The gospel passage for today gives us two miracles for the price of one. It’s good to remind ourselves that miracles are not magic. It’s true that they seem to be irruptions into the natural order, although the term natural order is outdated. The words assume that we understand the universe, its nature and order. Mark understands these acts as signs of the coming of a new order, the kingdom of God. Jesus is Lord, and around him things happen that are glimpses of the normal in our abnormal, fallen world.
Jairus, the synagogue official — like a vestry member in a small-town parish — is desperate. His young daughter, who is approaching marriageable age, is terribly ill. Her father is so distraught that he drops to the dusty ground and implores this itinerant teacher to come to his home and cure his loved one. Jesus and the crowd follow Jairus to his house.
|First reading and psalm: 2 Sam. 1:1,7-27 • Ps. 130
Alternate: Wis. 1:13-15; 2:23-24 or Ps. 30
2 Cor. 8:7-15 • Mark 5:21-43
There’s another desperate person in the crowd. A woman with chronic internal bleeding reaches out to touch Jesus. In Jewish custom, her bleeding makes her unclean. No one has held her, kissed her, come close to her in years. Like the lepers Jesus heals, she is untouchable. One can hardly imagine her utter loneliness. “Who touched me?” If Peter recounted this story later and Mark his secretary wrote it down, that extraordinary remark must have stuck in Peter’s mind. In the middle of a jostling crowd, pushed and shoved by people almost bearing him along, Jesus feels a touch of desperate trust. He heals. The kingdom breaks through.
Messengers arrive to tell Jairus that his daughter has died. Dead bodies were also unclean. Jesus has become ritually unclean by being touched. He now presses on to risk further contamination. Professional mourners surround the house, wailing the death dirge, and yet Jesus goes in and says to the daughter, “Up you get.” The kingdom breaks through.
Whatever damage to wholeness we suffer, however desperate we may become, we can break out of the “uncleanness” or “death” that isolation, imposed or self-imposed, brings. We reach out our hands to receive the Bread of Life. We are touched with the oil of unction. Through the Church, the extraordinary tactility of the servant Lord continues to make whole what has become broken. Even the broken Church assumes its intended unity when it demonstrates kingdom come. Like Peter, as we pass on the story, recount the words, we become messengers of the Lord’s healing presence. We are all Peter’s successors, spectators who through faith see and hear Jesus among us. Reading and hearing the apostles’ testimony, we are joined together to become the new temple, the place where God dwells and draws the world to himself.
Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone: Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Look It Up
Read Luke 8:40-56 for another account.
Think About It
What thoughts might have run through the woman’s mind as she reached to touch Jesus’ clothing?