Like Lazarus, the young girl Jesus raised from death died again. Who knows the cause of her second death. Did she die in childbirth? Was she felled by one of the common deadly diseases that afflicted people of that time? She may have lived long enough to have children, even grandchildren. Perhaps, as she lay dying, they gathered around her deathbed and watched as she breathed her last. When she did die, once again there would be the customary rituals. They would have hired flute players and a professional group of mourners. Neighbors would have heard the sounds and known that Jairus’ daughter had died – again.
Who knows, some of the older among them might recall how she had died when she was only 12. They would tell their young how her father, an important synagogue official, had put aside all the usual official prejudices against the preacher Jesus and gone to him, even falling down before him, to beg for the life of his daughter. Sickness and death have a way of shearing through the veneer of our self-importance and social standings. They touch us at our most vulnerable place, strip us of our illusions and remind us that, no matter how important we are in others’ eyes, we are still human – limited and temporary here on earth. And so, Jairus’ daughter dies again and Jesus is no longer around to help the grieving family. Did he perform that gracious miracle for Jairus’ daughter just once, a marvelous, but once-only gesture of his power?
The Christian community that saved this story and passed it on to us didn’t believe so. They saw more than a resuscitation in what Jesus did for the young girl. It is clear they saw important elements in the story that would relevant for us, whose lives are all-too-often shattered by the death of loved ones – especially after 600,000 have died in our country and millions elsewhere have succumbed to the COVID pandemic. In addition, we too must face our own deaths someday. Can what Jesus did for the girl have meaning for us today?
Our ancestors in faith believed so, you can tell by how they tell the story. They make hints: for example, they evoke hope in the resurrection in their telling. For example, Jairus asks that his daughter be made "well" and "live." Both words have special meaning. In the early church’s preaching they were used to indicate "salvation" and "eternal life." Our ancestors in faith believed that in performing this miracle, Jesus shows he is offering salvation and eternal life to the dead.
I hear echoes of today’s gospel story of Jairus and his critically ill daughter in a conversation I had some years back. A troubled mother chattered with me at a birthday party over coffee and cake. Her son was part of the Wave dance movement – you may remember how popular these events were among young partygoers. He would go out to huge dances in warehouses and spend entire nights there dancing – obviously this was before the pandemic restrictions. She knew that at such gatherings the drug Ecstasy was used to heighten the sights and sounds experienced by the dancers. She asked for prayers. It echoes what so many other parents have asked for their children in trouble. She had also been speaking to drug counselors so that she would know how to approach her son and get him help. Echoing the gospel, her prayers were that her son would get "well and live." She wanted to help, not just to get him off drugs, but that he might find deeper meaning in his life. She hoped he would have the faith she had in Jesus and experience the love and support she had in her faith community. Like Jairus, she wanted to take Jesus’ hand and lead him to the bedside of her son. She hoped that through her, Jesus might reach out and touch her son, raise him from the "sleep" that he was in so that he might arise and "live." (I wonder if that isn’t a way of praying for someone we love: imagine taking the hand of Jesus and silently leading him to the side of the one we are concerned about. No words necessary. Let him see and trust he will know what must be done to "raise them up.")
There is a spiritual phenomenon described in the East called "waking up." It may happen like this. We go through our busy lives running from one activity to another. We sedate ourselves in front of television late into the evening, grab some sleep and then start another rushed and too-busy day. The pandemic has only intensified these activities, being locked in for months has added, not reduced, our workload and responsibilities. We have barely had time to see to the basics of daily life, much less tend to our inner life.
Eventually something may interrupt this deadening routine and "wake us up." The possibilities are many: maybe we have a moment of dazzling insight about our lives, what is wrong and needs to be changed; perhaps someone close to us dies, or gets very sick; or our energies falter due to aging; we may go though a divorce because of a marriage long neglected, etc. Up until these events happen we are not yet "awake." We were looking elsewhere, at what we thought made our lives "interesting," "exciting," "relevant," or "important." But something happens to us and we see now that we have been sleepwalking. What happened to Jairus’ daughter can happen for us, we too wake from a dulling, even deadly sleep. It is a gift! Someone has reached out a gracious hand and raised us up. Resurrection has happened here, in this life, for us. The crisis we experienced has proved to be a wake-up call. We are "saved" and enabled to see more clearly our current situation and Who it is that is offering us life.
Another way in which we are raised up: It seems obvious from the story that the girl has died, the mourners are announcing it clearly by their wailing. But when Jesus refers to her condition, he calls it "sleep," which earns him the onlookers’ ridicule. Mark is noting for us what the Christian community professes about Jesus. Death is as sleep to him and what he does for the girl he will do for us, awake us from "sleep." With faith that he has the power to do this, each of us can face our own death with the courage Jesus raises in us.
