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The Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
June 30, 2024

Watch this homily! (Begins at 36:00)

 

 
     Both of today’s gospel stories – the one about the little girl Jesus brought back from the dead or apparent death, and the one about the woman who suffered from the hemorrhages – are perfect illustrations of the teaching set forth in the first reading from the Book of Wisdom: that God is on the side of life, not death. It’s a teaching we need to be reminded of as we deal with the death that’s all around us, the death we can never seem to escape: our own death, the death of a loved one, the death that comes from natural disasters, the death brought about by war and poverty, and sometimes by nothing other than the sheer human perversity that is so evident in all manner of mass shootings and senseless gun violence.

      All of which prompts the question: if God is on the side of life, why so much death? And the Book of Wisdom answers that question by taking us back to one of the creation stories in Genesis, to that idyllic picture where all is life and harmony, beauty and peace, until what the writer calls “the envy of the devil” unleashes the scourge of sin and death. And nothing is ever the same. But make no mistake about it: to quote the reading from Wisdom, “God did not make death…God does not rejoice in the death of the living, for God fashioned all things that they might have being.” That they might have Life!

     And this, my friends, is where Jesus enters the picture. Jesus came not only to restore the original order but to far surpass it. Jesus came to put death to flight, by bringing life, life in abundance. 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 suffered from hemorrhages. She was as good as dead. Mark says 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, Mark seems to be having a little fun here at the expense of doctors. He was poking fun at them because, for all the good they do, they don’t have all the answers. I say that because, when Luke tells this story in his gospel – Luke, the physician – he says not 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. But she had one thing going for her: 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.

     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 Jesus 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.

     And now to the story about the little girl, the 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, 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 Jesus would have sufficed but no, we got both: word and touch.

     My friends in Christ, that healing touch of Jesus who came to destroy the power of death, that healing touch of Jesus and his encouraging word are not only to be found in the pages of the gospels: they are ours for the taking in the sacramental life of the Church. We encounter them 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 and the words of Jesus 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 – paths to life – amazing gifts from the God, in Jesus, always leads us to life, abundant life!

     That life is ours for the taking right now in Jesus’ life-giving Word and in the sacrament of his Body and Blood!

Father Michael G. Ryan

 

 

 

 

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