Abbey 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time – B
Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24
2 Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13-15
When growing up we often hear parents and teachers telling us to speak in complete sentences. Or finish one thought before starting another. We learn the same when being taught how to write a sentence a paragraph. At first sight it looks like our evangelist Mark violates this rule in his gospel today. He starts a story about Jairus, a synagogue official who makes a dramatic entrance and request of Jesus for his young daughter. Then suddenly out of nowhere Mark introduces a nameless woman suffering from menstrual type bleeding. We can hear ourselves saying, finish one story first then tell us the next. But no. We hear one story start and this is interrupted with a seemingly unrelated second story and when that is finished, we return to the first story. When we finish the whole story, we find two scenes that seem very different, but maybe underneath it all there is just one thread. Maybe there is only one sentence with two stories..true it is a long sentence.
And just what is the thread that holds the long sentence together. It is simple and most common: death. Death joins Jesus to Jairus, his young daughter, and to the hemorrhaging woman, and death joins the two women to one another. Jairus only approaches Jesus because his daughter is at the point of death. It is a desperate situation for the father. He is begging for life. The women with the blood flow is already dead on one level and it is threatened with it on another level. The woman is considered unclean because of her blood flow. This uncleanness separates her from her relatives, from any relationships with people and makes it impossible for her to worship in temple or synagogue. She is an outcast and belongs to no one—socially and even religiously she is dead. After 12 years of hemorrhaging she is also physically at the point of death, like the young daughter of Jairus. You can only sustain loss of blood for so long and survive. She too is desperate, but her asking for help is not with words but with touch-she only wants to touch Jesus’ clothes and thus have a share in Jesus power to give life.
After the adult woman is healed, saved and restored to community life, we hear the news that death has come to the young girl. Jesus ignores the idea that he should change his plans and not bother to respond to her father’s plea and instead he goes to stretch out his hands toward her. He challenges the crowd’s view of what death is and takes the child by the hand and raises her up. A resurrection? I think so. Now the young girl is restored to her family and the full meaning of her 12th year is opened for her: she is now able to complete her womanhood with marriage and childbearing. Truly a resurrection for this girl. She is able to life her live to the full and her family, by having her back alive, is also restored to life.
The two women are in parallel to each other. One bleeding woman acts on her own initiative, her own faith. She has heard about Jesus and she acts on what she has heard, she reaches out for his power to save and give life. She touches Jesus. The dying and then dead young girl has a voice in her father. But Jesus responds to the cry of the helpless. Here Jesus takes the initiative-he stretches out his hand, grasps hers and raises her up—one hand grasping another hand and his power to save, heal and give life has an effect. Jesus is life and Jesus offers life. Jesus is the Father’s hand stretched out to restore fragile humanity to the fullness of its worth and dignity….The hemorrhaging women has been afflicted for 12 years; she has been living in shame and sorrow; walking in a no-man’s land for 12 years and making everything and everyone she touches unclean along the way. Walking contagion-walking death. She has been losing her life in her blood for 12 years-a long, slow death. All she has left is what she has heard about Jesus; her life is draining away but her faith has been growing; her courage and perseverance are strong. This life Jesus in his turn recognizes and commends her for: you may think, it is power from me that has cured you, but what has saved you, you have been carrying all along, your faith. In your faith you have placed your hand on what has power to heal, you are now made whole.
Both women are daughters…but because of their deaths that has been taken away. The woman has been treated as one without family, without heritage, without a community of faith. And Jesus has restored her dignity her place in the community. She was held in contempt for 12 years, but now she has been given more than a cure, she has been given an intimacy of relationship beyond imagining: “Daughter, faith has saved you-go healed” Daughter of Abraham, daughter of Jesus in his new family, daughter to the one Father in whose image she was created from the beginning….The father-daughter relationship is what has gotten our story sentence started in the first place. A father about to lose his daughter at age 12, just when she is about to become a woman and enter society as an adult. And now she dies. The father is about to give up hope for his daughter….and Jesus says, you came to me in faith, hold on to your faith and do not fear. Death is not the end for you or for your daughter. The father held on to his faith and Jesus raises his daughter and gives her back to her parents….the loving relationship is healed and her potential is restored.
Two women touched by death; two women surrounded by faith; two women who are linked to the number 12—the number of Israel’s tribes, the number of Jesus founding community, the age of maturity; two women who are or are about to be lost to their communities. Yes, what looks like 2 stories has at least three threads making it one: women, death and faith. But in the middle is Jesus. In the center of the story stands Jesus offering his risen life to the women of the community; offering the women of his community a wholeness of body and spirit and heart—in biblical terms saving them. Here is Jesus sharing freely and generously his life, his energy, his power to restore and make whole, all the while not counting the cost. Because for him to be touched by an unclean woman is for him to become contaminated. For him to touch a dead body is for him to become unclean….and yet his had remains outstretched.
On this hot summer Sunday we gather to meet the Risen one reaching out for a hand, and lifting up. We meet the risen one allowing himself to be touched by the unclean, the ostracized, the nameless. We meet the Risen one stopping to treat each of us as persons worthy to be heard and touched; we meet the Risen Lord saying to us, “Daughter” “Son,” “Get up and live your life to the full in the image of the one who made you.”
God has only one story with one sentence and that is–I am the God of the living and what is dead I bring to life.