1st July. 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Wis 1:13ff. God does not delight in the death of the living. All that he does is wholesome, and he intends us to enjoy a blessed immortality.
2 Cor 8:7ff. Paul asks his well-off Corinthians to contribute to a collection for the poor in the Church at Jerusalem.
Mk 5:21ff. Two miracles of Jesus are told in a single story: the cure of a woman with a haemorrhage, and the raising of the daughter of Jairus.
Friends of God
1. The Book of Wisdom takes up a key idea from Genesis, that we were made in the image of God (see Gen 1:27.) But whereas the Genesis account of creation applied the term to human existence as such, the Book of Wisdom confines it to a special quality of existence which causes humans to act in a God-like way which makes them “friends of God” (see Wis 7:26-27.) Living as a Friend of God means that we will act towards the world as God acts, seeing it as “good” (Gen 1:10) and therefore being concerned for its welfare rather than being involved in its exploitation. What is stressed in equating the serpent of Genesis 3 with the devil is the necessity of the avoidance of evil in one’s life if one is to be a friend of God. A link can be made from today’s first reading with the evil we are doing to the “world’s created things” in which “no fatal poison can be found” in themselves. If we continue to pollute the world we will have poisoned many of its resources for ever more. How can we then continue to be called friends of the Creator God who “takes no pleasure in the extinction of the living?”
2. Paul would be an asset to any fund-raising programme. His method is simple: first praise, then appeal and lastly threaten. But his principles are valid for all time; we have no right really to what we do not need. Today’s second reading could be used as an appeal to help the disaster areas of the world. As Gandhi said: “I suggest that we are thieves in a way. If I take anything that I do not need for my own immediate use and keep it, I thieve it from somebody else. In India we have got 3,000,000 people having to be satisfied with one meal a day, and that meal consisting of unleavened bread containing no fat in it, and a pinch of salt. You and I have no right to anything that we really have until these three million are clothed and fed better. You and I, who ought to know better, must adjust our wants in order that they may be nursed, fed and clothed.”
3. The miracle stories show Jesus healing either by touch or by a word. Both methods are present in the two miracles of today’s gospel reading but there is a certain poignancy in the touch story as it is not Jesus who consciously touches the woman but she him. The stealth of the woman with the “issue of blood” in trying to touch Jesus without anyone being aware of it was occasioned by the ignorance of those times which considered that a woman in her condition was ritually unclean and anyone she touched was also rendered unclean. The fact that she touched him does not bother Jesus. The remarkable fact of Jesus being able to break through the taboos of his time could provide the basis for a discussion of present day taboos, especially in relation to women, and what they are doing to the human race in general and the Church in particular.
The Hem Of His Garment
Some years ago, I lived in a presbytery just across the street from a doctor’s surgery. The doctor had an excellent reputation and people queued up all day long to consult him. One morning there was an urgent knock on my door. When I opened it, the caller said: “Come quickly, Father. A man has just dropped dead on the pavement outside.” Grabbing the sacred oils, I rushed out. Sure enough, a man was lying prostrate on the footpath. I anointed him conditionally, as there is a presumed interval between real and apparent death. A small group of people encircled the body. We were only a few yards from the door of the doctor’s surgery. I was struck by the cruel irony of it. Had he survived these few extra yards, his life might have been saved by the doctor. As I straightened up, I made this observation aloud to the hushed bystanders. “You have it all wrong, Father,” a woman replied. “He was just on his way out from the surgery.” Whatever the doctor’s recommendation was, he took it with him to the grave. Doctors, as they say, bury their mistakes.
In today’s gospel, the woman with the twelve-year-old haemorrhage had undergone “long and painful treatment under various doctors’, without getting better. Of course, medicine then and up to quite recently, was fairly primitive. For most of history people prayed for real miracles to cure their infirmities. In the Middle Ages, death stalked everywhere, not least in pestilence-ridden cities. War was endemic and hygiene unknown. Town and country swarmed with the deformed, the maimed, the crippled and the blind. Death ran riot throughout Europe during the horrific period of the bubonic plague, aptly called the Black Death. Nothing stood between the individual and his eternity except God. The centre of every church was its shrine containing relics of the saints. People flocked to these shrines in search of cures. Many travelled great distances to Rome, to the Holy Land, to Compostella, believing, like the woman with the haemorrhage, that it would suffice to touch an important relic to restore them to health. Compostella claimed to have such a relic, no less than the remains of St James, who had watched Christ raise the daughter of Jairus to life. One could hardly come closer to the healing power of Christ than that.
But the world has changed dramatically since then. In our own time cures have been discovered for almost every human ailment. We have all become fervent believers in the “miracles of modern medicine.” Clinics have replaced churches for the stricken. The few relics that have survived serve as embarrassing reminders of our naïve past. But was it all that naive? Christ claimed nothing else for these two miracles than the faith of the participants. “Your faith has restored you to health,” he told the woman who was cured of her haemorrhage. All that separates us from her is the depth of our faith. Even modern medicine, in spite of its extraordinary successes, is rediscovering the importance of the patient’s faith in his cure. Who knows? That man who went out the surgery door might not have stepped so abruptly into eternity, had faith in his doctor not faltered. That, like the doctor’s prescription, is a secret he took with him.
Christ, now as then, can cure our sicknesses. All he needs is our faith. Of that, Lourdes is proof, if proof were needed. God does trail his coat in our shabby little world. With a little faith we could find it; with a little courage we could touch it. “Do not be afraid,” he says to us, as he said to Jairus, “only have faith.”
Kindness and Courage
(by Pat Donnellan; from The Furrow, July 2012)
Dublin-born Australian rules footballer Jim Stynes died last March after a long battle with cancer, aged forty five. In a documentary screened shortly before his death he quoted the Dalai Lama who said: ‘If you really want to understand Life you’ve got to begin with Death’.
That is all fine but it can offer little comfort sometimes when death comes to your door. Then you are more likely to beg as Jairus did in the Gospel. He fell at the feet of Jesus 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’. When Jesus got to the home of Jairus, exactly as you would find at a wake in Ireland when someone young dies, people were ‘weeping and wailing unrestrainedly’. Then he performed a Miracle and the little girl got up at once.
In the face of untimely loss we hear it said: ‘Why did it have to happen ? Where is God now ?’ There are no easy answers but people will sometimes tell you that God is there. God is in the mouths of people who offer support saying ‘Is there anything I can do ?’ God is in the hands of neighbours who arrive at the wake laden with sandwiches and cooked ham and carrot cake. God is in the tired eyes of friends who spend hours sitting there quietly without the urge to fill every silent moment with talk.
Priests are privileged witnesses to extraordinary courage at the time of death. At a young woman’s funeral mass in Howth her father thanked everybody for their support and kindness. He finished with an old quote he remembered from his mother many years earlier. For those struggling with sickness or grief or any setback in life this might offer some comfort.
‘On life’s journey; Two things stand alone,
Kindness in another’s trouble; Courage in your own.’
First Reading: Book of Wisdom 1:13-15, 2:23-24
God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living. For he created all things so that they might exist; the generative forces of the world are wholesome, and there is no destructive poison in them, and the dominion of Hades is not on earth.
For righteousness is immortal. God created us for incorruption, and made us in the image of his own eternity, but through the devil’s envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his company experience it.
Second Reading: Second Epistle to the Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13-15
Now as you excel in everything-in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you-so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking. For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.
I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. As it is written, “The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little.”
Gospel: Mark 5:21-43 (or, shorter version: 5:21-24, 35-43)
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 haemorrhages 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 haemorrhage stopped; and she felt in er 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.