Wednesday, 24 June 2009

13th Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year B

Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-242 Corinthians 8:7.9.13-15Mark 5:21-43

Wherever Jesus went he was sought out by individuals and crowds and no wonder - Jesus had power; power to feed the hungry, power to restore sight and hearing, power to cure the crippled, to set the demon-possessed free, power over wind and sea, power to forgive sin, and power to raise the dead. Jesus had power to set us free from the two realities which we humans most fear - suffering and death.

Today again the Gospel insists on the milling crowds. They sought him out and pressed closely round him, each eager to get close enough to secure some blessing from this astonishing Teacher and Healer.

A synagogue official desperate for his daughter’s welfare and a woman suffering a haemorrhage succeed in reaching the Lord. These two represent each one of us while the crowds represent the whole of poor, struggling, helpless humanity.

I love the way Mark describes the woman’s plight: Now there was a woman who suffered a haemorrhage for twelve years; after long and painful treatment under various doctors, she had spent all she had without being any the better for it, in fact, she was getting worse.
Each phrase of the sentence is another link in the chain binding this poor woman to her desperate situation.

Now there was a woman who suffered a haemorrhage
for twelve years;
after long
and painfulvtreatment
under various doctors,
she had spent all she had
without being any the better for it,
in fact,
she was getting worse.

Jairus, too, is in an awful predicament. He is braver than the woman and approaches Jesus directly. His daughter is about to die. Aren’t we all?

He fell at his feet 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.'

Death was never God's plan for us, and neither was its prelude, suffering. As the first reading tells us: Death was not God's doing, he takes no pleasure in the extinction of the living ... it was the devil's envy that brought death into the world ... Both suffering and death entered the world because mankind, through the temptation of the devil, turned away from God and this turning away had dire consequences, one of the worst of which was that we refuse to take responsibility for our sin. So we blame everyone except ourselves – [Adam] replied, 'It was the woman you put with me….' and [Eve] replied, 'The serpent tempted me …'. (Genesis 3:12)

And some hospital patients will say: 'Why is God doing this to me?'

We accuse God of failing us because he doesn't just simply take it all away, make it all better, fix it, which, of course, is precisely what he has done and in a way which wonderfully satisfies both mercy and justice.

Jesus took upon himself the very scourge we ourselves brought into the world through Original Sin. He took upon himself suffering and death and made them a path to eternal life for those who follow his steps. In other words, the very suffering and death which led to our ultimate destruction now leads to eternal life - but we have to believe!

This is what is so singular about Jairus and the woman with the haemorrhage – they both really believe. In fact, the power of their faith stands in stark contrast to their powerlessness over the circumstances of their lives. It is this faith which touches Jesus and moves him to grant their wishes.

The miracles of Jesus never failed to astonish the crowds and made them even more eager to be near him. For us, who read of these miracles our faith in the Lord grows too. For us they are signs, signs of what is awaiting our faith when we reach our heavenly homeland. His earthly miracles were meant precisely to teach us to believe that the same wonders would one day, unfailingly, be worked for us.

Occasionally our faith is renewed by reports of contemporary miracles at Lourdes or some other shrine. I occasionally meet sick or dying people who suffer cruel pains but who jokingly reassure me it will all be made good in heaven. One lady who lost both feet through diabetes said smilingly ‘Don’t worry, Father, I’ll get a new set when I reach heaven'.

Jesus invites us to a faith which transcends present suffering and future death. He invites us to the peace and joy of total faith in a future which is in his loving hands. No matter what we may suffer, even death, he invites us, not to fear, but to rejoice and trust in him.

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