surely turn with greater faith and greater frequency to Jesus. It may seem paradoxical, and indeed it is, but we have become comfortable with our ills, so much so that we do not bother to seek healing from Jesus. We have become so accustomed to our troubles, and so familiar with them, that we have ceased wanting to be better. We waste the opportunity given to us, as followers of Jesus, because we are not fully aware of how poorly we are, and what we stand to gain by asking him for healing for ourselves and our dear ones.
Death is all around us, and in our hearts we know with certainty that we cannot escape it. We know also the ills that surround us, even though we may try hard not to think about them. Yet it seems that we accept that we will be defeated by the evil that reigns in our world. We do not rebel against the threat of death. We do not make an effort to ask for our personal liberation. We are not concerned about the apparent victory of evil and death. We give up the struggle because we are already partly dead within. We have stopped praying because we do not believe that Jesus can save us from evil. Nevertheless, the follower of Jesus can face life with hope, and death with the certainty that it has already been overcome. “God did not create death nor does he take pleasure in the death of the living.” This is our God and this is how he wants to be for us.
How often we complain that life is not worth living, or that we have not received from it all we desire! How often we think that everything leads to death, that our need for love is greater than our capacity for loving our dear ones! We forget that we mean something, at least in the eyes of God who desired us and made us out of nothing. In God’s eyes, we are somebody. We exist as the product of his thought and the work of his hands and of his heart. The whole of our lives is a return to our beginning – God’s thought, God’s hands and heart. For that reason alone, life is worth living. We should not be surprised at difficulties, nor do we need to hide before suffering and death. God did not create death nor did he will death. The best proof we have of this is the reaction of Jesus to the father who was worried about the death of his daughter, and the woman whose life was slowly wasting away, seemingly without hope.
It is enough to have faith. We need to change the way we live our lives, and our attitude to the death we fear. Our life and our death, our incurable illnesses and unforeseen disasters, the evil we do and the evil we suffer, all acquire new meaning when seen with the eyes of God. They are a reason to turn to God and a reminder of tasks we must do. Believing in a God who does not desire death means in practice being sure that our lives and the lives of our loved ones, and indeed also the lives of our enemies, belong solely to God. It means too that any attack on life, our own life or that of others, is an attack against God, who is Lord of life and death. Our limitations and our little daily “dying”, call us back to our responsibility to try to overcome them, because they are contrary to the will of God, who did not create death and does not take pleasure in the destruction of the living. The Christian loves life because he loves God. And he loves God, because it is God who has given us the gift of life and will save us from evil and death.