Thirteenth Sunday in ordinary time B

Theme: Life challenges

A variety of good and unexpected challenges are among those that have shaped and guided our lives this far. In spite of this, there is little to regret since sometimes good things happen when we least expect them. Changing plans and adjusting priorities are a blessing in disguise. We are invited to think out of the box in order to answer unforeseen provocations.

First reading: Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24

The book of Wisdom has been attributed to Solomon due to his reputation as a sage, yet this is work of a Hellenist Jew who lived and wrote in Alexandria, Egypt around year 60 B.C. Some suggest his name to be Philo Judaeus also known as Philo of Alexandria who presented his ideas couched in the form of a speech delivered by imaginary Solomon to other kings. Philo appeals to fellow Jews to remain faithful to their faith despite being in the Diaspora. He repeatedly demonstrates the superiority of Jewish thought over every other religion and philosophy. In discussing the fate of the righteous and the wicked, he insists that life continues after death and that the manner in which we live while on earth determines the quality of life after death.

In his original plan God created human beings in his image to be happy cf. Wisdom 6:18. Though death in not denied, he attributes it to the devil prefigured in the serpent of Eden cf. Wisdom 1:24. Though death of the body now is biological inevitable, spiritual demise whereby one is totally and irretrievably separated from God is manageable if we live virtuously.

Second reading: 2Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13-15

Paul’s relationship with the Corinthians was never dull. He had stayed in Corinth for 18 months during the early 50s and had succeeded in establishing a vital Christian community there. Like any human establishment; this Community had its strengths and weaknesses that Paul mentions in his second letter to the Corinthians occasioned by bad news brought to him through Timothy. For reasons not clear Paul had changed his plans to visit Corinth a second time; this made Corinthians to reject his first letter heaping their frustration on Timothy. The community had degenerated to the point that Paul’s apostolic authority faced a major challenge from the Judaizers who had stirred up resentment against him. Paul reacted quickly in order to preserve unity and to regain his relationship with them so as to ensure that the integrity of the Gospel was not at stake.

Because of this, much of 2Corinthians maintained conciliatory tones to the extent of asking them to support the Church in Jerusalem with finances. To encourage their generosity, Paul requested them to donate calling it a “gracious act” 2 Corinthians 8:7. As we read the same text today we are invited to share our abundance in order to alleviate the needs of the poor. Sharing establishes equality and ensures that no poor is left unattended. A few decades later, Luke would similarly describe the post-Easter Church cf. Acts 4:34. Having appealed to their faith, virtue and gratitude to God for salvation, Paul encouraged the Corinthians to give generously like God supplying manna in the wilderness cf. 2Corinthians 8:15. Like desert travelers what humanity needs is to gather what is enough to survive without worrying about tomorrow or regretting yesterday. Paul goes further to describe Jesus’ willingness to help others by becoming poor like them and letting go all things so as to win many for the kingdom of God. That graciousness and willingness of Jesus to become poor for our sake is what we need to imitate.

Gospel: Mark 5:21-43

As Mark tells it, a very busy and devoted Jesus was on his way to the home of Jairus, a synagogue official whose daughter was near death. Obviously, death is serious business not to be trifled with. Although “God did not make death,” Wisdom 1:13, it is nevertheless an inherent aspect of life and each of us must necessarily learn to accept. This being so, the synagogue official was convinced that Jesus could do something for his daughter and it seemed imperative that Jesus’ hurry to help him in whatever way he could should not he hampered with. Despite the urgency of the situation, Jesus did not make a beeline for the home of Jairus. He instead allowed himself to be delayed by the woman suffering from a chronic hemorrhage who after all could have waited.

While he could have argued that he was too busy or in too much of a hurry to tend to her needs; Jesus took his time on the way to the extent of allowing strangers to touch and even talk with him. This unplanned moment turned into a time of grace for her and discovery for him. In him, she met the love, peace and healing as Jesus recognized faith in her that the synagogue official had equally to develop. It was on this similar faith that Jesus relied to restore Jairus daughter to life. Jesus’ care, the invitation from Jairus, hopelessness of his daughter and the inconvenient woman teach us that God can be present in the diversions and details we have not planned.

I recall the experience a priest friend who on one Sunday morning was traveling his regular route to an outstation and on the side of the road he saw a car. Its hood was open and dark smoke was billowing forth, while a woman and four little children stood nearby. Frantically, one tried to wave him down to help them, but the priest merely slowed down a little and shouted out the window, ‘I’m sorry I can’t help you; I’m on my way to Church for mass and I am late’. Later he came to learn that the people he refused to save were his real sister, nieces and a nephew. The car had burst into flames and burnt all of them beyond recognition.

Back to our Gospel of today; in addition to their medical problems, the woman with hemorrhages and Jairus’ daughter were ritually unclean since one was bleeding and the other was dead. That in itself would have deterred many from associating with them. But Jesus had little regard for laws and practices that ostracized the sick. On the contrary, he touched and allowed himself to be touched because he wanted his disciples to learn that it is faith that forms the appropriate opportunity for the wonders to be performed. Jesus affirmed the faith of the woman who touched him in the crowd and invited Jairus to have similar faith rather than fear that his daughter had died. In affirming that it is her faith that made her well, Jesus Christ used a form of the verb sozo, which means ‘to heal’ and ‘to save’. Faith and not ritual ablutions makes us whole and holy. In her healed state, the woman was no longer ostracized but a free member of the community sharing in God’s peace.

On the other hand, Jairus also exhibited a certain faith in that he sought Jesus’ help and braved the crowds to make an appeal on behalf of his rather dead daughter. In a world that valued men over women and sons above daughters, Jesus’ action leaves remarkable lesson to our society. The fact that Jairus remained with Jesus as he ‘diverted’ to help the hemorrhaging woman further attests his hope and confidence in the man from Nazareth that challenges our impatience.

What Jesus did next is also worthy of our careful notice. Despite the ridicule of the crowd that had gathered to mourn the girl’s death and even though it would definitely have been a self-satisfying ‘aha’ moment, Jesus did not restore the girl to life before his detractors. Rather, as he did with Peter’s mother-in-law, Jesus worked his saving wonders in the privacy of Jairus’ home, meaning that we ought to respect other people’s privacy.

Application

As death comes to us in a strange way, let us learn to be strangers to it by living a virtuous life here on earth. Every time we have been blessed with something good, let us always be willing to share and care for one another. Even when a situation seems to be beyond redemption, let us present it to Jesus because he alone is able to make something good out of nothing.

 


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