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Could it get any worse? | Gospel of June 30

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Gospel according to Saint Mark 5,21-43:

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered around him, and he stayed close to the sea. One of the synagogue officials, named Jairus, came forward. Seeing him he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, saying, “My daughter is at the point of death. Please, come lay your hands on her that she may get well and live.” He went off with him, and a large crowd followed him and pressed upon him.
There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years. She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors and had spent all that she had. Yet she was not helped but only grew worse. She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak. She said, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.” Immediately her flow of blood dried up. She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction. Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who has touched my clothes?” But his disciples said to Jesus, “You see how the crowd is pressing upon you, and yet you ask, ‘Who touched me?’” And he looked around to see who had done it. The woman, realizing what had happened to her, approached in fear and trembling. She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”

While he was still speaking, people from the synagogue official’s house arrived and said, “Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?” Disregarding the message that was reported, Jesus said to the synagogue official, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.” He did not allow anyone to accompany him inside except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official, he caught sight of a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. So he went in and said to them, “Why this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep.” And they ridiculed him. Then he put them all out. He took along the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and entered the room where the child was. He took the child by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!” The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around. At that they were utterly astounded. He gave strict orders that no one should know this and said that she should be given something to eat.

Could it get any worse?

 Luis CASASUS President of the Idente Missionaries

Rome, June 30, 2024 | XIII Sunday in Ordinary Time

Wis 1: 13-15; 2,23-24; 2Cor 8: 7.9.13-15; Mk 5: 21-43

 Several times, perhaps many times a day, we have to face a problem, more or less difficult, more or less worrying. But, in today’s Gospel, we see how Christ lives in a succession of setbacks, one after the other. First, on the shore of the lake, he had to attend to a crowd, surely of people suffering from all kinds of needs and miseries. In the midst of his efforts to convey peace, he was interrupted by the anguished plea of a synagogue leader whose daughter was seriously ill. And when he was on his way to this official’s house, he is stopped by a woman who seeks to get out of her physically and socially dramatic situation, since her illness led her to be considered worthless, in addition to having lost all her possessions.

Let us note that something similar happened to the father of that sick girl: after his sacrifice to reach Jesus, after putting his fame at stake by going to a young and controversial Master because of his close relationship with the Gentiles, after getting her to go home with him… this woman appears with hemorrhages and seems to interrupt or delay the last possibility of curing his daughter. To make matters worse, then some from home arrive, with the news he was afraid to hear: Too late. Your daughter is dead.

These two situations of impotence, of the sick woman and of Jairus, represent the same helplessness that we all experience when our problems are too many: we do not have enough time or calm to reflect, we do not know where to start. Indeed, the evangelist Mark takes the opportunity to point out that the woman had been sick for 12 years and Jairus’ daughter was 12 years old. It is no coincidence; this number symbolizes the 12 tribes of Israel and in them we are all represented.

What happens to us when we are overwhelmed by adversity?

First, many negative emotions are activated. Articulating and adequately expressing feelings or desires can then become difficult or exhausting. Our attention narrows and is diverted to potential threats. Our capacity for listening and empathy diminishes, which interferes with our relationships, and we resort to instinctive defensive ways of thinking and behaving.

Under these conditions, our response to stress is usually instinctive, and we are inclined to one of the following three attitudes:

* fight (attempt to regain control, trying to disarm the source of the threat);

* flee (disengage from the threat by giving up the fight);

* or immobilize myself (a kind of paralysis; thus distracting my attention, denying or ignoring the cause of the distress). Thus, we act in a really mechanical way, unless we embrace the Gospel to resolve these conflicts of the passions, which in these cases demand us to release the tension at all costs.

Again, we find an explanation of why Christ claims to be the Life. Without Him, our passage through this world, besides being painful, is meaningless. That is why Jesus’ words to Jairus today are the same words he spoke to the terrified disciples during the storm: Do not be afraid, just have faith.

There is a contrast between the uncontainable anguish of those who had begun the mourning for the recently deceased girl and the calm serenity of the Master. They were lamenting and weeping and tearing their hair and rending their garments in a paroxysm of anguish; He was calm, serene and self-possessed. Jesus suffers with every human being and is moved by the sickness and fear that he sees in us, but he knows that no tears, no sorrow, will be barren. God the Father, as he did with the Cross of his Son, transforms our darkest moments into light.

—ooOoo—

The Gospel story brings together two very different people: a woman and a man; she is someone who has lost her possessions, he is a socially relevant man; Jairus approaches Jesus head-on, she trying not to be discovered.

