TODAY’S FIRST READING (Wis 1:13-15, 2:23-24)
God did not make death,Wis 1:13, 2:24
nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living.
But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world,
and they who belong to his company experience it.
A great pro-life message from the aptly titled Book of Wisdom. God made man to live in harmony with Himself and with others. Through the temptation of the devil to pride, our first parents fell (Gen 3) and we inherited the effects of their decision.
Well, clearly, Satan is still at work today. And “his company” is working overtime to destroy innocent life. Make no mistake, our culture of death is the work of the Evil One with plenty of willing associates on this planet in his organization.
He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks in character, because he is a liar and the father of lies.Jn 8:44b
This liar and murderer has always envied God and His human creation and he uses some of these same humans to advance his cause. Beelzebub is laughing at the defiance of human beings, especially those who call themselves Christians, toward God. But remember,
it is appointed that human beings die once, and after this the judgmentHeb 9:27
TODAY’S GOSPEL (Mk 5:21-43)
The passage proclaimed today about the raising of Jairus’ daughter “interrupted” by the healing of the woman with the flow of blood is so rich it is hard to know where to begin. I will offer some thoughts, but I encourage you to dive in yourself and take a slow stroll through these verdant pastures (some Bible study aids if you’d like).
Note that Jairus is mentioned by name. I always take notice when a figure appearing only in one episode in Scripture is actually named. For one, this lends authenticity to the account — here is someone that the first hearers of the Gospel could have spoken to directly or, if he was no longer living then, to his family or acquaintances (and most scholars believe that Mark was the first Gospel account to be written, although there is growing dispute over this). As a “synagogue official” he had status and was prominent, at least in his town (likely Capernaum, additionally significant as Jesus’ base of operations during His early public ministry, which was on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, across from Gerasa from where Jesus just came [per Mt 9:1]).
Mary Healy makes another point about Jairus: “This man’s humble posture…is remarkable in the view of the fact that Jesus’ last visit to a synagogue ended with a plot to kill him (Mark 3:6)” (The Gospel of Mark [Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture] [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008], 105). Not caring what anyone thinks, he prostrates himself before this prominent healer, desperate to do anything to save his daughter who is at the point of death.
Jesus’ interrupts this episode to deal with a woman with a hemorrhage. As he walks with Jairus and the rest of the crowd, this long-suffering lady touches Jesus’ clothing (her ritual impurity is eliminated by Jesus’ purity) which immediately has Jesus looking around for who did it. She (notice she goes unnamed – maybe because she represents all of us?; later legend has her as the Veronica of the Stations of the Cross) comes forward, “in fear and trembling,” now healed. Why does Jesus look for her? I believe because He needed to deliver a message: “Daughter, your faith has saved you.” This message was for her benefit, to be sure, but it was also for the entire crowd and for everyone who has ever heard or read this passage. It is faith that saves. It is not a magic trick that causes healing and He does not due it to impress. Remember how Jesus could not heal in His hometown: “And he did not work many mighty deeds there because of their lack of faith” (Mt 13:58)? Fear and trembling are out; faith is in. Then, like her, we can “go in peace.”
Remember “daughter” and note the length of her illness: twelve years.
Now, back to our regularly scheduled program. Immediately after this healing, news comes that the little girl has died. Everyone is ready to give up, but not Jesus. He disregards the message and again speaks of having faith. I can’t help but be reminded of the Lazarus story (Jn 11:1-44). There, upon hearing of His friend’s serious illness, Jesus purposely delays His return and then upon arriving at Lazarus’s tomb says, “I am glad for you that I was not there, that you may believe” (v. 15). Here, also, we have Jesus demanding faith when apparently all others have given up. He then encounters not mere skepticism, but actually ridicule, for speaking of the girl’s condition as “sleeping.” He puts all the doubters out and then raises up the girl (of twelve). Then He tells them to give her something to eat (she is well and she is not a ghost!) and to not let anyone know of this — I wonder how that turned out.
As an aside, I love the imagery of Jesus “pu[ting] them all out.” Do you ever wonder what that looked like? Was it as stern verbal rebuke from our Lord? Maybe just a look? Or opening the door and waving them out? Could it have been a gentle, but firm, escort? If there was anytime that the Messiah was annoyed, and He had plenty of situations in which that could have been the case, it was this one. I’ll bet the room emptied out in short order. (Although a good point is made by Michael Pakaluk: “It is not clear they even knew who he was. A man walks in, apparently without good information, and says something which seems foolish [The Memoirs of St. Peter (Washington, D.C.: Regnery Gateway, 2019), 93]. Maybe I should be more sympathetic.
