FR DOM'S HOMILY
Year B 2021
13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The challenges of Covid-19 have brought us face to face with the fragility of life. We have seen many people getting sick and some dying as a result of the Covid-19 virus. It seems that Covid-19 has brought us to that place where it feels that we are living in the valley of the shadow of death. But as the psalmist said, “…even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of the death, I shall not fear, for you are with me; with your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” The Lord walks with us and comforts us even when we are in the valley of the shadow of death, and God offers us the fruits of the Divine life.
In our Gospel today, it seems that the stories presented reflect what it means to be walking on the brink of death. We hear two stories placed side by side in our Gospel of Mark. In those stories, the main characters seem to be in a desperate situation where they have run out of any hope that will change their situation.
The story began with Jesus crossing over to the other side in a boat. Whenever the Bible says that Jesus crossed over to the other side, it is a flashing pointer to let us know that he was crossing over from doing the expected to the unexpected. It is him moving from acting in a way that society of his time expected him to act, to acting in a way that society would not expect. It especially involves including the outsider or those who have come to the end of themselves. In our stories today, he helped Jairus’s daughter, a synagogue official, one known to be an important person. Jairus, with his position, was not expected to come to Jesus who was seen to be disrupting the system that favours the rich. Yet, he knelt and asked Jesus to help his daughter. You can feel the disdain in the hearts of those poor people watching, and yet Jesus went ahead and helped him; he included this man in his mission of liberation. In the case of the woman suffering from haemorrhage, her condition made her unclean, and touching Jesus would make Jesus unclean as the tradition stipulates. In the story, Jesus helped Jairus and the daughter. The woman suffering from haemorrhage touched him. Jesus has done the unexpected. His crossing over was symbolic of him taking people to cross over to seeing that the Divine is for everyone. Everyone is included in the eyes of God. If it is not good news for all, it is not good news at all!
The placing of the two stories is very important. As Jesus crossed over to the other side, there, he met a synagogue official Jairus whose twelve-year-old daughter was sick and dying. He was desperate for Jesus to do something to heal the daughter. Time was of the essence. Imagine the crowd pressing round Jesus and Jesus trying to get through the crowd. Imagine this man fighting to make way for Jesus and hoping Jesus gets to his place in time to save his daughter. Amid all these, in the limited time they have, a woman who was suffering from haemorrhage for twelve years, came and touched the cloth of Jesus believing that by touching his cloth, she will be healed. Her doctors have failed her and every other thing she has tried has failed her. She has come to the end of herself as well as Jairus, and now they look up to Jesus to help them in their desperate situation.
As the story goes, this woman touched the cloth of Jesus and got healed instantly. Jesus immediately noticed that something had gone out of him, so he asked, “Who touched me?” His disciples were surprised that he asked the question considering the large crowd that was pressing round him. But he knew somebody had touched him with faith to be healed. This poor woman who had touched Jesus came up trembling and said to Jesus that she was the one that touched him. Jesus said to her that her faith had healed her. Remember that Jairus is still waiting for Jesus to keep going because his daughter was dying. Imagine what was going on in his heart. I would think he probably was feeling like this woman had stolen his time and opportunity for his daughter to be healed. People who stood by as the whole thing was unfolding probably gave him that impression as one of them said that the daughter was already dead, so he should not bother taking Jesus to his place. In a plot twist situation, Jesus reminded the man to have faith and not be afraid because the daughter is not dead.
Jesus took with him Peter, James and John and went to the place where the little girl was lying. Jesus saw the people there with all the commotion going on, he cleared the place, because sometimes you need to clear the noise to be in touch with the Divine. Jesus said to the child, “Talitha, kum! – little girl, I tell you to get up!” At that instant, the girl got up and started walking around. And the people were amazed. He asked that the girl be given something to eat.
Notice how the number 12 is played out in the whole story. Jairus’s daughter was 12 years old, and the woman suffering from haemorrhage had been in her condition for 12 years. 12 is the number of “completion” in the Bible, but it also means the number of “appointment,” and the number of “power and authority.” When the appointed time has come for your deliverance, nothing will ever hinder God’s divine appointment and liberation in your life. Jairus thought that the window had passed for his daughters’ healing when Jesus stopped and talked to the woman who touched his cloth and got healed. The woman herself having done everything to be healed thought that nothing will make her well again until she heard about Jesus and said, I must go to him to be healed. And it took her 12 years for that wonderous encounter with Jesus. In both cases, their appointed time had come for them to meet the one anointed with power and authority – Jesus Christ, and their story was never the same.
When we are walking in the valley of the shadow of death, God is walking with us. It may seem that nothing is happening, but when the appointed time comes, nothing will stop the Divine destiny. God is walking with us and working in us, so that we can live and be in the very nature of the Divine in whom we are created to live. As it says in the book of Wisdom from our First Reading, “To be – for this God created us….God made us in the image of his own nature.” So, may you my brothers and sisters, live in the Divine life of God which is in your nature as one created in the image and likeness of God. And may this Divine life get you up to move like the little girl and like the woman suffering from haemorrhage did in their encounter with Jesus. May you trust in the God who has power and authority to change your life forever by giving you a new life in God. And may this Divine life give you hope of a God who is walking with you even when you are in the valley of the shadow of death in your life. I pray that this Divine life becomes manifest in our lives even in this period of the Covid-19 pandemic. Amen.
And may God bless you!