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Catholic Church / Pacoima, CA

Faith Precedes Healing

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

“He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.'” Mark 5:34

Raising of Jairus' Daughter by Paolo Veronese, 1546

As always on Sundays in Ordinary Time, the Old Testament reading illumines today’s Gospel. In the longer form, Jesus performs two healings; and the Book of Wisdom proclaims our God the God of life, who “fashioned all things that they might have being” and formed human beings in “the image of his own nature,” to be “imperishable” (Wisdom 1:14; 2:23). People of faith, therefore, choose to live God’s “undying justice (righteousness)” (1:15) in this mortal life, thus beginning, even now, the undying life for which we were created. To choose otherwise is to choose the other side: the devil and death (2:25). Mark presents the two healings as a story within a story, a “story sandwich,” a literary device that reinforces his message for those who originally would have heard, not read, the story. Mark wants to emphasize an essential truth of his Gospel: that Jesus does not perform miracles to compel faith, but rather that faith precedes healing.

Just Have Faith

Jairus’ daughter is the child of an important, privileged man, who publicly seeks out Jesus and loudly proclaims—and demonstrates—his faith, “falling at Jesus’ feet and pleading earnestly with him” (5:22-23). The anonymous woman virtually “sneaks up behind” Jesus and, though clearly filled with faith, keeps that faith to herself until Jesus draws “the whole truth” out of her after her cure (5:27-28, 33). All the more impressive, then, that Jesus delays his healing of the seemingly “more important” and younger woman for the unknown, truly marginalized older woman. Returning to the “domestic church,” so to speak, of Jairus’ house from the public setting of the older woman’s cure, Mark tells us that Jairus’ daughter has died. In the face of a hopelessness even more definitive than that of the hemorrhaging woman, people tell Jairus “why trouble the teacher any longer?” (5:35). But Jesus does not consider his response to Jairus’ faith hopeless or a bother: “Do not be afraid; just have faith” (5:36). Despite death’s apparent triumph at Jairus’ home, Jesus grasps the child’s hand—even though the law prohibited touching the dead—and bids her, “Talitha koum—Little girl, | say to you, arise!” (5:41).

Why Bother?

So Mark seems to be asking us: Like Jairus on his way home or like the woman after twelve years, will we wonder, why bother? Or keep walking in faith with Jesus? Is a silent touch of Jesus’ garment—a quiet prayer of faith —enough for us? In the face of apparent hopelessness, will we choose faith over despair despite the ridicule of the crowd, remembering that Jesus has grasped us by the hand in baptism and commanded us to rise? Note the Gospel’s ending: after bidding Jairus’ daughter rise, Jesus commands that she be given something to eat (5:43). So, too, Jesus invites us now to feast at his eucharistic sacrifice and banquet!

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Readings for the Week

Monday: Gn 18:16-33; Ps 103:1b-4, 8-11; Mt 8:18-22
Vigil: Acts 3:1-10; Ps 19:2-5; Gal 1:11-20; Jn 21:15-19
Day: Acts 12:1-11; Ps 34:2-9; 2 Tm 4:6-8, 17-18; Mt 16:13-19
Wednesday: Gn 21:5, 8-20a; Ps 34:7-8, 10-13; Mt 8:28-34
Thursday: Gn 22:1b-19; Ps 115:1-6, 8-9; Mt 9:1-8
Friday: Gn 23:1-4, 19; 24:1-8, 62-67; Ps 106:1b-5; Mt 9:9-13
Saturday: Eph 2:19-22; Ps 117:1bc-2; Jn 20:24-29
Sunday: Ez 2:2-5; Ps 123:1-4; 2 Cor 12:7-10; Mk 6:1-6a