Sunday, July 1, 2018
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, above all in the poor and suffering. May your word guide us so that we too, like the two disciples from 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 haemorrhage for twelve years. The second is worked for a twelve-year-old girl who has just died. According to the thinking of the times, any person who touched blood or a dead body was considered impure. Blood and death were factors that excluded people! Thus these two women were marginalized, excluded from taking part in the community. Today, too, we have categories of people who are excluded or who feel excluded from taking part in the Christian community. What are the 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 that 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 haemorrhage, the disciples and the girl. Ask yourself what would be your attitude.
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 haemorrhage
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:
21 When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered round him and he stayed by the lake. 22 Then the president of the synagogue came up, named Jairus, and seeing him, fell at his feet 23 and begged him earnestly, saying, 'My little daughter is desperately sick. Do come and lay your hands on her that she may be saved and may live.' 24 Jesus went with him and a large crowd followed him; they were pressing all round him.
25 Now there was a woman who had suffered from a haemorrhage for twelve years; 26 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. 27 She had heard about Jesus, and she came up through the crowd and touched his cloak from behind, thinking, 28 'If I can just touch his clothes, I shall be saved.' 29 And at once the source of the bleeding dried up, and she felt in herself that she was cured of her complaint.
30 And at once aware of the power that had gone out from him, Jesus turned round in the crowd and said, 'Who touched my clothes?' 31 His disciples said to him, 'You see how the crowd is pressing round you; how can you ask, "Who touched me?" ' 32 But he continued to look all round to see who had done it. 33 Then the woman came forward, frightened and trembling because she knew what had happened to her, and she fell at his feet and told him the whole truth. 34 'My daughter,' he said, 'your faith has restored you to health; go in peace and be free of your complaint.'
35 While he was still speaking some people arrived from the house of the president of the synagogue to say, 'Your daughter is dead; why put the Master to any further trouble?' 36 But Jesus overheard what they said and he said to the president of the synagogue, 'Do not be afraid; only have faith.' 37 And he allowed no one to go with him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. 38 So they came to the house of the president of the synagogue, and Jesus noticed all the commotion, with people weeping and wailing unrestrainedly. 39 He went in and said to them, 'Why all this commotion and crying? The child is not dead, but asleep.' 40 But they ridiculed him. So he turned them all out and, taking with him the child's father and mother and his own companions, he went into the place where the child lay. 41 And taking the child by the hand he said to her, 'Talitha kum!' which means, 'Little girl, I tell you to get up.' 42 The little girl got up at once and began to walk about, for she was twelve years old. At once they were overcome with astonishment, 43 and he gave them strict orders not to let anyone know about it, and told them to give her something to eat.
3. A moment of prayerful silence
so 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 attitude 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 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 on 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. Thus, 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 two following episodes: the healing of the woman suffering from a haemorrhage 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 haemorrhage
Twelve years of haemorrhaging! For this reason, the woman was excluded since in those times blood made a person impure as well as anyone who touched that person. Mark says that the woman had spent all her money on doctors but instead of getting better had got worse. An insoluble 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, I shall become impure”. The woman thinks the exact opposite! This is a sign of great courage. It is also a sign of the fact 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 healed in her body. To this day, in Palestine, on a bend in the road near the lake of Galilee and close to Capharnaum, 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 round 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 realises 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 just by touching her. Such a person made everyone impure before God (Lv 15:19-30). The punishment for this was that she would 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 judgement: “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 recognises that without the faith of that woman 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 was dead. There was 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, namely to believe that faith can achieve whatever 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 child, himself, 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 haemorrhage and was excluded for twelve years! The exclusion of the girl begins at the age of twelve because that is when she begins menstruating. She begins to die! 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. Lv 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 Esdra’s time, when the marginalization of women was greater, (cf Esd 9:1-2;10:2-3), resistance grew, as in the cases of Judith, Esther, Ruth, Noemi, Susannah, the Sulamite woman and others. This resistance is echoed in and welcomed by Jesus. Here are some examples of non-conformity and of 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 considered impure because she was losing blood, has the courage to go in 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. And many other women were there 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 offences,
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 for ever,
nor his resentment remain for all time;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve,
nor repay us as befits our offences.
As the height of heaven above earth,
so strong is his faithful love 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 for ever;
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 fulfil his commands,
attentive to the sound of his words.
Bless Yahweh, all his armies,
servants who fulfil his wishes.
Bless Yahweh, all his works,
in every place where he rules.
Bless Yahweh, my soul.
7. Final Prayer
Lord Jesus, we thank 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 that which 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.