13th Sunday in Ordinary Time B – June 30, 2024

 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time B – June 30, 2024

Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24; 2 Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13-15; Mark 5:21-43

 

Theme: How We Should Regard Jesus When Facing Our Own Suffering: Jesus Has Divine Power of Life Over Death

Since last Sunday, the Gospel readings have moved from Jesus’ teaching in words (a series of parables) into deeds (a series of miracles). Last Sunday, we heard the miracle of the Calming of a Storm at Sea, the first of the four miracles in this series. Through that miracle, Mark demonstrated Jesus’ power over the forces of nature. Linking that Gospel to the story of Job, which we heard in the first reading of the same Mass, we saw that Jesus shares this power over the forces of nature with God. The lectionary skipped the second miracle (the Healing of the Gerasene Demoniac [5:1-20].) So, today, we read the last two joined miracles in the Gospel. Jesus healed a woman with a hemorrhage and resuscitated Jairus’s daughter. Both miracles happened with physical contact. The woman touched Jesus' clothes and felt healed. Jesus took the girl by the hand and restored her life. The sacred writer of our first reading had in mind a spiritual death when he said, “By the envy of the devil, death entered the world.” This spiritual death occurs when our personal relationship with God is broken through sins. Hence, the miracle that restores our spiritual lives is called “repentance.” In our second reading, Saint Paul exhorts the Corinthian believers to be charitable to one another, both materially and spiritually. Our spiritual and physical lives will be restored when we touch Jesus through our generosity to our fellow humans and when we let Jesus touch us through the sacraments of reconciliation and Eucharist. Jesus has the divine power of life over death.

The Gospel passage today concludes the section of four miracle stories (4:35 – 5:43). It is preceded by the miracle story of the healing of the Gerasene Demoniac (5:1-20) and followed by the story about Jesus’ rejection at Nazareth (6:1-6), which opens a new section. As part of the series of four miracles, Mark intends to teach his audience how to regard Jesus when facing their own suffering. With the miracle story of the calming of a storm at Sea we heard last Sunday, Mark taught them to regard Jesus as the one who has the divine power over the forces of nature. Through the two miracles we heard today, Mark called his audience to regard Jesus as the one who has the divine power of life over death.

Our Gospel text is a miracle narrative with a unique structure. Mark presents two miracle stories in intercalation, a literary technique where a story is inserted within another story. The narrator begins with the first part of the story of the healing of Jairus’s daughter. Then, he intercalates it with the story of the healing of the woman with a Hemorrhage. Finally, he concludes the pericope with the last part of the healing of Jairus’s daughter. This narrative structure helps us better understand the sequence of events and the significance of each miracle.

In 4:35, Jesus and his disciples crossed the Galilee sea to the region of Decapolis in the Gerasenes, a Gentile territory. The first miracle story (the calming of a storm at Sea ) happened while sailing, and the second miracle (the healing of the Gerasene demoniac) took place in this pagan territory. In our text, the narrator tells us that Jesus crossed back to the other side and returned to Jewish territory in Galilee. A very large crowd gathered around him. Jairus, one of the Synagogue officials, came to him, fell at his feet, and interceded for the hilling of his daughter, who was at the point of death. He prayed to Jesus to lay his hands on her so that she would get well and live. Jesus heard his prayer. He went to Jairus’ house, and a large crowd followed him.

On their way to Jairus’ home, Mark interposes a different story: the healing of a woman who had been afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years. The narrator tells us that this woman had suffered greatly as she spent all her money on doctors without getting healed. The woman had information about Jesus. And now, seeing Jesus passing by, despite the large crowd and her health condition, she managed to touch Jesus’ clothes since she believed that she would get healed by doing so. Effectively, her flow of blood dried up. She felt she was healed, and Jesus felt the power had gone out from him. Jesus asked the crowd to find out who touched his clothes, but his disciples ridiculed him. The woman showed up, fell down before Jesus, and confessed that it was she who touched Jesus’ clothing. Jesus praised her faith, sent her away, and declared her permanently healed.

The last part of our Gospel text resumes the story of the healing of Jairus’ daughter. People from Jairus’ house reported to the Synagogue official Jairus the death of his daughter and asked him not to bother Jesus anymore since her daughter died already. However, Jesus called Jairus not to be afraid but to keep his faith. Upon entering Jairus’ house, accompanied by Peter, James, and John, Jesus invited the weeping and wailing people there to stop because the child was not dead but sleeping. But the people ridiculed him in the same manner the disciples had ridiculed him in the scene of the woman with a hemorrhage. Jesus resuscitated the child using physical touch and words: “He took the child by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!” (v. 41).       

