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The 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 1, 2018


    
Both of today’s gospel stories – the one about the little girl Jesus brought back from the dead and the one about the woman who suffered from the hemorrhages – are perfect illustrations of the teaching set forth in the reading from the Book of Wisdom: that God is on the side of life, not death. It’s a teaching that may not be all that apparent to us since we so often have to deal with death. It’s all around us, isn’t it?  We can never escape it - the death of a loved one, the death that comes from natural disasters like earthquakes and hurricanes, the death brought about by war and poverty, and sometimes by nothing other than sheer human perversity.

     Death in all its many manifestations makes it difficult for us to affirm, along with the writer of the Book of Wisdom - and with the witness of the scriptures reaching all the way back to Genesis - that God the creator, the source and fountain of all life, is always on the side of life, never of death; that death, which made its entrance into the world through what the reading from Wisdom called “the envy of the devil” – is the very opposite of what God is about. Sadly, however, we humans often put ourselves on the side of death by our pride and arrogance.

     Jesus came in order to turn all this around.  In the two stories from Mark’s gospel, death and life come face to face in the ministry of Jesus and in each case, it’s life that gets the last word, not death. There is simply no contest.

     Take the woman who had suffered from hemorrhages. She was as good as dead. Mark tells us that she had “been afflicted for twelve years, suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors, spent all she had, yet was not helped, but only grew worse.”  A little aside: with all due respect for any of you who are physicians, I think Mark was having a little fun here at the expense of doctors. He was poking fun at them because they don’t always have all the answers. The reason I say that is that, when Luke tells this same story in his gospel – Luke, the physician – he doesn’t say a word about all the money wasted on doctors…!

     I won’t belabor the point. It’s enough to observe that the poor woman was in dire straits. The only thing she really had going for her was her faith. She had heard about Jesus and his healing powers and she believed that if she could just touch the hem of his garment she would be healed. And she was right.  Her flow of blood dried up the moment she did that.

     But the story didn’t end there, did it!  The healing would have been enough, but she also got an encounter with Jesus who clearly wanted this to be more than just an anonymous display of his power. The woman must have been frightened to death when Jesus asked who it was who had touched him, but he quickly put her at ease and in their brief encounter, he opened up for her a whole new horizon. He not only told her that it was her faith that had saved her, he also called her “daughter.”  That’s significant because that’s the only time in all Mark’s gospel that Jesus uses language like that. In calling her ‘daughter,’ Jesus was telling her that she was one of his very own.

     What was it about the woman, I wonder, that led him to do that?  Was it the courage she showed in reaching out to him as she did?  Was it her hope, her obvious faith?  I don’t know.  But this I do know: in calling her his daughter, Jesus made her part of his family. He was telling her that the life she received from him was the same life he received from his Father.

     But there is even more here: if this woman was ‘family’ to Jesus, that makes her ‘family’ to each of us who reach out to him for help, knowing that in touching him, we are touching life.

     And now to the other story – the one about the little girl, daughter of Jairus, the synagogue official. It’s a life and death story, too.  But unlike the woman with the hemorrhage who was as good as dead, this little girl apparently was dead when Jesus finally arrived at the house.  The people were weeping and wailing loudly, and when Jesus told them the girl was asleep, not dead, their weeping and wailing turned to derisive laughter.  They ridiculed him, we are told.  Jesus was unfazed. Serenely in charge, he gently took the little girl by the hand and told her to get up. Did you notice that in this story, much like in the story of the woman with the hemorrhages, the healing – the meeting of life with death – involved touch? The woman touched the hem of Jesus’ garment; Jesus took the little girl by the hand.  A word from him would have sufficed but no, we got both: word and touch.

     My friends in Christ, that healing touch of Jesus and his encouraging word are not just to be found in the pages of the gospels; they are ours for the taking in the sacramental life of the Church. We encounter both every time we celebrate or receive one of the sacraments.  In the sacraments there is always touch and there are always words: from the flowing water and words of Baptism, to the breaking of the Bread in the Eucharist, to the laying on of hands in Reconciliation, Confirmation and Ordination, to the Anointing of the Sick, to the joining of hands in Matrimony – there is always touch and there are always words.  And both become channels of life – both become paths to life – amazing gifts from the God who did not make death and who, in Jesus, always leads us to life, new and abundant life!

     That life is ours for the taking today and every day when we come forward to receive the Eucharist!

Father Michael G. Ryan

This Sunday marked Father Ryan's 30th anniversary as Cathedral Pastor. Listen to the announcement and blessing at the conclusion of the 10:00am Mass:

 

 

 

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Seattle, Washington  98104
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