28 June 2015: Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary time

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
Wis: 1: 13-15; 2: 23-24 Ps 30: 2, 4, 5-6, 11, 12, 13 2 Cor 8: 7, 9, 13-15 Mk 5: 21-43

Power over sin, power over death

In Ordinary time, the Lectionary presents RCIA participants and all believing community members with stories and teachings from Jesus’ everyday ministry. The first reading and gospel reading carry the theme for the week; the second reading is a continuing reading from Paul’s letters. This week Jesus shows us through his “acts of power” that he has power over sin and death.

The first reading is from the book of Wisdom, written between 100-28 BC. The Wisdom author affirms that the Creator did not “make death.” Humans, who share in God’s image, are “imperishable.” A human’s physical body may end with physical death, but a human’s spirit continues after his or her physical existence ends. However, the “imperishable” part can suffer a spiritual death–not from God, but from forces opposed to God. The devil, envious of God’s goodness, brought envy and sin to humans. Sin (literally “harmartia” or “missing the mark”) separates humans from God. Separation from God is spiritual death.

Today’s gospel uses a Markian “sandwich” form. Mark starts the Jairus’ daughter story, interrupts it with the story of the hemorrhaging woman, then completes the first story.

  • The woman with a flow of blood. The hemorrhaging woman touches Jesus’ garments in hope of being healed. Under Jewish law, this woman was considered ritually unclean, would have been viewed as sinful, and would not be allowed to participate in the community or the Temple. In the crowd’s crush Jesus feels power (Greek: δύναμις [DYE-na-mis]) “go out from him.” “Who touched me?” he asks. Terrified, the woman prostrates herself before (literally “worships”) Jesus and “admits the truth.” Jesus recognizes her faith (“your faith has saved you.”) By healing her, Jesus removes her sin and restores her to community life. This healing ties back to spiritual death–sin or hamartia–described in today’s first reading.
  • Jairus’ daughter. Jairus, a synagogue leader, asks Jesus to “put a hand on” his sick daughter “that she may be healed (literally ‘saved’) and live.” In route to Jairus’ house, Jesus and Jairus hear his daughter has died. On arrival, Jesus takes the child’s hand Jesus says (in Aramaic), “Little girl, arise.” The girl rises up and begins “walking around.” The girl’s rising from the dead foreshadows Jesus’ own death and resurrection. Because this hasn’t happened yet, Jesus urges the parents and disciples to maintain his messianic secret. This healing shows that God’s power extends over physical death: “he does not rejoice in destruction of living things” in today’s first reading.

These two stories tell us that Jesus, as God, has power over not only spiritual death (sin) but physical death as well.

This week RCIA participants and the entire believing community rejoice in Jesus’ saving power over our two greatest fears: sin and death. God is the author of life, not death. Like the hemorrhaging woman, Jesus tells us our faith heals and saves us from sin. Like Jairus, in the face of physical death, Jesus tells us don’t be afraid–have faith. Easy to say, but hard to do. We live our faith one moment at a time; sometimes we miss the mark of keeping faith. Jesus, however, is constant: don’t be afraid. Can we hear him over the pressing crowd and wailing mourners?

—Terence Sherlock

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