July 1st 2018. Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time
Don Fabio’s reflection follows the Gospel reading . . .
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GOSPEL Mark 5:21-43
When Jesus had crossed again in the boat
to the other side,
a large crowd gathered around him, and he stayed close to the sea.
One of the synagogue officials, named Jairus, came forward.
Seeing him he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, saying,
"My daughter is at the point of death.
Please, come lay your hands on her
that she may get well and live."
He went off with him,
and a large crowd followed him and pressed upon him.
There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years.
She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors
and had spent all that she had.
Yet she was not helped but only grew worse.
She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd
and touched his cloak.
She said, "If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured."
Immediately her flow of blood dried up.
She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction.
Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him,
turned around in the crowd and asked, "Who has touched my clothes?"
But his disciples said to Jesus,
"You see how the crowd is pressing upon you,
and yet you ask, 'Who touched me?'"
And he looked around to see who had done it.
The woman, realizing what had happened to her,
approached in fear and trembling.
She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth.
He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has saved you.
Go in peace and be cured of your affliction."
While he was still speaking,
people from the synagogue official's house arrived and said,
"Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?"
Disregarding the message that was reported,
Jesus said to the synagogue official,
"Do not be afraid; just have faith."
He did not allow anyone to accompany him inside
except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James.
When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official,
he caught sight of a commotion,
people weeping and wailing loudly.
So he went in and said to them,
"Why this commotion and weeping?
The child is not dead but asleep."
And they ridiculed him.
Then he put them all out.
He took along the child's father and mother
and those who were with him
and entered the room where the child was.
He took the child by the hand and said to her,
which means, "Little girl, I say to you, arise!"
The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around.
At that they were utterly astounded.
He gave strict orders that no one should know this
and said that she should be given something to eat.
The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ
Kieran’s summary . . . There are two ill women in the Gospel, one at the point of becoming a woman, and the other whose womanhood has suffered for twelve years. How are these women going to have their lives restored? The little girl is the daughter of the head of the synagogue. Can the Old Testament norms save her now? The other woman has spent all her money on doctors. Can human science or wisdom resolve her problem? St Paul says that the Jews look for miracles whilst the Greeks search for wisdom. These are the two avenues that we tend to go down when we are seeking for salvation. Either we follow the religious instinct, with its search for miracles; or we rely on human wisdom and try to resolve things rationally. The Gospel reveals, however, that it is only when we make contact with Christ (“foolishness” for the rationalist and a “stumbling block” for the religious instinct) that we can attain authentic life. The girl is healed when her father allows Jesus to become her father by laying his healing hands upon her. The woman is healed when she makes physical contact with the Lord. How do we respond to our losses of blood, our emptiness, our crises? With religious practices that are nothing more than our own actions? With the following of solutions that are based simply on human wisdom? Only relationship with Christ our Saviour can bring true redemption!
Two women are in need of life. How are they to attain it?
This Sunday we hear the stories of two women. One is a girl of twelve years old, whilst the other is a lady of unknown age who has suffered a very personal ailment for twelve years. The girl - at the point of becoming a woman – is dying, whilst the other is not able to live her femininity because of her condition. The first reading has a most important passage from Wisdom in which we are told that God did not create death and he does not rejoice in the destruction of the living. Instead he created things so that they might exist. The first thing God calls us to do is to live! We might have many tortured decisions to make but the primary thing for us to do is to live well. We are created for incorruptibility, to endure, to have authentic life. This raises the question of the real challenge facing these two women, one very young, the other an adult.
The girl’s father is head of the synagogue. Can the norms of the old law save his daughter?
In the case of the girl, her father implores Jesus to come and lay his hands upon his daughter. But this is no ordinary father – he is the head of the synagogue. In the Hebrew world, the act of laying hands was very much an act reserved exclusively to the father. For example, in the story of Isaac and Esau we see the relevance of the imposition of hands, which is the moment of the consignment of the inheritance. In the Gospel, Jairus has a daughter who is unable to become a woman. She is twelve years of age, the age at which womanhood begins to manifest itself with the beginning of the menstrual cycle. In the Jewish world, it was an age that marked the passage to adulthood. But this little girl is not going to make it to adulthood, it seems. The father is unable to help her and he turns to Jesus. He is head of the synagogue, immersed in all of the knowledge and norms of the Old Testament, but these norms now seem sterile as he watches his daughter die. The father understands that it is Jesus who can give new life. This responsibility must pass from him to Jesus. He must open himself to a new way of doing things.
The woman has spent a fortune of human wisdom, on doctors and medical help. Can human wisdom save her?
At the same time, we hear the story of this lady who has had a haemorrhage for twelve years. The passage remarks that she has suffered much, not from the haemorrhage itself, but at the hands of many doctors! These doctors attempt to solve her problem using human wisdom, but this lady has a problem that human wisdom is unable to deal with. One can spend all the money in the world trying to resolve one’s difficulties but without effect. It is interesting to parallel this text with the passage from St Paul from 1 Corinthians: “The Jews look for miracles and the Greeks seek wisdom”. Religions tend to have a moralistic aspect to them, but this is not the approach of Christ who operates by grace. We are asked to go beyond the religious instinct, beyond righteousness in the religious sense, beyond rites and devotions that remain solely our own actions. We need the second person of the Trinity to intervene. This head of the synagogue must learn to accept that he is impotent. But we do not need to go beyond simply the religious instinct. We must also go beyond rationality. As St Paul says, the cross of Christ is foolishness to Greeks. Rationality - the wisdom of men – has not healed this woman. Rather it has ruined her materially.
Neither religious practices nor human wisdom can save us. Only contact with Jesus, our true saviour, can bring us to life
How do we respond to our losses of blood, to the emptiness that we encounter, the unexpected tribulations that come our way? Do we respond with the religious instinct, the search for miracles, the mixing of elements of different faiths, or with immature and infantile religious practices? Christ does not bring this. He brings relationship. A father who is no longer able to be a father must accept that the only true father is God. He must consign his fatherhood to Christ. And the woman must touch the Lord, come to life because she has made contact with him. Not with wisdom, not with understanding, not with projects. How often we try to base our pastoral work on sociology, on profound analyses of our problems, but we still do not arrive at life because we have not touched the Lord. We must touch his mantle, have a real experience of him. We must be in contact with his life because it is his life that heals ours. Human wisdom does not provide the solution. It is eminently useful for understanding things, but not for saving things! For salvation we must turn to our only Saviour.