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Reflections for the XIII Sunday of the year

Fr. Antony Kadavil reflects and comments on the readings at Mass for the thirteenth Sunday in ordinary time. He says that the readings speak of the gift of life, both physical and spiritual, that God has given us.

Wis 1:13-15; 2:23-24; 2 Cor 8:7, 9, 13-15; Mk 5:21-43

Homily starter anecdote: “Do not be afraid; just have faith.”Ann Jillian, a three-time Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning actress and singer, is an American actress born to Roman Catholic Lithuanian immigrant parents. Since 1985, she has added motivational speaking to her impressive list of credits, addressing business, medical, professional and women's groups with her own unique blend of humor and inspiration. Her prowess extends from the world’s concert halls, to feature film and the Broadway stage.  She has starred in over 25 TV movies and made hundreds of other TV appearances. Her TV movie, The Ann Jillian Story, which recounts her victory over breast cancer, was the #1 film of that TV season, but, more important, it delivered Ann's message about the hopeful side of breast cancer to its millions of viewers.  It was in 1985 that the then 35-year-old actress made headlines when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. On her way to the hospital to check the nature of the growth which she had noticed, she stopped at St. Francis de Sales Church and read the inscription on the door. “The same everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow and every day. Either He will shield you from suffering or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace then and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations.” She went into the Church and prayed for the strength to accept her ordeal.  The radiant trust in God and peace of mind she maintained before and after the surgery (double mastectomy), was big news in the media and a great inspiration for all cancer patients. She trusted in Jesus’ words given in today’s Gospel, “Do not be afraid; just have Faith.” Actually, this phrase is repeated in the Bible 365 times.

Introduction: Today’s readings speak of the gift of life, both physical and spiritual, that God has given us. They urge and challenge us to be grateful for our health in body and soul and to use God’s gifts of life and health responsibly.

Scripture LessonsThe first reading, taken from the Book of Wisdom, tells us that God gave us life and health, and that it was the jealousy of Satan which produced illness and death. The reading also suggests that the goalof our lives on earth is to know, to love, and to serve God here with perfect health in body and soul, and to share God’s immortal life forever. In the second reading, St. Paul asks the Corinthian Christian community to show to their impoverished, suffering Jewish brothers and sisters in Jerusalem the kindness and compassion which Jesus expressed in his healing ministry. Paul asked the Corinthians to be generous in their contributions to a fund being collected for these suffering brothers and sisters.  The generosity of Jesus is the central theme here also, because Paul describes Jesus’ life, death and Resurrection as “the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Today’s Gospel describes two of our Lord's miracles, the healing of a woman who suffered from a chronic bleeding disease and the returning of the dead daughter of Jairus to life.   These healings teach us that Jesus wills life, full life, for all God’s children.  The two healings also reveal Jesus as a generous, kind and compassionate God who wills that men should live their wholesome lives fully. They also give us further proof of the Divine power and the Infinite mercy of our Savior. These miracles were worked by Jesus as reward for the trusting Faith of a synagogue ruler and of a woman with a hemorrhage. Although the Faith of the ruler may have been defective, and the woman’s Faith may have been a bit superstitious, Jesus amply rewarded the Faith they had by granting them health and life. 

The first reading, Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24, complements the Gospel theme by explaining the origins of evil and death in the world.  In today’s Gospel, Jesus revives a dead girl and cures a woman of her chronic illness. We ask the perennial question: "How can a good God permit evils like poverty, AIDS, holocausts, random, mass shootings and terrorist attacks?” Today’s passage from the Book of Wisdom defends the goodness of God, stating, “God did not make death, nor does He rejoice in the destruction of the living" (Wis 1:13).  Our God is a God of life. His will for us is that we should have more abundant life.  The truth that man's real destiny is an unending life with God is stated for the first time in the Old Testament in the Book of Wisdom: “For righteousness is immortal.  God created man for incorruption and made him in the image of His own eternity” (Wis 1:15, 2:23).  This means that the      goal of our lives is to know, to love and to serve God here, and to share God’s life forever.

In the second reading, (2 Corinthians 8:7,9,13-15), Paul addresses the Christians in Corinth, rich in the spiritual gifts (prophecy, healing, speaking in tongues, etc. See chapters 12-14 of 1 Corinthians).  While complimenting them on their material and spiritual prosperity, Saint Paul asks them to come to the financial aid of a destitute Christian congregation in Palestine.  Paul has already sent alms from Macedonia and Galatia to the poor in Jerusalem, and he takes this occasion to ask the Gentile converts in Corinth, both to show their solidarity and union with their Jewish brethren, and to practice the virtue of charity as the Macedonians have done.  Paul's first concern is with the welfare of those whom the Church has taken as its responsibility.  He also appeals to the example of Jesus.  For Jesus, indescribably rich as Son of God, emptied himself when he assumed human life and accepted death, for our sake.  

Exegesis: The context: In today's Gospel we have what is often called a "Markan sandwich". One story is encased or sandwiched between the beginning and end of another. Here, we have an unusual combination of two miracle stories, one contained within the other – a healing, and a restoration of life.  The story of the woman with the flow of blood interrupts and is sandwiched in between the two parts of the account of Jairus and his daughter. These miracles were worked by Jesus as rewards for the trusting Faith of a synagogue ruler and of a woman with a hemorrhage.  Though the ruler may have trusted Jesus out of desperation and the woman’s Faith may have been a bit superstitious, even their perhaps defective Faith was amply rewarded.

The parallels: The stories have several common features.  One woman is 12 years old, and the other has suffered for 12 years.  Both are called “daughter,” and both are in need of physical healing.  The girl’s father is encouraged to have Faith, and the older woman is praised for her Faith.  The two stories illustrate Jesus’ power over both chronic illness and death.  In each healing, Jesus shows his marvelous generosity by giving the recipients life and salvation in addition to physical healing.

The faith-experiences of Jairus and the sick woman: 1) Jairus: As the ruler of the synagogue, Jairus was a well-respected man in the local Jewish community.  He was the administrative head of the synagogue, the president of the board of elders and the one responsible for the conduct of the services.  He probably shared in the Pharisees’ prejudice that Jesus was a heretic and a wandering preacher to be avoided.  If so, the urgency of his need and the helplessness of the situation prompted him to forget his position, to swallow his pride and prejudice and to seek help from Jesus the wandering wonder-worker.

2) The woman with a hemorrhage: The account tells of a woman who came to Jesus with expectant Faith as a last resort, after trying every other cure known in her day.  The Mosaic Law (Lv 15:25-27) declared her unclean and shut her off from the worship of God and the fellowship of her friends.  That may be why she decided to try to touch the tassels of Jesus' garment secretly.  Jesus, like every other Jew, wore an outer robe with four tassels on it, one at each corner--the badge of a devout Jew as prescribed (Nm15:38-40). 

The Faith that was rewarded: The woman’s boldness in touching Jesus' garment -- which, according to the Law, made Jesus unclean -- could have angered him. Further, because her “chronic bleeding disease” rendered her ritually unclean, any contact she had with others in the crowd, made them also ritually unclean as well.  But her Faith in the healing power of Jesus was so strong that she risked breaking all the social rules to seek what she believed He could do for her.  By affectionately calling her "daughter," Jesus established a relationship with her and gave her the assurance that she was healed:   “Daughter, your Faith has saved you.  Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”  In addition, she gained a personal relationship with Jesus as a member of his family (3:35).  By trusting in the power of God and doing His will, she was not only physically cured but was also fully restored to a normal religious and social life.  It was her deep Faith in Jesus - symbolized by her touching the tassel of his garment - that was a major factor in her healing.

The Faith that brought back life from death: As Jesus sent the woman to her house, Jairus received the shocking news of the death of his daughter.  But Jesus insisted on going to Jairus’ house and consoled the father saying, "Do not be afraid; only have Faith."  The phrase, "Do not be afraid,” appears in the Bible 366 times.  Those who greeted Jairus at his home were professional mourners who wailed, beat their breasts, tore their hair, and rent their garments.  There were also flute players who played funeral dirges.  The crowd told Jairus: "Your daughter is dead.  Why trouble the teacher any further?" (35). But Jesus assured the crowd: "The child is not dead but sleeping," meaning that the girl's death was only temporary, and she would wake up at his call.  Jesus took the parents of the little girl with only Peter, James and John into the room, took the child by the hand and said to her, “'Talitha koum,' which means, 'Little girl, get up!’”  Those who had laughed Jesus to scorn must have been greatly amazed when they realized Jesus' power.

Life messages: # 1: We need to accept God’s call to health, wholeness and holiness.  Jesus accepts us as we are.  Hence, let us bring before him our bodily illnesses and spiritual wounds and ask for his healing touch.  We should pray for healing which will give us health in every aspect of our lives – not just in our bodies – so that we may function in perfect harmony with people around us and with the environment. As Christians, we believe that Jesus continues to heal us through his instruments in the medical profession, like doctors, nurses and medical technicians. Hence, when we go to a doctor, we need to offer a prayer to Christ, the Divine Healer, that we may choose the right doctor, and that s/he may make the correct diagnosis, prescribe the correct treatment and give us the right medicine. Let us not forget the truth that, over, above and beyond the ability and skill of the greatest human healer, Christ still works wonders of healing.  Let us also thank God for the great gift of health and use it for helping those who are sick.

#2: We need to continue the healing mission of the Church: As members of the Church, we are not excused from our vocation to be healers.  When a friend of ours is terminally ill, the skill of the doctors and their advanced medical tools often become powerless.  What the patient needs in such a situation is our care, concern and prayerful presence, enabling them to experience through us the love, compassion and mercy of Jesus. We do our share of Christ’s healing mission by visiting the sick, by praying for their healing and by boosting their morale through our loving presence, encouragement and inspiration.  

#3: We need to have trusting Faith in the mercy and Divine power of Jesus:  The primary condition for the effectiveness of our prayer is our Faith in the goodness and mercy of God. Such a Faith is possible only if we remain related to God through prayer, the Sacraments, and a meditative study of the Bible.  Every day we should say a fervent prayer of thanksgiving to God for the gift of active Faith.  Let us keep in mind this wise piece of advice given by St. Ignatius of Loyola: “We must work as if everything depends on us, but we must pray as if everything depends on God.”  (Fr. Antony Kadavil).

28 June 2018, 12:32