Lectio Divina: 13th Sunday of ordinary time (B)
Jesus heals two women
To conquer the power of death and
open a new way to God
1. Opening prayer
Lord Jesus, send Your Spirit to help us to read the Scriptures with the same mind that You read them to the disciples on the way to Emmaus. In the light of the Word, written in the Bible, You helped them to discover the presence of God in the disturbing events of Your sentence and death.
Thus, the cross that seemed to be the end of all hope became for them the source of life and of resurrection.
Create in us silence so that we may listen to Your voice in Creation and in the Scriptures, in events and in people, and above all, in the poor and suffering. May Your word guide us so that we too, like the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, may experience the force of Your resurrection and witness to others that You are alive in our midst as source of fraternity, justice and peace. We ask this of You, Jesus, son of Mary, who revealed to us the Father and sent us Your Spirit. Amen.
a) A key to the reading:
In this 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time, the Church asks us to meditate on two of Jesus’ miracles worked for two women. The first miracle is worked for a woman considered impure because she suffered from a hemorrhage for twelve years. The second is worked for a twelve-year-old girl who has just died. According to the thinking of the time, any person who touched blood or a dead body was considered impure. Blood and death were factors that excluded people. These two women were marginalized, excluded from taking part in the community. Today we also have categories of people who are excluded, or who feel excluded, from taking part in the Christian community. What are some factors today that cause people to be excluded, both from the Church and from society?
Mark describes the two miracles quite vividly. The text is long. As you read, think as if you are among the crowd around Jesus on the way to Jairus’ house. As you walk in silence, try to pay attention to the many attitudes of the people involved in the miracles: Jairus, the girl’s father, the crowd, the woman suffering from the hemorrhage, the disciples and the girl. Ask yourself what your attitude would be.
b) A division of the text as a help to the reading:
Mark 5:21-24: The point of departure: Jairus loses his daughter. Jesus goes with him and the crowd follows
Mark 5:25-26: The situation of the woman suffering from an irregular hemorrhage
Mark 5:27-28: The woman’s reasoning in the presence of Jesus
Mark 5:29: The woman succeeds in what she wants and is healed
Mark 5:30-32: The reaction of Jesus and of the disciples
Mark 5:33-34: The conversation between Jesus and the woman healed because of her faith
Mark 5:35-36: The conversation between Jesus and Jairus
Mark 5:37-40: The arrival at Jairus’ house and the reaction of the crowd
Mark 5:41-43: The raising of the girl back to life
c) The text:
When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered around him, and he stayed close to the sea. One of the synagogue officials, named Jairus, came forward. Seeing him he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, saying, "My daughter is at the point of death. Please, come lay your hands on her that she may get well and live." He went off with him, and a large crowd followed him and pressed upon him. There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years. She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors and had spent all that she had. Yet she was not helped but only grew worse. She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak. She said, "If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured." Immediately her flow of blood dried up. She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction. Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd and asked, "Who has touched my clothes?" But his disciples said to Jesus, "You see how the crowd is pressing upon you, and yet you ask, 'Who touched me?'" And he looked around to see who had done it. The woman, realizing what had happened to her, approached in fear and trembling. She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth. He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction." While he was still speaking, people from the synagogue official's house arrived and said, "Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?" Disregarding the message that was reported, Jesus said to the synagogue official, "Do not be afraid; just have faith." He did not allow anyone to accompany him inside except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official, he caught sight of a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. So he went in and said to them, "Why this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep." And they ridiculed him. Then he put them all out. He took along the child's father and mother and those who were with him and entered the room where the child was. He took the child by the hand and said to her, "Talitha koum," which means, "Little girl, I say to you, arise!" The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around. At that they were utterly astounded. He gave strict orders that no one should know this and said that she should be given something to eat.
3. A moment of prayerful silence
that the Word of God may penetrate and enlighten our life.
4. Some questions
to help us in our personal reflection.
a) What pleased you or touched you most in this text? Why?
b) What is the thinking of the woman who touched Jesus? What gives her the strength to touch Him?
c) Why were the disciples unable to understand what was going on between Jesus and the crowd?
d) Who was Jairus? What is Jesus’ attitude towards Jairus, his wife, and his daughter?
e) A woman is healed and integrated into the life of the community. A girl is raised from her deathbed. What do these actions of Jesus teach us today for our life within the family and in community?
