Scripture: Lectionary 99. July 1, 13 Sunday (B). Wisdom 1:13-15;2:23-24. Psalm 30:2.4.5-22.214.171.124. II Corinthians 8:7.9.13-15 Mark 5:21-43:
My reading and reflection on the passage from Mark’s Gospel made me think of the crucifix that is present in a chapel I visit two or three times a day. There I say three traditional oral prayers: the Memorare, the Marianist Prayer of Three O’Clock (it is three o’clock somewhere!) and the Salve Regina. I realize that Mark’s Gospel is primarily a
Gospel of the Cross and of discipleship. The cost of discipleship is severe and the road that leads to the gates of eternal life is narrow.
But today we learn that there is much life and healing in the dynamism of Mark’s narrative about two healings. The healing of the woman with the issue of blood is omitted by some, but this takes away from the literary technique of Mark who often sandwiches some events in the life of Jesus with one part being the first slice of bread as it were, then the second story or healing as the middle of the sandwich and finally a return to the original event and healing. You can easily see this in the booklets that bracket the story of the woman with the problem of hemorrhaging.
The Crucifix has both a horizontal cross-beam and a vertical one that stretches toward the ceiling. It made me visualize the carrying of the cross by Jesus and by us through the horizontal beam which characterizes our life with Jesus here on earth. We have become his arms reaching out to others just as his arms were extended to heal all of creation especially that part that had the capacity to say no to God and to stray from the narrow path. The vertical beam has the Body of Jesus, the Church, ourselves stretching with him toward the next phase of life after death—eternal life. Both of these images fit the readings for this Sunday. All are concerned with quality of life as expressed in their words that lead us to see the spiritual life and the life of the resurrected body. Jesus tells us not to fear but to have trust. He will heal both the older woman and the younger girl of twelve. I like to give them names from the Greek text and Aramaic.
One, the woman is Zoe or Life and the other is Talitha or Tabatha which means rise up to life again.
The reading from Wisdom is also about the fullness of life through all of creation which comes from God and we are the image and likeness of God. It is a spiritual reflection on Genesis but it is combined with the wisdom of the Greeks who make us think of the immortality of the soul. This however pushes in a new thought—the fullness of life after death including what we call the body which is united to the soul.
Here Judaism and Hellenism converge for making the insights about eternal life reasonable and clear. The piece was written in Alexandria, Egypt about one hundred years before Jesus was born.
Jesus is accomplishing two of the ten miracles that Mark records in this early part of his Gospel. Even the number eight is connected with life and an octagon is used in designing the buildings connected with assisted living in some areas, for example, Franciscan Terrace in Cincinnati.
Jesus and the Church proclaim a Gospel of Life following the thought of John Paul II who confronts the culture of death so apparent in our world today. His own death showed us his great love for life and his holding on to it even with all of the pain and fading away that was his.
Often our own playing up of life in commercials and sports is not what we mean by a Gospel and culture of life. This is a spiritual concept and deals with the wholesomeness of life and not just physical beauty, prowess in strength, or complacency because we have all the comforts we need. Jesus is speaking of life that saves and heals—the words are
the same in Mark’s Gospel.
He teaches us through his parables, his miracles and his clear proclamation about the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of life eternal with God. We Catholics are aware of the gift of life at the beginning and at the end of our journey with the Lord on the narrow way. In this way we are counter-culture to our society. We can proclaim the Right to Life in many ways but especially by our appreciation and love for one another who share in the same gift of God and who partake in the Body and Blood of Jesus.
As we approach the altar for Communion this Sunday let us remember the Scriptures we have heard and may we be so strengthened by the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation that we can be the Zoe and the Talitha of today’s reading from Mark. They both witness to the redeeming love of Jesus and the power of his resurrection. Communion reminds us that we are meant to return and live the gift we have received for an eternity. Amen.
Copyright 2012 Fr. Bertrand Buby, S.M.