13th Sunday Year B
1 July 2012
The first reading from the book of Wisdom written in the first century BC tells us that “death was not God’s doing, he takes no pleasure in the extinction of the living.” We are after all created in the image of God and as God is imperishable, so are we.
But we will all experience death. This life is but a short pilgrimage to eternal life; a life of salvation or damnation determined by the life that we have freely fashioned for ourselves before God while on earth. The purpose of this life is to know, love and serve God to save our souls.
The resurrection of Christ stripped human death of its power. The healing of the woman with a haemorrhage and the raising of Jairus’s daughter from the dead are powerful demonstrations of Christ’s authority over death. The woman was dying and the 12 year old girl was already dead. Both were restored to full life.
The two main characters in Mark’s telling of these miracles are the unnamed woman and Jairus, an official at the synagogue. Both were suffering deeply and both were desperate. And in their desperation they turned to God. Have we not all at some time in our lives done the same? In an hour of darkness or pain thrown ourselves at God’s feet and begged for help?
James Martin SJ, a Jesuit priest and author of numerous excellent books writes “It is often said that people feel drawn to God in times of suffering. During a serious illness, a family crisis, the loss of a job, or the death of a loved one, many people say they turn to God in new ways. More sceptical minds may chalk this up to desperation. The person, they say, has nowhere else to turn and so turns to God. God is seen as a crutch for the foolish, a refuge for the superstitious.
“But as a rule, we do not turn to God in suffering because we suddenly become irrational. Rather, God is able to reach us because our defences are down. The barriers that we erected to keep out God – whether from pride or fear or lack of interest – are set aside, whether intentionally or unintentionally. We are not less rational. We are more open.”
We don’t know the name or age of the woman with a haemorrhage but we can assume that she had once been a person of some status and wealth. At that time only those with financial means visited physicians and she’d been treated over a period of 12 years by a variety of doctors without success. She was now penniless, ashamed and an outcast. Her affliction rendered her, and anyone she touched, ritually unclean. I imagine the people walking behind Jesus when she approached him must have recoiled as she drew near. And then she did the unthinkable – she reached out and actually dared to try and touch him! All her barriers were down. She no longer cared about the rejection and the ridicule. In her weakness, she finds the strength and courage to reach out and touch him – and she is healed; and she tells him everything.
What are the barriers in our lives that restrain us from reaching out to God? What is the shame that keeps us at arm’s length from Christ?
Jairus, we’re told by Mark, was one of the synagogue officials. As such he was one of the most important and respected men in the community. He would certainly have been aware that Jesus was considered a dangerous heretic by the synagogue leaders and that in asking for Jesus’ help, he was risking his job, his status and his reputation. It must have been extraordinarily difficult for him to put aside his prejudices, his pride and his dignity as he fell at Jesus’ feet pleading with him to save his daughter’s life.
What are the barriers that keep us from kneeling before Jesus? Is our pride an obstacle that we need to overcome? We don’t have to be desperate before we choose to kneel before Christ.
Jairus and the woman with the haemorrhage were both driven by strong desire.
Every one of us has an innate desire for God – even when we don’t recognise it.
Margaret Silf, an English spiritual writer, in her book Wise Choices suggests “We tend to think that if we desire something, it is probably something we ought not to want or have. But think about it: without desire we would never get up in the morning. We would never venture beyond the front door. We would never have read a book or learnt something new. No desire means no life, no growth, no change. Desire is energy, the energy of creativity, the energy of life itself.”
The deep longings of our hearts are our holy desires. In those yearnings for change, for growth, for a fuller life we discover God’s desire for us and our desires lead us to become who we are meant to be.
Many of us have had that feeling that even though we’ve had some success and happiness, there is something missing in life. Often it is at these times, in the echoes of our restlessness, that we hear God’s voice and discern God’s plan for our lives.
When we let God into the most intimate recesses of our hearts and minds; when the barriers we have erected to keep God out are set aside and we let God in, only then can we be sure that we are fulfilling our purpose to know, love and serve him and save our souls. That is God’s passionate desire for each one of us.