Jesus instructs that the girl be given something to eat. What could be a stronger, more convincing proof that the girl has returned to life? Her eating is not just a sign she has her bodily functions back. In this culture, eating in the midst of the family was a strong sense of belonging and having life. You had life, not just as an individual, but as part of a community. The girl is given food by her family, and so she has been restored to full life. Who knows how long she had been sick and away from the family table. Now she is back to that table, surrounded by those who love her. The preacher may want to draw the parallel between the Christian and the Eucharistic table. When we have been "asleep" to God, or "dead" because of sin, the living Christ "wakes us up" by forgiving our sins and inviting us to eat at the table. We are then restored as a living member of the family of believers. We can again come to the table for the family meal, the body and blood, the very life of Christ.
A word about the woman who interrupts Jesus’ journey to Jairus’ home. She seems to have been a person of means. How else, in such a poor society, could she have afforded "many doctors?" Now, as a hemorrhaging person, she would be considered ritually unclean. She would not be allowed to worship in the Temple and would be required to stay apart from the community so as not to contaminate others. How ironic, she who in her past, might have known the synagogue official Jairus, even been in the same social circle with him, now would not be allowed to worship in his synagogue. Yet, need and their human incapacity to address their desperate situation by themselves, have brought them together. Now, united by their need, and their faith in Jesus, both are in the same community. Like us at this worship – united by need and faith in Jesus, our superficial differences are put aside as together we reach out for him. But his reach is longer – through Word and Sacrament he reaches out, takes us by the hand and raises us up.
Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:
. . .as a matter of equality your abundance at the present time should supply their needs, so that their abundance may also supply your needs, that there may be equality.
--2 Corinthians 8:13-14
St. Paul introduces the principle of economic equality in urging his audience toward generosity for their impoverished brothers and sisters in Jerusalem. The goal is not impoverishment but sharing of resources so that balance will be achieved over the course of time.
The U.S. Catholic bishops believe building a just economy that works for all encompasses a wide range of issues, including food security and hunger, work and joblessness, homelessness and affordable housing, and tax credits for low-income families, as well as protecting programs that serve poor and vulnerable people throughout the federal budget. They have created ten points to remember:
A Catholic Framework for Economic Life
1.The economy exists for the person, not the person for the economy.
2.All economic life should be shaped by moral principles.
3.A fundamental moral measure of any economy is how the poor and vulnerable are faring. .
4.All people have a right to life and to secure the basic necessities of life (e.g., food, clothing, shelter, education, health care, safe environment, economic security.)
5.All people have the right to economic initiative, to productive work, to just wages and benefits, to decent working conditions, to organize and join unions or other associations.
6.All people, to the extent they are able, have a corresponding duty to work, a responsibility to provide the needs of their families and an obligation to contribute to the broader society.
7.In economic life, free markets have both clear advantages and limits; government has essential responsibilities and limitations; voluntary groups have irreplaceable roles, but cannot substitute for the proper working of the market and the just policies of the state. .
8.Society has a moral obligation, including governmental action where necessary, to assure opportunity, meet basic human needs, and pursue justice in economic life.
9.Workers, owners, managers, stockholders and consumers are moral agents in economic life. . .we enhance or diminish economic opportunity, community life and social justice.
10.The global economy has moral dimensions and human consequences.. .especially for those most in need wherever they might live on this globe.https://www.usccb.org/committees/domestic-justice-and-human-development/economic-justice-domestic-poverty
Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS
Director: Office of Human Life, Dignity, and Justice Ministries
Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral
Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.
From today’s Gospel reading:
Jesus said to the woman,
"Daughter your faith has saved you.
Go in peace and be cured of your affliction."
Jesus’ stop to address the woman shows he considered her and her need as important and as pressing as that of the prominent religious leader Jairus. Once again Jesus shows that the marginalized have an important place in his ministry and his invitation to the reign of God.
So we ask ourselves:
"Love all my friends and all the friendships that I have made. They are like the sky. It is all part of life, like a big full plate of food for the soul. I hope I left everyone a plate of food full of happy memories, happiness and no sadness."
—Last words of Quintin Jones before he was executed on May 19, 2001 at Huntsville Prison, Texas. Media witnesses were not admitted to his execution. -----------
This is a particularly vulnerable time for state and federal prisoners. Conditions, even without the pandemic, are awful in our prisons. Imagine what it is like now with the virus spreading through the close and unhealthy prison settings. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of the inmates listed below to let them know we have not forgotten them. If the inmate responds you might consider becoming pen pals.
Please write to:
----Central Prison, 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-4285
For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network:http://catholicsmobilizing.org/resources/cacp/
On this page you can sign "The National Catholic Pledge to End the Death Penalty." Also, check the interfaith page for People of Faith Against the Death Penalty: http://www.pfadp.org/
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