(B) June 30, 2024

Wisdom 1: 13-15; 2: 23-24; 2 Corinthians
8: 7, 9, 13-15; Mark 5: 21-43

by Jude Siciliano, OP

Dear Preachers:

In desperate situations, when a loved one is dying, or we are seriously ill, we tend to put aside our usual response, or hesitancy and are willing to try anything that might help. Some people will even go overseas to a shrine like Fatima or Lourdes seeking a cure. That’s expensive but, if a person can afford it, they will try anything. That’s the situation the synagogue official and the woman with the hemorrhage find themselves in our Gospel today.

Mark frequently tells a story within a story. Which is what he does today. He begins to share the story of the Jairus, whose daughter is very ill. But he interrupts this narrative with that of a woman suffering from hemorrhage. Both are seeking help from Jesus. So, where can Jesus be found? He is among people in need.

In both stories neither Jairus, nor the woman, have a remedy. The woman had “suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors” and the child was dead when Jesus arrived. The opinion of the onlookers at Jairus’ house was, “Your daughter has died, why trouble the teacher any longer?” Still, the woman and Jairus trust in Jesus. The miracles in the gospel show Jesus has the power to heal and give life: social class, status and influence do not matter, faith does. What attracts Jesus to the woman and Jairus, is the same thing that attracts him to us – our faith.

The place of women in the society at the time seems to have been close to Jesus’ heart. Women were not allowed to approach, or speak to a rabbi. Jesus doesn’t treat women as less, but as full human beings. The woman who was healed touching Jesus’ cloak approached him to, “tell him the whole truth.” It was as if she were excusing herself for breaking through the usual borders that separated this healer from the unclean woman. Her blood issue would have rendered her unclean and anyone she touched would also have been declared unclean.

She might have wanted to sneak away after her healing, and not make public what she has done. Jesus’ response to her was simple, “Daughter your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.” She did not have to go through the rituals that would have declared her clean, free of her legal and ritual defilement. No, she is raised up by Jesus as he addresses her ... “My daughter….” We do not know her name. We do know that faith has saved her and she is a child (“daughter”) of Jesus; with the rest of us, also saved by our faith.

What fueled the woman’s faith? What gave her the courage to push through the crowd to get to Jesus and touch his cloak? After all, she was not part of his inner circle, not one of his male followers. The woman was like one of the psalmists who persist in their complaints to God; but don’t give up on God. Hers was the persistent faith of her ancestors – that faith helped her push aside fear and propriety to reach out to Jesus, her only hope. Was the woman’s faith an encouragement to Jairus, whose daughter’s condition led to her death?

The faith of the two echoes our Wisdom reading. God is not the author of death, nor takes delight in suffering. God was not testing the faith of the woman and Jairus. Rather, Jesus displays God’s will in the miracles: God wants the fullness of life for us.

Jairus was an official from the synagogue. He not only went publicly to ask Jesus’ help, but when he got to Jesus he “fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly.” What a public display by a member of an opposing party! But wouldn’t we also go to great lengths to help someone we love, no matter what others might think? Surely there were other ways Jairus could have attempted to get help for his daughter. He certainly could have afforded the best doctors. But he is desperate and Jesus has been healing people. In fact, in Mark’s gospel the healings flow quickly one after another. “If Jesus could heal others,” Jairus may have reasoned, “maybe he can heal my daughter.”

The story of the woman healed of her hemorrhage, and Jairus, whose daughter was restored to life, shows how God is present in our world in Jesus, responding to suffering, pain and death. Jesus heals, brings back to life and restores relationships. He is present to need, responding with love, empathy and compassion. And more. He shares our pain and burdens and breaking through prejudice and shattering conventions that keep us apart from one another and from society. A person in pain reaches out to him and he affirms their presence and their faith.

Mark’s story addresses how God deals with evil, pain and death. So, the story of the woman and Jairus is also our story. When we are afraid; when we face death, we can feel Jesus’ touch, as the girl felt Jesus’ hand in hers. We need to hear Jesus affirming our faith and raising us up. Listen again to the opening line from our Wisdom reading today: “God did not make death….” Jesus has shown that, in his hands, we are imperishable.

Jesus responds to desperate need with love, empathy and compassion. He shares our pain and our burdens. He boldly shatters prejudice and breaks conventions. He is not afraid to enter the place where death seems to have its way and breaks.

Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings: