13th Sunday of ordinary time, year B
Today’s particularly interesting gospel passage is taken from Mark 5. As a matter of fact, in the Gospels, we found narratives of Jesus’ healings from various diseases. In today’s narrative, we read about two miracles, not one beside the other but intermingled, as if they were woven together, with some elements in common. It looks like one story in more acts than one.
We shall tackle some details of this “story”.
The first element: the figure or number twelve. The girl, Jairus’ daughter, is twelve years old. The ill woman, on the other hand, suffers from a non-stop hemorrhage since twelve years. Twelve, for a Jewish girl, is the age of marriage, in which life springs, where one looks forward to the future and stress on fertility. But, in these two women, number twelve happens to be strongly associated to an experience or a threat of death rather than life and health.
Precisely death constitutes the second element. It dominates the scenario, with cruelty: that harshness which strikes a young girl, destroying her very life exactly in the very time in which that life was supposed to flourish. We are dealing with a cruelty which much resembles a dripping through death, one which empties life and kills it softly and cynically, a death which seems to enjoy expelling life.
That death has allies among the living. Those allies for the ill woman are the physicians. Mark says that they were numerous in her case. And instead of helping her, they made her situation much worse, let alone the loss of her money (Mark 5, 26). Another ally of death is the shame where the Jewish society had put the poor woman, considering her unclean, in a puritan and rigid religiosity which bans life, excluding people and giving them shameful names. Thus, such a religiosity, instead of relieving suffering, oppresses its victims even more. The last ally of death is despair. While Jesus still speaks to the woman, the news arrives that there is nothing more to be done for the dead girl (Mark 5, 35). And when Jesus enters into the house, some laugh at him because of his presumption to give life (back).
Death is obviously powerful. No one can defeat it. Any effort to escape from it is crowned by failure. Humankind alone cannot make it! The great temptation, for man, is to dream of defeating death and to give life, by his forces alone. Simply impossible, as this utopic effort goes against man himself, his very mortal nature.
When and how can life be? Today’s gospel teaches us that life becomes a reality when we accept our own limits and when we make recourse to the One who can really give life. Only then, when humankind stops seeking to save itself alone, seeking the Lord, can we obtain life. When the poor ill woman spent all her money, when the girl was already dead, it is then that the time of the heavenly Wedding comes. For all of us, we reach that twelfth year in which it seems that the end came and that everything was lost. But, thanks to the life-giving Lord, everything begins again. The Bridegroom arrives and enters his house. Death gets out, as we read in the gospel of three Sundays ago. We have seen that Jesus is the strongest. He enters in the house of the strong man and neutralizes him.
In order that this new life be restored through Christ, our humanity has to acknowledge its own incapacity to defeat alone evil. Thus, we look for salvation where we can find it. The Lord will do the rest. At the beginning, the ill woman goes to Jesus with a slightly magic superstitious faith, satisfied to “take away a miracle”, without getting out of her isolation. The Lord meets and joins her. He takes her further: to get out of her own shame, to stand before him and the others in her own dignity as a daughter of God’s (Mark 5, 34) without being slave of fear any more. Jesus asks her to go out from the anonymous crowd, several times mentioned in this passage, inviting her in public to become a mature woman, responsible for her deeds.
In order that such a vital change happen, one needs to go through death and dismay. One has to reach the point of faith, faith in the impossible, and where, while humanly speaking, everything seems lost, precisely there one has to hope for a new beginning to spring. In such cases, one prays as never before. There, the real human prayer comes to being. And we get born anew through the real and deep encounter with Christ. And thus, also in us, the divine word of the Lord is accomplished: “Your faith has saved you”(Mark 5, 32).