Let us analyze these two miracles simultaneously to learn what Mark and our Holy Mother Church try to teach us today. On the one hand, the official approached Jesus and prayed to him for the healing of his daughter. On the other hand, the woman with a hemorrhage approached Jesus for her own healing. Jairus fell at Jesus’s feet (v. 22), and the woman too fell down before Jesus (v. 33). The reason why Jairus fell down before Jesus was to make his request, but the reason the woman was to tell Jesus about her healing. This part teaches us to adopt the two prayers from the woman and Jairus. In our prayer to God, we intercede for ourselves and others; we kneel before Jesus. Knelling is the position of adoration, humility, and praise. We kneel before Jesus at the beginning of the prayer to request and at the end to adore our Lord, praise him, and express our gratitude for all he does for us.  

For the healing to occur, on the one hand, the woman went to meet Jesus where he was, and on the other hand, Jairus invited Jesus to go to his house. Together, they walked to Jairus’ home, where Jesus did not only meet Jairus’ daughter but also other people who were weeping and mourning there. These two movements, going to Jesus and taking Jesus home, are what we do in the liturgy of the Mass. We come to Church to meet Jesus, and at the end of the Mass, we take him to our homes to bless those who did not have a chance to attend Mass. In the past, many Christians had a custom to go to the prisons, hospitals, nursing homes, and houses of relatives and friends right after Sunday Masses to visit them and bless them with Jesus they had encountered at Mass. This is a good custom that we should continue doing.

 Jairus pleaded with Jesus to lay his hands on his daughter, and once in his house, Jesus took the child by the hand (physical touch); the woman managed to touch Jesus' clothes (also physical touch). Jesus continues to touch our souls through the Scriptures and the Holy Communion. Likewise, we touch him when we read the Bible and receive his Body and Blood. We also touch Jesus when we visit and help our brothers and sisters in need. The Eucharistic celebration is the mystical encounter with our Lord during which different miracles occur when he touches us and we touch him.

 When he felt the power had gone out of him, Jesus asked a question: “Who has touched my clothes?” because of his question, his disciples ridiculed him (vv. 30-31). The same, before he was about to use his power to raise the girl, he asked the people in Jairus's house: “Why this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep.” Because of his question, these people too ridiculed him (vv. 39-40). God is Spirit. In prayer, we transcend our human nature and use our spiritual state to dialogue with our Lord. When we do not allow our souls to enter this spiritual conversation with God, what our Lord tells us will not make sense. The disciples and people in Jairus’ house were not at a spiritual level, but human instead, so they found Jesus’ words and questions ridiculing. In our prayers, we must allow our souls to enter the mystical conversation with the Lord.

The news of Jairus’s daughter's death could discourage Jairus from pursuing his journey of faith. Likewise, the large crowd and the woman's health condition could prevent this woman from fulfilling her goal of touching Jesus’ clothing. Jairus listened and obeyed Jesus’ Word: “ Do not be afraid; just have faith.” Regarding the woman's faith, Mark tells us that “She had heard about Jesus…” (v. 27). Also, she listened to Jesus who spoke in her heart, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.” (V. 28). Suffering, pains, illnesses, and losses of our loved ones are part of our human lives. This part of the Gospel teaches us not to let our trials obstruct our faith journey. Instead, we must always listen to Jesus, who speaks to us in the Bible and our hearts.  

The narration features two females: an afflicted woman with a hemorrhage for twelve years and a twelve-year-old girl. The latter died clinically, and the first died religiously and socially, as she was considered unclean because of her blood flow. Jesus brought both of them back to life. Mark teaches us that Jesus has the divine power of life over death. When we are in a good relationship with Jesus, even if we die, we will have eternal life in heaven. When sins cause spiritual death by separating us from God, Jesus brings us to life by forgiving our sins through the sacrament of confession. This is what our first reading teaches us.

Our first reading is from the Book of Wisdom, written by an anonymous author to encourage diaspora Jews to stand firm in their Jewish tradition and faith. Our passage comes from the Book's first part, which focuses on righteousness and immortality. The narrator begins our passage by affirming that God did not make death, and he does not rejoice in the destruction of the living (1:13). He tells his fellow diaspora Jews, including all of us, that righteousness is undying (1:15). He means immortality of the soul is God’s gift to the righteous. God created us in the image of his nature, meaning imperishable (2:23). Death is the consequence of sins brought by the devil (2:24). The sacred author of our first reading contrasts death with life. When we ally with God through a good relationship, we have life. However, when we ally with the devil by sin, we experience death.

When we experience death through our sins, Jesus did not abandon us. He sacrificed his life on the cross to restore our lives. In our second reading, Saint Paul reminds the Corinthian believers and us of this gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ: “For [our] sake, Jesus became poor although he was rich so that by his poverty [we] might become rich” (2 Cor 8:9). May the liturgy of this Mass restore our physical and spiritual lives Amen.

Rev. Leon Ngandu, SVD 

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