Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (July 1, 2018)
Mark is an action reporter. His short gospel includes relatively few words of Jesus, but much action, related in vivid detail - often with the human tensions surrounding Jesus’ ministry.
Today’s gospel is a double-header of action. As we know, mark uses a technique that has come to be known as the “Markan sandwich.” He will relate an action, and then have another action contained within; he intends that the two be interpreted in relation to each other. He uses the technique here and three times later. [Chapters 6,11, and 14]
Today, the story of Jairus and his daughter are the bread-slices; the woman with the hemorrhage is the lunchmeat.
At first, Jesus seems annoyed that he was touched. But he wants to be more than a healing energy-supply. He wants to meet the person whose faith was sufficient to reach out and touch him. He wants their relationship to be personal, face-to-face.
In mark, faith must be a radical relationship of trust in God; it is actually a way of seeing, a manner of living. Mark’s Jesus does not want miracles to be a magic show. Jesus wants miracles as examples of divine compassion as a response to trust/faith.
The woman and the little girl are more alike than they are different:
- Both are women; both are nameless;
- The little girl is 12; the woman has had her hemorrhage for twelve years – the lifetime of the little girl;
- The ruler refers to the girl as “my daughter”; Jesus calls the woman “daughter.” Personal!
- Both situations regard blood. In the situation of the woman, Jesus makes blood stop flowing; in the situation of the girl, he makes the life/blood flow once more;
- In both cases, Jesus touched someone who was unclean, making himself unclean: a woman bleeding is unfit for worship in the synagogue - unclean; the leader’s daughter, a dead girl, is also unclean. Both are untouchables under the law;
- The woman comes forward in fear of overstepping. The leader of the synagogue feared offending his fellow leaders who would regularly stare contemptuously at Jesus. Fear is a common denominator in both action-stories.
Today, let’s talk about fear. Young or old, weak or strong, we all experience fear. Fear is an emotion we share with animals - as Charles Darwin showed over a century ago. If we are in extreme physical danger, fear is normal, necessary, and good. It “juices” us.
Spiritual fear is bad. Jesus told us that fear is the lack of faith. Faith is what we are called to most basically.
Fear is so universal and potentially dangerous that we would be surprised if Jesus did not address it. He did: “Fear is useless.” He said on many occasions “do not be afraid.” Both at Jesus conception and transfiguration, the angels said: “fear not.” When we put aside fear, the power of faith is able to generate new life. “Perfect love casts out all fear.” [1 JN: 4:18}
We are not talking about fear of the lord as the beginning of wisdom. As we know, this “ fear” is really not fear, but the feeling of awe and reverence in the presence of the lord. That is the beginning of wisdom.
One of our deepest fears is being rejected, being totally alone. The Christian is saved from that fear. We have the assurance of Jesus of God’s unconditional love for us; we have the assurance as a member of our faith community that we are not alone - unless, sadly, we choose to be alone. We rightly feel part of a community here; we have prayer support. We have food banks in time of need, counseling services, and especially parish friends for emotional support.
When we gather around the altar on Sunday, we celebrate and indicate that we have the active support of others who share the same vision.
A final observation. We have seen what Jesus did in today’s gospel and why he did it. I think it is significant also to see how he did it. Jesus surely did not get up in the morning and say: “what would you like to do today, guys?” We may be sure that he had an agenda that flowed from his ongoing prayer. Today’s lesson about healing shows his flexibility. Sometimes reacting is more needed than acting. Having children reminds many of you of that. This gospel reminds us all of Jesus’ flexibility and teaches us that to “live Jesus” includes “hanging loose,” maintaining a flexibility to the important needs of others.