“Moses said to YHWH, “But, never in my life have I been a man of eloquence,
either before or since you have spoken to your servant.” Ex 4:10
Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B:
Waking Up! Live Well, Live Blessed!
In Marks gospel (5:21-43) this week we meet two desperate people who took a risk on Jesus. One is Jairus "a synagogue official" whose 12 year old daughter had died and the other "a woman who had suffered from a haemorrhage for 12 years" poor and ostracised because of her condition. Both these people took a risk on the healing power of Jesus. The young girl's father, an important synagogue official, puts aside the possible official prejudices against Jesus and goes to him, even falling down on his knees before Jesus, to beg for his daughters life. Sickness and death have a way of cutting through the veneer of our self-importance and social standings. They touch us at our most vulnerable place, stripping away our illusions and reminding us that, no matter how important we are in our own or others' eyes, we are still limited and temporary here on earth. On the way to Jairus' an 'unnamed woman' in the crowd reaches out and touches Jesus' cloak and is healed. She had a need (possibly endometriosis), she saw a solution, she believed, she reached out, deed done. Jesus recognises that and asks "Who touched me?" The woman comes forward "frightened and trembling because she knew what had happened to her, she fell at his feet and told him the whole truth." Jesus recognised that she had risked possible stoning by even being in the crowd of men. I am sure he turned to her, and far from wanting to confront or condemn her, I think, he simply wanted to look into her eyes to affirm that she had indeed been healed through her faith. Her faith had conquered her fear of social consequences. Jesus says (and I para-phrase); "My Daughter, you took a risk in faith, and now you're healed and whole. Live well, lived blessed! Free of your complaint." "Live well, live blessed," were his words of praise and encouragement. Where are you or I in this story?
Now we turn to the raising to life of the 12 year old girl. Mark sandwiches the healing of the 'unnamed woman' inside that of Jairus' need to shine a light on the miracle to come. The Christian community saved this story and passed seeing more than a resuscitation in what Jesus did for the young girl because it is important and relevant for us whose lives are often touched by the death of loved ones. Can what Jesus did for the girl have meaning for us today? Our ancestors in the faith believed so. They point to the resurrection in telling this story. Jairus simply asks that his daughter be made "well" (make her better) and "live" (save her life). Both words had special meaning for the early church as they were used to indicate "salvation" and "eternal life." Our faith ancestors believed that in performing this miracle, Jesus shows that he gives "salvation" and "eternal life" to the dead. We need this faith story in a world of stories not about salvation and life but of loss and destruction through violence and addiction. Recently, I spoke with parents of an ice drug addict. They want to help their son get him off drugs, to find spiritual meaning for his life and the love and support that they have found in their faith-community. Like Jairus they want Jesus to take their sons hand and raise him from his "sleep" so that he can be "well" and "live." What Jesus says to Jairus, he says to the parents of the ice addict and to all of us "Do not fear, only believe." To have faith - which is the opposite of fear - is to have life.
There is a spiritual phenomenon described by the mystics as "waking up" or experiencing a deeper conversion. It may go like this. We get very busy with activity or we sedate ourselves too much television or social media. We give no time to cultivate an inner life until something usually something painful interrupts this deadening routine of dissatisfaction. The possibilities are many: maybe it's a moment of deep insight or perhaps someone close dies or gets very sick. Until an event like this happens we seem to be 'sleep walking.' We want "interesting," "exciting," "relevant" and "important" to make our live relevant, but we wake usually through pain from our deadly sleep. Someone has reaches out a healings hand and raises us up. Resurrection can happen, for the ice addict and for us. The crisis we experience proves to be a 'wake-up' call. To Jesus, death is as sleep to him and what he does for the girl he will awake us from our sleepiness. With faith in him, we can face our own death with courage. We live in a culture of death dealing and yet it denies death as it worships youth, health, success, and power. Death unveils these idols and exposes their false promises. It looked like it had the last word over Jesus as well but His resurrection reminders us that Jesus has the final word. We can look at life differently now that we believe our death is really a "sleep" from which Jesus will wake us.
Jesus says, "give her something to eat" as a convincing proof that the girl has returned to life? Her eating is not just a sign she has her bodily functions back. In their culture, eating in the family gave a strong sense of belonging and having life. We have life, not just as individuals, but as part of a community. The girl is given food by her family, and so she has been restored to full life. Who knows how long she had been sick and away from the family meal. When we have been "asleep" or "dead" to God because of sin, the living Christ "wakes us up" by forgiving our sins. We then restored as a living member of the faith- family the church. We can again come to the table for the faith-family meal, to take the life-giving body and blood of Christ. At this meal we put aside our superficial differences as we gather together and reach out for him. But he reaches back, takes our hand saying once more, "Time to get up, sleepy head."