5. For those who wish to go deeper into the theme
a) The context of yesterday and of today:
i) Throughout his Gospel, Mark goes on giving information concerning the person of Jesus. He shows how the mystery of the Kingdom is mirrored in the power that Jesus exercises on behalf of His disciples, of the crowd and above all, on behalf of those excluded and marginalized. However, the more this power is manifested, the less the disciples comprehend, and it is clear that they must change their ideas concerning the Messiah. Otherwise, their incomprehension will keep getting worse, and they run the risk of growing apart from Jesus.
ii) In the 70’s, the time when Mark was writing his Gospel, there was a very great tension within the Christian communities between the converted Jews and the converted pagans. Some Jews, especially those who had belonged to the group of Pharisees, continued to remain faithful to the observance of the laws on purity as found in their millennia-old culture, and thus, found it difficult to live with the converted pagans because they thought that the pagans lived in a state of impurity. The story of the two miracles worked by Jesus for the two women was of great help in overcoming old taboos.
b) A commentary on the text:
Mark 5:21-24: The point of departure: Jairus loses his daughter. Jesus goes with him and the crowd follows.
The crowd joins Jesus who has just come across from the other side of the lake. Jairus, head of the synagogue, asks Jesus’ help for his daughter who is dying. Jesus goes with him and the crowd follows, pushing Him on every side because they all want to be close to Jesus when He is about to work a miracle. This is the point of departure of the following two episodes: the healing of the woman suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years and the raising of the twelve year old girl.
Mark 5:25-26. The situation of the woman suffering from an irregular hemorrhage
Twelve years of hemorrhaging! For this reason, the woman was excluded. In those times, blood made a person impure as well as anyone who touched that person. Mark says that the woman had spent all of her money on doctors, but instead of getting better, was worse. An unsolvable situation!
Mark 5:27-28. The woman’s reasoning in the presence of Jesus
She had heard about Jesus. A new hope grew in her heart. She said to herself: “If I can just touch His clothes, I shall be saved.” The catechism of those days said, “If I just touch His clothes, He shall become impure.” The woman thinks the exact opposite, both in terms of the rules of the time as well as in the relationship of Jesus to these rules. This is a sign of great courage. It is also a sign that woman did not quite agree with what the authorities taught. The woman goes into the middle of the crowd that was pushing Jesus on all sides and, almost secretly, succeeds in touching Jesus.
Mark 5:29: The woman succeeds in getting what she wants and is healed
At that very moment she feels her body healed. To this day, in Palestine, on a bend in the road near the lake of Galilee and close to Capernaum, we can read this inscription on a stone: “Here, in this place, the woman thought to be impure but full of faith, touched Jesus and was healed!”
Mark 5:30-32. The reaction of Jesus and of His disciples
Jesus, too, felt power coming out of Him: “Who has touched Me?” The disciples react: “You see how the crowd is pressing around You; how can You ask, ‘Who touched Me?’ ” Here again we have a little disagreement between Jesus and His disciples. Jesus had a sensitivity not seen by the disciples. They react like everyone else and do not understand Jesus’ different reaction, but Jesus does not give up and goes on asking.
Mark 5:33-34. The conversation between Jesus and the woman healed because of her faith
The woman realizes that she has been found out. This is a difficult and dangerous moment for her. According to the belief of those days, someone impure, who like this woman went among the crowd, would contaminate all who touched her. Such a person made everyone impure before God (Lev 15:19-30). The punishment for this was to be taken aside and stoned. In spite of this, the woman has the courage to do what she did. But the woman, fearful and trembling, falls at His feet and tells Him the truth. Jesus then pronounces His final judgment: “My daughter…your faith has restored you to health; go in peace and be free of your complaint!” Beautiful and very human words! By saying “My daughter” Jesus welcomes the woman into the new family, into the community growing around Him. What she thought came to pass. Jesus recognizes that without this woman’s faith He could not have worked the miracle.
Mark 5:35-36. The conversation between Jesus and Jairus
Just at that moment emissaries from Jairus’ house arrive to tell Him that his daughter is dead. There is no need to trouble Jesus further. For them, death was the great frontier and Jesus could not cross it! Jesus listens, looks at Jairus, and encourages him to be like the woman, to believe that faith can work when a person believes. Jesus says to him, “Do not be afraid; only have faith!”
Mark 5:37-40. Jesus goes to Jairus’ house and the reaction of the crowd
Jesus goes apart from the crowd and allows only some of His disciples to go with Him. When they arrive at Jairus’ house, He sees people weeping over the death of the girl. He says, “The child is not dead but asleep.” The people in the house laugh. They know when someone is asleep and when someone is dead. It is the laughter of Abraham and Sara, that is, the laughter of those who cannot believe that “nothing is impossible for God!” (Jn 17:17; 18:12-14; Lk 1:37). For them also, death is an obstacle that cannot be overcome. Jesus’ words carry a much deeper meaning. In Mark’s time, the situation of the community seemed to be one of death. They had to hear the words, “You are not dead! You are asleep! Wake up!” Jesus takes no notice of the laughter and enters the room where we find the Himself, the child, the three disciples and the father of the child.
