13th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 28th June 2015

"I will praise You, Lord, You have rescued me."

Scripture 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.

REFLECTION

A few days ago as I entered the Redemptorist Church in Limerick to take part in the Solemn Novena to Our Lady, I met a neighbour.
I said to her, “Good morning, Liz!. Fancy seeing you here at this early hour.”
She replied, “Ditto.” And she added, “But, then, we all have things to ask for and a lot more to say thanks for.”
As I prayed with the Liturgy of the Word for today’s Mass, her words came back.
In the extract from St Mark that we read today, we meet a Congregation, not unlike our average Parish Sunday Congregation.
Jesus was there first, and then the crowd gathered. What drew them? What draws us to come to Mass on a Sunday morning?
The crowd in Mark’s account had different expectations – some were curious; some wanted to see for themselves; some, perhaps, a few believed in Jesus. How many were hoping for a miracle? How many knew their need for a miracle or for some gift from Jesus?

There was one lady who knew her need and believed she would receive.

Then Jairus, the Synagogue Official arrived and placed His request for his child. Jairus asked and Jesus responded, He went with him. The crowd followed. One woman in the crowd had heard about Jesus, and what she heard gave her the grace to believe that He would cure her. “If I can touch even His clothes, I shall be well again”
How does my “hearing” about Jesus develop my faith in Him? How do I listen to my own story and to that of others, and to the Jesus’ story?
As I watched this woman make her way “through the crowd” I thought of the words of the First Reading from the Book of Wisdom, “To be – for this He created all.” He made us to be alive; to be aware.
This woman was alive. She had a problem. She had tried various solutions, but, to no avail. She did’nt give up. “If I can touch His clothes I shall be well again.” She made her way to Jesus. A very important aspect in our Christian living is expectation – waiting and watching and trying as we ask for the Lord’s help.
We have two contrasting approaches to Jesus in this Gospel account. We have the strong pleading of Jairus and the shy, tentative approach of the woman. Jesus is attentive to both. Both persisted in their plea.

We all have a lot of things to ask for, and a lot more to say thanks for.
In the Response to the Psalm we pray, “I will praise You, Lord, You have rescued me.” Maybe we need to say, You have healed me. You have blessed me. You have heard me.

Could today’s invitation be expressed in the Second Reading from Corinthians, “Remember how generous the Lord Jesus was.”
God is very good to me! He hears my prayer and He answers me. Thank You, God.

INTRODUCTION TO LECTIO DIVINA

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.

LECTIO DIVINA

I. 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.

II. 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.

PRAYER

Lord God,
since by the adoption of grace
you have made us children of light,
do not let false doctrine darken our minds,
but grant that your light may shine within us
and we may always live in the brightness of truth.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

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