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Sunday 28th June 2015

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time (28th June 2015)- Gospel Reflection
Mark 5: 21-43


Amazing what can happen in the course of a day. In today’s gospel we find  a child lying in bed very sick. Unless something happened she would not see evening. Her parents, brothers and sisters are in a state of pain, eaten up with sadness. The other woman in the story began life this morning as she had for the past twelve years, with a painful medical condition. It was just another day to get through and bear it and avoid depression. What is interesting to note is the fact that the little girl was 12 years of age and the woman had her condition for 12 years. So, just as the woman got ill for the first time, this little baby was born. One could wonder if they knew each other or did anyone ever suspect that their paths would cross. Whatever we might imagine about that, this one day changed both their lives. From being dead, to being a hungry teenager (he told them to give her something to eat) and from a life of continuous discomfort to happiness and new energy. Everything was changed for both, and indeed for their families, because on that day they were touched by Jesus.

Touch is a major experience in this gospel narrative. The synagogue official requested that Jesus come and ‘lay your hands upon her and make her better’. He obviously appreciated the power of touch for healing and saving life.  The woman had no presumption of meeting Jesus face to face, talking to him or he saying anything to her. Her faith was so rich that she believed that the touch of his clothes would make her well for the first time in years. Again, she is manifesting a strong belief in  in the power of touch.. Jesus knew that someone had touched him. Touch is very real again (Who touched my clothes?)Then when he comes to the girl who has just died Jesus takes her by the hand.  He raises her to life by the power of his touch.  We can ponder on the many times that touch is mentioned in the gospels, from the washing of the feet at the last supper (John 13) to the woman with the jar of ointment anointing Jesus,(Lk.7:36-50), from the embrace and kiss of the prodigal father(Lk.15: 20) to Jesus reaching out and touching the leper (Mk. 1:40-42)

There is a lot of faith here in these two people. Jairus saw Jesus and immediately professed his faith in the ability of Jesus to cure his little daughter. He came forward and fell on his knees and pleaded for a healing. The woman too was faith filled and knew she could be cured by a touch of Jesus’ cloak. But then she too comes and falls at the feet of Jesus. So there is the picture. This man and this woman are on their knees. The man is an important person in the community, a synagogue official, named, a man of some religious standing, surrounded by family and friends. The woman beside him is on her own. She is given no name and there is no mention of any relatives to celebrate her cure. She emerges furtively from the midst of the people and then fades back again into the crowd in peace, free from her complaint. They are both on their knees where they are because they are believers. But then the story takes another turn.

Some from the official’s house arrived to tell Jairus that his daughter is dead and so there is no need to bother Jesus any more. These were good people of faith, but they understood that his power had limitations. Yes, he could heal people who were desperately sick. But when death came there was nothing even he could do. Jesus heard the conversation and gently told them that greater faith was needed. What Jesus could do was well beyond their expectations. At the end Jairus had to learn that his faith was too small. Jesus’ power went much farther than he could ever imagine. So at the end of the day he and his family were overcome with astonishment.

As we read on through the gospels, neither these two women nor of the official are ever heard of again. On that day they walked into the pages of history and disappeared as casually as they came. Did they become followers of Jesus and were they among the group of anonymous disciples mentioned repeatedly in scripture? Did the two women become great friends, who talked frequently of their experience on that most amazing day? We do not know. But we do not forget them. Their actions and their words are written in the gospels, to remind us of the importance of the gift of faith in our own lives. Would that every day were a Woman-Jairus-Daughter day, when we would know his surprising touch and be raised to new life.   Astonishment awaits us.  

Fr Tony Draper