It is no coincidence that both miracles occur at the same time. We are taught that all kinds of people will receive an answer from Christ if they put a little faith in Him, a minimum of trust, if we open our hearts to change. Christ calls the newly healed woman “daughter”, making it clear what her new condition is when she is forgiven: not only does He erases the consequences of her condition, but He incorporates her into the family, into those who will collaborate with Him We do not know more about that woman, but she would certainly bless and give testimony of Christ as few others could.

Mark also gives an endearing testimony of Jesus. Why do these words Talitha cumi appear in the Aramaic language? Undoubtedly, because Mark received information of this miracle through Peter, who was one of the chosen witnesses. Surely, Peter would speak Greek on his visits outside Palestine, but he could never forget the voice, the exact words that came out of Christ’s mouth: Talitha cumi.

The practical conclusion that you and I can apply in our life of faith is to ask ourselves if we are aware of how God really gives us life every day; not only in the biological sense, which in itself is a miracle, but how He grants us His forgiveness, how He gives meaning to every step we take and opens Himself to each of us in a different way, taking into account our specific weakness and the talents we have received. Certainly, before we opened ourselves to Him, it was He who opened Himself to us.

For example, recognizing what my Dominant Defect is an immense grace. Only hypocrites consider themselves saints and erect barriers so as not to join sinners. They do not need to “touch” Jesus. They never feel the need to ask for forgiveness or give thanks. But this happens to you and me, to all of us, on many occasions: my grossest faults are visible to all but me. I have to be thankful when, in many different ways, Jesus comes to me, in spite of my unhealthy pride, leaving the pleasant company of the healthy, of the righteous.

This is clearly seen in the moment when the sick woman touches Christ’s robe. Every time Jesus heals someone, He gives something of Himself. Here is a universal rule: this is our ecstasy. We will never produce anything beautiful and beneficial for others unless we are willing to put something of ourselves, of our own life, of our own soul into it. No pianist will ever give a great performance if he glides through a piece of music with impeccable technique…and nothing else. The performance will not be moving if it is not produced with that form of exhaustion that comes with the outpouring of self. No actor will give a great performance if he repeats his words with every correct inflection and every proper gesture, like a perfectly programmed automaton. His tears must be real tears; something of himself must enter into the performance. Every apostle who has given a credible testimony has felt stripped of something, of a part of what he considered necessary…. Jairus did not send an emissary to speak to Jesus, it was he himself, leaving his tasks, but above all his fame.

We usually remember the example of mothers and fathers who do so. But I would like to relate the case of a child, because God’s action can be seen more clearly in them.

Once I was in the waiting room of a consulate, waiting to get an entry visa. A three-year-old boy began to cry desperately and his parents did not understand what was happening. All attempts were futile and those of us present, more than 40 people, felt real anguish at the way he was crying. After a few minutes, a five-year-old girl approached the little boy and offered him a red balloon that had been given to her. Immediately everything changed, the two began to play and the whole room was filled with smiles.

I must add a detail that will help me never forget that moment. The little girl who approached the boy had a leg in a cast and it was certainly difficult for her to move. Maybe that’s why her parents had bought her the balloon.

In the Second Reading, Paul recalls in a dramatic way (drawing on the Old Testament) what happens if we refuse to live as your filial nature asks us to do. In the desert, the Israelites had been commanded by God to gather only the amount of manna they would consume in a day. There was to be nothing left over. Someone tried to take more than was necessary. In the morning he was found corrupted and full of worms. That was the lesson God wanted to teach his people. One cannot hoard the basic goods of life, least of all what we directly receive from heaven.

—ooOoo—

One final observation, what is the difference between what we call life and what we call death? It happens to us like Jairus’ family. When we lose hope about a person, when we believe that he will never change, that his insensitivity, his impurity and his hypocrisy cannot be cured…we give proof of our lack of faith. We do not see beyond our experience and our rickety knowledge. It happens to us like the society where the hemorrhagic woman lived; for them she was a hopeless case, indeed, a victim of their sins, whom God had punished with that ailment. We react like the family of Jairus: Do not bother the Master, your daughter is dead. I do not open my heart to a person because I consider her lost forever, or perhaps because she does not meet my expectations as a presumptuous disciple.

Normally we are like the crowd that surrounded and pushed Christ; we are not his enemies, we probably admire Him, but we do not embrace Him, we do not touch Him either with our minds or with our gestures of simple welcome. Even if we have the extraordinary opportunity to receive Him in the Eucharist, we do not always do like Jairus, who expresses with clarity what his affliction is, his deepest pain, perhaps a fault or a characteristic of my temperament that I dare not even face.

But Christ continues to pronounce for me the same words he said to Jairus’ daughter: I say to you, arise.

_______________________________

In the Sacred Hearts of Jesus, Mary and Joseph,

Luis CASASUS

President