I was up early today for mass and a holy hour at the house of prayer. I then came back to the apartment to work on some of next semester's lectures (medical ethics) and get ready for some Maryknoll meetings and travel.
Today's Gospel and some comments:
When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered round him; and he was by the lake. Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, ‘My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.’ So he went with him.
And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from haemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, ‘If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.’ Immediately her haemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my clothes?’ And his disciples said to him, ‘You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, “Who touched me?”’ He looked all round to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.’
While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, ‘Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?’ But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, ‘Do not fear, only believe.’ He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. When he had entered, he said to them, ‘Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.’ And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha cum’, which means, ‘Little girl, get up!’ And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat. Mark 5:21-43
The Old Testament took thousands of years to unfold, but the events recounted in the gospels unfolded in just a couple of years. Mark’s gospel in particular leaves an impression of breathless haste; it is like a child telling a story. Many sentences begin with “And”; he often uses phrases like “straight away”, “and immediately”; he uses the ‘historic present’ (“Jesus says to them,” not “said”), which gives a feeling of urgency. He also ‘sandwiches’ events, adding to the feeling of urgency: in today’s reading, for example, Jesus healed the woman while he was on his way to save the little girl. There is an urgency about the whole gospel that makes it quite clear it is not just for reading; it is for doing.
Coming back to the beginning of the passage: look at the synagogue official. Synagogue officials differ – or rather their circumstances differ. In Lk 13:14 we saw an angry one: he was angry that Jesus healed an old lady on the sabbath. But in today’s reading we see one who “threw himself at Jesus’ feet and asked him earnestly” to heal his little daughter who was dying. It would be wonderful if we knew that it was the same official! There is nothing like a crisis to restore our humanity: not any kind of crisis but one of the heart. Any crisis that only challenges your mind is not deeply challenging; you are not really open till your heart is open. Your real inside is not your mind but your heart. Culture and travel and training can open your mind, but that isn't much. You are not open till your heart is exposed. As soon as the official had a sick child he ceased to be an official and became a father.
In both stories there is a child. The words Jesus spoke to the little girl in the ‘outer layer’ story are quoted in Aramaic, his native language: talitha kumi, “little girl, get up!” The New Testament is written in Greek, but the writers kept just a few words in Hebrew and Aramaic: for example, the last word in the Bible, maranatha, and Abba! And talitha kumi, an expression of great gentleness and tenderness. It must have been as distinctive as his prayer; they remembered it forever in its own language. Talitha kumi.