13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
When the Book of Wisdom, the source of the first reading, was written, the plight of God’s people was not good. Many had left the Holy Land. Going elsewhere, they retained their ethnic and religious identity, and often therefore made themselves seem quite different.
The author of Wisdom took pains to insist that God does not design the hardships that come upon people. Human sinning creates evil.
God’s justice and goodness always will prevail. It may take time for goodness to triumph, as it takes a ship time to right itself when struck by the strong waves of an angry sea. But, right will prevail because God’s justice will prevail.
St. Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians supplies the second reading. It gives a simple truth. Humans, even committed Christians, are inclined to forget. Christians can forget that God is supreme, merciful and good. They can forget to obey God.
In self-centeredness, they can forget others in need. The Apostle says that if anyone has a surplus in the things of this earth, then this surplus should be put at the disposal of those in need.
For its last reading, the Church offers two Miracle Narratives from the Gospel of Mark. In the first story, a synagogue official, Jairus, comes to Jesus, saying that his daughter is critically ill. Jairus feared that his daughter might die.
As a synagogue official, he most likely was a religious man. As always in the Scripture, being religiously devout was to a person’s advantage. Faith illuminated the mind. Humility set matters in focus. In his humility, and in his religious devotion, Jairus was able to recognize the divine power within Jesus.
Jesus goes to the girl’s bedside and heals her. She rises and walks around. Everyone saw her recovery. It was not imaginary, but the crowd of neighbors watching it all could not believe what had happened.
In the second story, a woman with chronic hemorrhages approaches Jesus. Discreetly, the Gospel does not precisely describe the hemorrhage, but if it was gynecological in nature, as likely it was, she was by this fact ritually unclean. This factor set her apart, outside the community.
Under the same rules, anyone whom she touched also was unclean. However, she touched the garment of Jesus. He allowed it. He excluded no one. Jesus realizes her faith. He tells her that faith has cured her. The hemorrhage stops.
Common to the two stories is personal faith, that of Jairus, and that of the woman. In each case, the miracle occurs not as a proof of the Lord’s power, but as a reward for deep faith. The crowd present as the daughter of Jairus was brought back to life could not accept the reality of it all because it had no faith. Absence of faith is not freedom from illusions. It produces distortion and blindness.
These three readings all remind us that human reasoning can be flawed. In the first reading, attention obliquely is drawn to the fact that some willingly hurt others, on a modest scale, or on a great scale. Even good people can fail to see that hardships come not from God, but from the evil acts of people.
Paul, in the second reading, reminds us that our priorities easily can be confused. He challenges that most basic of human fears, the fear of being materially insufficient. He calls Christians to imitate the trust of Christ, and the love of Christ, and to see all in the light of what truly is important.
Finally, St. Mark’s Gospel tells us that sickness and anxiety are part of human life. Jesus possesses the key to eternal life. Being of strong faith enables us to recognize what life actually is all about.
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