13th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Fr. Simham)
Dear Friends in Christ,
The reading from the Book of Wisdom says God formed humans to be imperishable; the image of God’s own nature were humans made. So, what went wrong? Genesis spelled it out for us. Sin entered the world, and with sin, death. Humans became mortal.
Jesus comes into the World to accomplish God’s will. I must do the will of the One who sent me! That is why Jesus’ message is called Good News, Gospel. Oh Death, where is your victory? Death where is your sting? Of course we can ask those questions only after Jesus dies and rises, leaving Death vanquished.
The gospel is the account of a miracle sandwiching a miracle. Each miracle happens in response to faith. Jesus works constantly, preaching, teaching, healing. Last week, after an exhausting day, Jesus got into the boat to go to the other side of the lake. In the course of the crossing, he exerted command over the wind and the waves. Those who witnessed the moment asked, Who is this that even the wind and the waves obey him? We do not hear the account of Jesus’ driving out the legion of demons from the possessed man in the verses after the calming of the waters that lead into today’s gospel. Surely that must have been an exhausting encounter, too. This Sunday’s gospel begins with Jesus getting back into the boat and crossing the lake once more.
We meet Jairus, a grief-stricken synagogue official, a person of position. He humbles himself at Jesus’ feet and pleads for Jesus to come to his home and save his 12-year-old daughter who is near death. Immediately Jesus sets out for Jairus’ home. And the crowds follow and press upon him.
The focus shifts. A woman who has suffered a hemorrhage for 12 years, as long as Jairus’ daughter has been alive, a woman who has exhausted her savings with abusive doctors, the woman approaches Jesus convinced that if she just touches the hem of his clothes, she will be cured. The poor woman would know what it means to be shunned. Because she is hemorrhaging, anyone who came in contact with her would incur ritual impurity. The woman has been living a miserable existence all these years and no one pays heed to her. She has heard Jesus; or she has heard about him. In any event, she believes. Hoping against hope that no one will notice her now and stop her, she stoops down, reaches out, and touches Jesus’ cloak. In an instant her pain leaves her as her hemorrhage dries up. She is alive and well again.
Hear what Jesus does. The translation we hear softens his reaction. Closer to the meaning would be that Jesus whirled about as he asked, Who touched me? The question does not rise out of a fear of contamination. After all, Jesus has touched lepers. The question seems silly to those nearest him. Who touched you with all these people jostling you? They all had touched him. But someone touched him with faith, and power went out of him.
The woman, fearing the worst, afraid that she would be excoriated for her effrontery, approaches Jesus and admits what she has done. He calls her Daughter, and acknowledges that her faith has been rewarded. Now we see the difference between crowds that flock around Jesus out of curiosity, and disciples who believe. The woman’s response is what Jesus longs for from the rest. She goes home in peace.
There is no greater challenge to faith than death. Immediately upon the heels of the woman’s miracle comes news that Jairus’ daughter has died. How long did Jairus’ and Jesus’ eyes lock in Jairus’ shocked silence? How long was the moment Jairus had to decide, to hope against hope. Jesus challenges Jairus to hold on to faith and the promise. Do not be afraid’ just have faith. We know that what follows is a significant moment – similar to the Transfiguration – because only Peter, James, and John are allowed to witness what happens after Jesus dismisses the professional mourners and quiets the din. Only the three, along with the girl’s mother and father, are in the room when Jesus touches the body, takes the girl by the hand and says: Talitha koum! Little girl, arise! Do not miss that it is Jesus who commands and Death departs, obeying just as the wind and the waves had obeyed. Again, notice the response of the witnesses – utter astonishment. That is fine as far as it goes. But it is not the same thing as faith. That is why Jesus orders them not to tell anyone what they had seen, reflecting the orders he gave Peter, James, and John on the way down the mountain after the Transfiguration. Do not tell anyone about this until you understand the meaning. You will not understand the meaning until the Son of Man has risen from the dead. Jesus told them to give the little girl something to eat. That will prove that she is alive. Jesus will ask in an early post-Resurrection appearance, Have you anything to eat?
Two miracles. The woman who suffered for 12 years, but believed in Jesus’ power. The 12-year-old girl whose parents’ faith elicited from Jesus, Talitha koum. Many who grieve the loss of loved ones in these times of violence and pandemic need to hear this gospel. Their faith has been shattered; but they struggle and continue to believe. As this gospel and the homily wash over them, may their faith be strengthened as they are supported in faith by the faith in the Assembly. We are one family of God, the Body of Christ, the Church.
Sincerely yours in the Risen Christ,