13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mark 5, 21-43
To borrow again a story from my friend, Fr Bel San Luis, there was a very devout man who is in his house when there was a huge deluge in town. The flood waters were already at the first floor so he went up. Then there was a boat that passed by and the guy on the boat shouted out and asked if he wanted a ride so that he could be rescued. But he said, “Don’t worry. I have faith in the Lord. He will save me.” So the boat left. However, the rain was relentless and the flood waters came to the second floor so the man sat on the roof of his house. Another boat passed by, and the guy on the boat shouted, “Come on here, there’s still room for you in the boat.” However, our man shouted back, “Don’t worry. I have faith in the Lord. He will save me.” Unfortunately, the floods went past the roof and our man drowned in the process. When he woke up, he was talking to God face to face. He took advantage of the opportunity to ask, “Lord, I prayed to you every day and have great faith in you. But why did you not save me during that day of the great flood in my town?” The Lord said, “I did! I sent two boats to save you but you didn’t take them.”
The gospel for today is about two healings and they’re in contrasting fashion. But one thing that is similar in both of them is that the people involved have great faith in Jesus. It is actually a story within a story. After that harrowing experience of surviving a squall, the disciples and Jesus now arrived on the other side of the lake and they were welcomed by people who wanted to see Jesus and listen to his stories and his message about the Kingdom of God. Very soon after they disembarked, a synagogue official called Jairus approached Jesus and pleaded for him to cure his daughter who was near death. We know that Jesus must have raised people from near death in many stories but this story stands out from the others for the fact that Jesus was approached by a synagogue official and he was named (Jairus). We know for a fact that people in the “establishment” like Pharisees, scribes and other synagogue officials were very critical of Jesus. And for these people, even if they admired the teachings and activities of Jesus, they risked being alienated from the other members of the establishment by associating themselves with Jesus. However, for his love of her daughter, for Jairus, the risk was worth taking.
The other story is about a woman who has haemorrhaged for the last 12 years. For 12 years she had been looking for a cure. Now we must understand that this is not just another chronic annoyance that a person wants to get rid of. It is because of this haemorrhage that this woman is being alienated by society. In Mosaic Law, when a woman is bleeding like in menstruation or after giving birth, she is considered unclean and she should stay away from where people congregate like in a synagogue or temple, even the marketplace. Because if she’s been touched by anybody, they would be unclean. That’s why women after giving birth or after their menstruation, needed to undergo a “purification ritual” before they could go back to their normal place in society. However, because she’d been haemorrhaging for 12 years, it meant that for 12 years she couldn’t go to a synagogue or to the temple to pray and worship. She wasn’t allowed to go to a market or any public area for fear of making somebody unclean. However, her chance came when Jesus passed by and she said, “If I could touch his clothes, I would be cured.” In some gospels, it is even said, “If I could touch the tassel of his clothes.” It means to touch the little adornment on the edge of his clothes, she would be healed. Such was the faith of this woman. And Jesus rewarded her for it.
Going back to the main story, people from the synagogue official’s house reported that his daughter has died. So when they arrived, people were already wailing, perhaps from professional mourners. And yet, that didn’t deter Jesus, he “put them all out”. And with the words, “Talitha kuom (Little girl, arise!) she rose up and was cured.
In both stories, the importance of having faith has been emphasised. It was emphasised so much that it was as if Jesus is telling us that their faith had healed them. And also it emphasised how Jesus was not only concerned with their physical healing but also restoring them to their position in society. The little girl by being well was restored. And more evidently, the woman with haemorrhage, she wasn’t just cured of her physical ailment, she was restored to her proper place in society.
I saw a post on Facebook that goes something like this. God ALWAYS answers our prayers in three ways. He says either: Yes; Maybe Later; I have a better idea for you. The only thing that is needed is to have faith and trust. We live in a world where Faith and Trust seems to be very hard to give and yet we are being challenged again and again to give that to God. Since it is God who gave us Faith so let us trust him that he knows what is happening. Like when Jesus asked the little girl to rise, he is also asking us to do the same, to rise up and proclaim that we have faith in God and with faith our prayers would be answered.