13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Starting last week and continuing on for this week and the weeks to come, we will be going through the gospel of Mark almost word for word. In his teaching Jesus mainly relied on parables as a way to convey his core message. Even so, many of his hearers were mystified by the parables. However, his actions usually spoke louder than his words although they often also left the onlookers mystified.
Last week we saw that he calmed a storm while sailing on the Sea of Galilee with his disciples. Although they were experienced fishermen, the disciples were terrified by the raging storm but then were mystified when Jesus rebuked the storm and calmed the waters. They asked themselves “what kind of a man is this?” Being observant Jews they could never imagine that Jesus was anything but a man who had magical powers. However, the disciples could hardly have imagined that the magical powers of Jesus would even extend to life and death.
Today’s first reading from the Book of Wisdom gives us an insight into the traditional Jewish teaching on death.
God did not make death,
Nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living…
For God formed man to be imperishable;
The image of His own nature he made him.
In other words, we were meant to be immortal but somehow sin entered into the world, and death is one of the consequences of sin for both the good and the bad.
Anyone who had trouble believing that Jesus could calm a storm at sea will have even more trouble with the two miracles recorded in today’s gospel. In the first case, after Jesus lands on the other side of the Sea of Galilee, he is surrounded by crowds who have heard of his reputation. A synagogue official works his way through the crowd and begs Jesus to come to his home and heal his daughter who is “at the point of death.” The official believes that Jesus just has to lay his hands on the child to heal her.
Jesus agrees to accompany the man home but on the way they are met by people who inform them that the girl has died and that there is no need to trouble Jesus any further. However, Jesus disregards the news and tells the father, “Do not be afraid, just have faith.” When they arrive at the house, they are met by a crowd of weeping mourners who ridicule Jesus when he tells them that the child “is not dead but asleep.” He puts all the mourners out and then enters the girl’s room with just her father and mother, and his three disciples, Peter, James, and John. Mark was a disciple of Peter and here is his account of what happened.
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.
Just as at the storm at sea, the onlookers were “utterly astounded.” No only does Jesus seem to have power over the wind and the waves; he also has power over death, the great enemy of us all. I know that there are some who will say that there must have been a natural cause for the girl’s recovery. Perhaps she was in a coma. But then how could Jesus have known the girl’s condition or been so confident that he could save her? How could he have pressed on even after he was informed that the girl had died? If this was a natural case of healing, how could he have known that merely touching the girl would bring her out of the coma?
The answer to these questions might be found in the other cure featured in today’s gospel.
On the way to the girl’s home a woman who had suffered from hemorrhages for twelve years came through the crowd surrounding Jesus hoping that if she could only touch his clothes, she might be healed. When she touched his cloak, she was healed immediately without a word from Jesus. He only sensed that power had gone out of him and turned around to ask, “who has touched my clothes”?
Even after miracles like these it appears that the crowds and the disciples could not realize who He was. At the most I suspect they thought of him as a great magician. It would take his own resurrection before they finally began to realize where his power came from.
In our time it is easy to think of Jesus as a good man who went about saying good things and doing good deeds. But Mark’s gospel will not let us leave it at that. Why do we underestimate Jesus today? Why do people feel it’s ok to ignore him or even ridicule him as the mourners did before he revived the little girl? Why do modern TV personalities think they can insult and demean someone who never hurt a fly and spent his life for others even to the point of torture and death on a cross?
In today’s second reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, the disciple is urging the community in Corinth to provide assistance to their fellow Christians who are not so well off. He uses Jesus as an example they should follow.
For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ,
That though he was rich, for your sake He became poor,
So that by his poverty you might become rich.
For those who believe, the power is still coming out of Jesus.
Reading 1. Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24
Reading II. 2 Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13-15
Gospel. Mark 5: 21-43 (Talitha koum)