Now, regarding “daughter” coming up in both situations, this certainly serves to tie the two stories together (Leroy Huizenga writes, “Right when Jesus is speaking words of benediction to the woman, calling her “daughter,” the group informs Jairus his daughter is dead, and the reader is to imagine the two utterances of “daughter” occurring at the exact same time. [Loosing the Lion (Steubenville, OH: Emmaus Road, 2017],152), just as the “twelve years” does (more on that next). Our deacon said at Mass today that the scene with the woman was the only time Jesus referred to someone as “daughter.” Then there is the daughter of Jairus. It seems to me that this clearly shows that, at any age, both of the afflicted were children of God — He cares for us from the moment we come into existence. He hears our prayers and the intercessory prayers of our loved ones. No one, regardless of age or circumstance, escapes the Almighty’s loving care and compassion. All may ask for healing, all may receive healing.
As for the twelve years brought to our attention in both cases, this also serves to tie the stores together. (Here, I will again remind readers of the value of searching out instances of a number throughout Scripture to potentially gain additional insights into the passage in question.) The twelve year mark brings a drastic change in both lives. For one, a return to full health, and for the other, at that precise moment, an early death. What one other significant event has ties with twelve years in all of the Bible? The only insight we have into Jesus’ formative years: the finding in the Temple. Might Jesus have been thinking about His own parents’ concern and worry for His well-being just as Jairus fervently expressed for his little girl? Might that not have pulled at His heartstrings all the more? What joy He must have felt when the girl arose and fell into the arms of her father! I can certainly imagine Jesus giving a big hug to His parents as they left the Temple together as a family.
Let me close with these words, again from Huizenga (page 155):
The two stories are tied tightly together, then. Both Jairus and the woman are desperate, coming to Jesus in the face of impossible odds, throwing themselves at his feet. The sandwiching of these stories involves deep dramatic effect, but Mark has done more. He has stitched the stories together. Each female is called “daughter.” Each has ritual impurity: menstrual impurity in one case, corpse impurity in the other. The girl is twelve years old, and the woman has suffered twelve years. Might the same demon be at the root of the suffering of each? And might “twelve” — the number of the Apostles — suggest that the Church is the mediator of healing? And both women are restored to fullness of life by Jesus’s power, which conquers here the power or death and its demonic source, the devil.
- For wonderful insights into this passage, I urge you to listen to Bp Barron’s homily. His exposition of the “interruption” and his insightful speculation as to the disposition of both main characters is not to be missed.
- For an interesting tie-in to today’s cultural deterioration, read the great Fr Paul Scalia’s reflection.
TURBULENCE IN THE CHURCH IN AMERICA
Allow a bit of a segue here, please. The hemorrhaging “woman actually touched Jesus…not only with her hand but with the faith she bore in her heart….When we receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, we obtain this physical contact through the sacramental species. We too need to enliven our faith if these encounters with our Lord are to redound to our salvation” (The Navarre Bible: St Mark [Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1992], 102).
A fine piece by the intellectual Robert Royal first encouraging, then discouraging, on what stands to happen in our land as a result of the bishops’ forthcoming document on the Eucharist.
Pray fervently for the bishops. As for me, if there is one thing I would tell them regarding this matter (although it applies to all their decisions impacting their flock): Remember, one day you will be standing alone in front of the Lord to give an account. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
Bishops, with priests as co-workers, have as their first task “to preach the Gospel of God to all men,” in keeping with the Lord’s command. They are “heralds of faith, who draw new disciples to Christ; they are authentic teachers” of the apostolic faith “endowed with the authority of Christ.”CCC 888
And what does Scripture say about teachers?
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you realize that we will be judged more strictly,James 3:1
WOULDN’T IT BE NICE
I’ve been on a bit of a Beach Boys kick since watching a short interview with Brian Wilson. A version of Wouldn’t It Be Nice, a cappella, allows the group’s talent to shine even more brightly. Brian Wilson wrote this at age 23 (the members ages ranged from 19 to 25 here but they actually put out their first single five years earlier!). How can it not brighten one’s day?