THIRTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24
Psalm 30:2, 4-6, 11-13
2 Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13-15
Our God is a generous and loving God, who “did not make death,” and who does not “rejoice in the destruction of the living.” As our first reading from the Book of Wisdom points out, “God formed man to be imperishable” because God made us in His own image.” But, on account of “the envy of the devil, death entered the world,” and life was literally changed forever.
All of this would not provide much comfort were it not for the continued generosity of God who sent his only Son into the world, that we, while still perishing in our earthly existence, might enjoy eternal life with God in heaven. Our second reading from St. Paul reminds us, like it reminded the early Christian community in Corinth, of the favor shown to us “by our Lord Jesus Christ, who for our sake made himself poor though he was rich, so that we might become rich by his poverty.” It was during His brief sojourn in this world that God’s Son taught us how to live our lives, and he gave us a glimpse of Eden by exercising control over sickness and death, a power that would be dramatically displayed in His resurrection when He would triumph over sin and death.
The miracle stories relayed by the evangelists in the gospels are meant to be examples of that power, and in today’s gospel from Mark we are treated to two miracles, one sandwiched within another, which demonstrate the generosity of a loving God. Our primary, and perhaps more dramatic, miracle story concerns a man named Jairus and his sick daughter. With remarkable faith, this synagogue official approaches Jesus, breaking through the “large crowd” to ask this itinerant preacher, spoken of by so many, whether he would accompany him to the bedside of his daughter where He could “lay hands on her” so that she might get well. While Mark provides us with few details, we can sense how desperate Jairus is. He knew how “critically ill” his daughter was, and he was determined to use this encounter with Jesus to his daughter’s advantage.
Something happens on the way to the home of Jairus, for in that crowd is another who appears to be even more desperate than him. There is nothing “official” about her. We don’t even know her name. She too had heard about Jesus, and for the entire lifetime of Jairus’ daughter she was afflicted with a serious bleeding which not only “exhausted” her finances, but sapped her energy. Less bold than Jairus, she was convinced that if “she just touched Jesus’ clothing” she would get well. She immediately felt the cure “through her whole body.”
What she could never have imagined was that her touch would stop Jesus in his tracks, and when Jesus inquired about “who touched his clothing,” she was frightened and reduced to trembling. Her fears were quickly put to rest by a loving God who affectionately calls her “daughter,” confirms the cure, and wishes her the peace that Jesus wishes for so many during His ministry. This woman’s place in the pages of Scripture is brief, but this interruption of the Jairus story is profoundly impressive in it’s simplicity.
The Markan narrative continues, and Jairus no doubt became even more desperate and distraught when it is reported that his daughter has died. Jesus, no doubt, surprised Jairus when he “disregarded the report” and continued to let Jairus “bother” Him, accompanying him to his home, and assuring him that his daughter was not dead. With the little girl’s father and mother at his side, he simply tells the sick child to rise, “get up,” and she obeys, astonishing the entire family.
The gospel writer provides no further details about Jairus’ daughter and the humble woman. We would like to know how much their life was changed. Were they among the first followers of Jesus, telling others of their experience, and leading others to recognize how special this Jesus of Nazareth truly was? We surely would like to hope that their lives were changed for the better, but their story is important for us to the extent that it teaches us something about who God is, and what God expects of us. What Jesus began in his earthly ministry we are meant to continue. We are meant to bring the healing of Jesus so often recounted in the gospels to those who are wounded, to those who are sick and tired, emotionally drained, or discouraged.
San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy, in a speech delivered at the 2018 assembly of the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests meeting in Albuquerque, June 25-27, highlighted the pastoral theology of Pope Francis, reminding his listeners “that the lived experience of human sinfulness and human conversion are vital to understanding the central attribute of God in relation to us, which is mercy. It demands that moral theology proceed from the actual pastoral action of Jesus Christ, which does not first demand a change of life, but begins with an embrace of divine love, proceeds to the action of healing and only then requires a conversion of action in responsible conscience.” The witness of Jairus and the sick woman, who were not required to profess a detailed description of their faith, indicates the unconditional love that characterizes the God we worship, and which we in turn are meant to make concrete.
Pope Francis’ vision of the Church as a field hospital indicates the kind of church that we are to assist in building. It is a church that heals. He writes:
“I see clearly that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars. You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds. And you have to start from the ground up. This is the mission of the church: the church heals, it cures….the mission of the church is to heal wounds of the heart, to open doors, to free people, to say that God is good, God forgives all, God is the father.”
While not having the control over sickness and death that Jesus possessed, we, nevertheless, are called to continue his ministry of healing. We are meant to plant the seeds of hope where there is despair. We are meant to bring comfort to replace upset. Our “plenty” should supply others’ needs. As the Psalmist says we are to “change mourning into dancing,” to replace “weeping” with “rejoicing.” Like Jesus, may we be compassionate and loving, for that is what it takes to heal the wounds which afflict all people, and continue Jesus’ healing ministry.