31 Jan. Tuesday of Week Four
2 Samuel 18:9ff. Absalom is executed by Joab. Instead of celebrating the victory, David mourns the death of his son.
Mark 5:21ff. Jesus cures the woman long afflicted with a haemorrhage;he raises to life the twelve year old daughter of Jairus.
Grieving and Hope
Today’s reading tells us to fix our gaze on the cloud of heavenly witnesses. The word cloud directs our attention beyond the limits of our earthly life, beyond even the veil of the Holy of Holies. The other texts for this day, from 2 Samuel, and the Gospel of Mark, waken us from our heavenly vision and abruptly bring us back to earth again. Perhaps no passage in Scripture is more poignant and more revelatory of the loving attachment between parent and child than David’s mournful words over his dead son: “My son Absalom. Oh Absalom, my son. If only I had died instead of you, Absalom, my son, my son.”
The bonds and frailty of human life appear again in the gospel account of the woman, for twelve years seeking a cure, submitting to treatments of every sort and having “exhausted her savings in the process,” and then of the twelve-year-old daughter of the synagogue official, Jairus, who in his anxety asks Jesus to come and simply lay a hand on his little daughter.
It is easy to empathise with our biblical ancestors, who even when they came to a clear acceptance of life after death, could think of this existence only in terms of a resurrection, with their body and all of their human relationships restored. Many aspects of the heavenly life either remain mysterious but the Bible still situates our future life in a resurrected body, which will continue to manifest and enjoy the bonds of friendship established on earth.
Aspects of heaven emerge in today’s readings: David does not want to see alive just any young man among the Israelites; he longs for his son. Jairus would not have simply adopted another twelve year old girl in place of his dead daughter. In the case of the woman, afflicted for twelve years with a debilitating illness, Mark provides details that reflect a very human concern. Matthew and Luke edited them out of the text for their own special reasons, yet they remain in Mark, “written for our instruction, that we might derive hope..” (Rom 15:4).
We are encouraged to consecrate our entire selves, body and soul, flesh and blood, to our love and loyalty. To such a person Jesus will say, “Talitha, koum,” arise – as he takes them by the hand. In heaven he may not say to the attendants, as he did to others in the household of Jairus, “Give her something to eat,” but then again, who knows? We may be uncertain about food in heaven, but not that each of us will live eternally as a full human person, spirit and resurrected body inseparably one.
2 Samuel 18:9-10, 14, 24-25, 30-19:3
Absalom happened to meet the servants of David. Absalom was riding on his mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a great oak. His head caught fast in the oak, and he was left hanging between heaven and earth, while the mule that was under him went on. A man saw it, and told Joab, “I saw Absalom hanging in an oak.” Joab said, “I will not waste time like this with you.” He took three spears in his hand, and thrust them into the heart of Absalom, while he was still alive in the oak.
Now David was sitting between the two gates. The sentinel went up to the roof of the gate by the wall, and when he looked up, he saw a man running alone. he sentinel shouted and told the king. The king said, “If he is alone, there are tidings in his mouth.” He kept coming, and drew near. The king said, “Turn aside, and stand here.” So he turned aside, and stood still.
It was told Joab, “The king is weeping and mourning for Absalom.” So the victory that day was turned into mourning for all the troops; for the troops heard that day, “The king is grieving for his son.” The troops stole into the city that day as soldiers steal in who are ashamed when they flee in battle.
Gospel: Mark 5:21-43
When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” So he went with him.
And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?'” He looked all around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and waiing loudly. When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha kum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.