Mark 5:41-43. The raising of the child
Jesus takes the child by her hand and says, “Talitha kum!” And the child gets up. Much shouting! Jesus stays calm and asks that food be brought to the child. The healing of two women: one twelve-year old and one who suffered from hemorrhage and had been excluded for twelve years! Death begins the exclusion of the girl at the age of twelve because that is when she begins menstruating. Jesus has greater power and raises her: “Get up!”
c) Further information: Women in the Gospels
In New Testament times, women were marginalized for the simple fact that they were women (cf. Lev 15:19-27; 12:1-5). Women did not take part in the public life of the synagogue and they could not be witnesses. That is why many women put up resistance to such exclusion. Even in Ezra’s time, when the marginalization of women was greater, (cf. Ezra 9:1-2;10:2-3), resistance grew, as in the cases of Judith, Esther, Ruth, Naomi, Susannah, the Shulamite woman and others. This resistance is echoed in, and welcomed by, Jesus. Here are some examples of non-conformity and the resistance of women in daily life and Jesus’ acceptance of them:
The prostitute has the courage to challenge the laws of society and religion. She enters the house of a Pharisee to meet Jesus. When she meets Him, she meets love and forgiveness and is defended against the Pharisees. The woman bent double does not even hear the shouts of the chief of the synagogue. She wants to be healed, even though it is the Sabbath. Jesus welcomes her as a daughter and defends her against the chief of the synagogue (Lk 13:10-17). The woman who was considered impure because she was losing blood has the courage to go into the middle of the crowd and to think just the opposite of what the official doctrine taught. The official doctrine said, “Anyone who touches her will be impure!” But she said, “If I can just touch His clothes, I shall be saved!” (Mk 5:28). She is not censured and is healed. Jesus says that her healing is the fruit of faith (Mk 5:25-34). The Samaritan woman, who is despised and considered heretical, has the courage to approach Jesus and to change the direction of the conversation started by Him (cf. Jn 4:19.25). In John’s Gospel, she is the first person to hear the secret that Jesus is the Messiah (Jn 4:26). The Gentile woman from the region of Tyre and Sidon does not accept her exclusion and speaks in such a manner as to make Jesus listen to her (Mk 7:24-30). The mothers with little children challenge the disciples and are welcomed and blessed by Jesus (Mt 19:13-15; Mk 10:13-16). The women who challenged the authorities and stayed at the foot of the cross of Jesus (Mk 15:40; Mt 27:55-56,61) were also the first to experience the presence of Jesus after the resurrection (Mk 16:5-8; Mt 28:9-10). Among them was Mary Magdalene, who was considered to have been possessed by evil spirits and was healed by Jesus (Lk 8:2). She was given the order to pass on the Good News of the resurrection to the apostles (Jn 20:16-18). Mark says that "they used to follow Him and look after Him when He was in Galilee. There were many other women who had come up to Jerusalem with Him" (Mk 15:41). Mark uses three important words to define the life of these women: follow, look after, come up to Jerusalem. These three words describe the ideal disciple. They represent the model for the other disciples who had fled!
6. Praying with Psalm 103 (102)
Thanking God for all that He does for us!
Bless Yahweh, my soul,
from the depths of my being, His holy name;
bless Yahweh, my soul,
never forget all His acts of kindness.
He forgives all your offenses,
cures all your diseases.
He redeems your life from the abyss,
crowns you with faithful love and tenderness;
He contents you with good things all your life,
renews your youth like an eagle's.
Yahweh acts with uprightness,
with justice to all who are oppressed;
He revealed to Moses His ways,
His great deeds to the children of Israel.
Yahweh is tenderness and pity,
slow to anger and rich in faithful love;
His indignation does not last forever,
nor His resentment remain for all time;
He does not treat us as our sins deserve,
nor repay us as befits our offenses.
As the height of heaven is above earth,
so is His faithful love strong for those who fear Him.
As the distance of east from west,
so far from us does He put our faults.
As tenderly as a father treats His children,
so Yahweh treats those who fear Him;
He knows of what we are made,
He remembers that we are dust.
As for a human person -- his days are like grass,
he blooms like the wild flowers;
as soon as the wind blows he is gone,
never to be seen there again.
But Yahweh's faithful love for those who fear Him
is from eternity and forever;
and His saving justice to their children's children;
as long as they keep His covenant,
and carefully obey His precepts.
Yahweh has fixed His throne in heaven,
His sovereign power rules over all.
Bless Yahweh, all His angels,
mighty warriors who fulfill His commands,
attentive to the sound of His words.
Bless Yahweh, all His armies,
servants who fulfill His wishes.
Bless Yahweh, all His works,
in every place where He rules.
Bless Yahweh, my soul.
7. Final Prayer
Lord Jesus, we thank You for the word that has enabled us to understand better the will of the Father. May Your Spirit enlighten our actions and grant us the strength to practice what Your Word has revealed to us. May we, like Mary, Your mother, not only listen to but also practice the Word. You who live and reign with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen.