THIRTEENTH SUNDAY

Ordinary Time – Cycle B

 

Wisdom 1,13-15; 2,23-24

2 Corinthians 8,7-9.13-15

Mark 5,21-43

 

            The dominant motive of the biblical readings of this Sunday revolves around God, origin, sustenance and Lord of life (first reading).  Jesus presents himself as the great liberator of man and woman that calls all to a full and mature existence saving from sin, from sickness and from death (gospel).  Paul invites the Corinthians to collaborate concretely with the poor, with those that are seen lacking of all that is necessary to carry out a dignified life (second reading).  In the center of today’s liturgy, therefore, is found the supreme value of human life, given and loved by God, and whose dignity ought to be recognized and respected by all.

 

            The first reading (Wis 1,13-15; 2,23-24) places us before the fundamental contrast of human existence:  life-death.  God is presented in the 11th chapter of the book of Wisdom as “lover of life” (Wis 11,26).  The text of this Sunday repeats it:  “Death was not God’s doing, he takes no pleasure in the extinction of the living.  To be - for this he created all” (Wis 1,13-14a).  Certainly, physical death is a fundamental component of our being creatures, but can be a sign of curse (tragic destiny of eternal alienation of God for the sinner) or Paschal sign of blessing (communion of eternal life with God for the just).  God has not created the definitive death of man and woman.  In the human person, “no fatal poison can be found” (Wis 1,14b).  The text of Wisdom affirms with strength that “God did make man imperishable, he made him in the image of his own nature” (2,23).  Man and woman, on their part, has to correspond with an upright life to this gift of God.  When the author of the book says that “virtue is undying” (1,15), he is saying that the root and foundation of eternal life is justice.  The practice of justice-holiness in earthly life is preparing for the just man a destiny of glory and of immortality.  The sinner, in turn, journeys towards a tragic end of physical and spiritual death, thus “it was the devil’s envy that brought death into the world, as those who are his partners will discover” (2,24).

 

            The second reading (2 Cor 8,7-9.13-15) is taken from that small section of the second letter to the Corinthians that refers to the collection in favor of the poor of Jerusalem (chapters 8-9).  The solidarity in favor of the most needy is a concrete form of recognition and of respect of the dignity of human life.  To share that which is possessed with those that are in a precarious economic situation is a fundamental dimension of Christian fraternity.  The equality among brothers and sisters has been an ideal of the Christian community from its beginnings, as testifies the celebrated texts of Luke in Acts 2,44-46 and Acts 4,32.  For Paul, the foundation of solidarity and economic equality is the example of Christ, which “being rich, he became poor for your sake, to make you rich out of his poverty” (2 Cor 8,9).  The mystery of k¾nosis, of the total emptying of Jesus that through his passion, death, on the cross and resurrection has given us life, is the model and foundation of the Christian obligation of charity and solidarity in favor of the poorest of this world.  As Christ has given us immortal life through his Passover, so also every Christian makes it his or her own duty in the realization of works of concrete charity in favor of the well-being of his or her brothers and sisters, fighting for equality and justice among men and women.

 

            The gospel (Mk 5,21-43) narrates the double miracle of the healing of the woman that suffered hemorrhaging of blood and of the resurrection of Jairus’ daughter.  It is the account of two women diminished in their vitality and in their dignity.  The hemorrhage is in a sick woman that had suffered for “twelve years” (v. 25) and, besides, poor, thus had spent all of her goods looking for uselessly, health.  It is also a person excluded from the social and religious life of Israel because of her impurity, thus the book of Leviticus condemned those that suffered from the flowing of blood to live in total alienation (Lv 12,7; 15,19-30).  Jairus’ daughter is a small girl of “twelve years” (v. 42), conquered by sickness and by death when she was just an adolescent.  Two women, two histories of pain and of death.  The first is a living cadaver, expulsed from society and condemned to live in bitterness; the second is victim of a innocent and premature death.  For both, Jesus reveals himself as savior, as he that is capable of restoring life and lost dignity, as liberator that restores to man and to woman the gift of a free existence. 

 

            The hemorrhaging woman hears Jesus spoken of and goes out to meet him, “and she came up behind him through the crowd and touched his cloak” (v. 27).  Her gesture expresses trust in Jesus as Messiah and Savior, but also represents and act of protest before a religious legislation that obligated her to live on the margin and alienated from all.  She does that, which ought not to have been done, that which the book of Leviticus prohibited:  touches Jesus’ mantle.  Stronger than the legal norm is her desire of liberty and of life:  “if I can touch even his clothes, I will be well again” (v. 29).  When she touches them, Jesus perceives immediately that “power had gone out from him” (v. 30).  From him irradiated a merciful power that liberates and that heals.  A therapeutic and saving power invades the body of the woman and she is healed.  Before the question of Jesus about who had touched him and the impossibility of the disciples to know, the woman leaves anonymity and confesses, “frightened and trembling,” that it was her.  Jesus tells her:  “My daughter, your faith has restored you to health, go in peace and be free from your complaint” (v. 34).  The Lord’s words interpret the gesture of the woman:  it has been her faith that has liberated her and has restored to her health and dignity.  At the end Jesus asks of her only one thing:  “go in peace,” that is, that she may leave with the security of possessing life as a gift of God and it may be realized in liberty.  Peace, in biblical language, is expression of all goods that man can reach.  Jesus ahs introduced this woman to peace, into a situation of health, of happiness and of personal autonomy, of liberty and of dignity.  Physical and spiritual health has been returned to her.

 

            Jairus’ daughter was sick.  Jairus, one of the synagogues’ officials, throws himself down at the feet of Jesus and begs him with insistence:  “My litter daughter is desperately sick.  Do come and lay your hands on her to make her better and save her life” (v. 23).  While the meeting with the hemorrhaging woman is happening with Jesus, they arrive from Jairus’ house to say that his daughter has died (v. 35).  Jesus asks Jairus to not be afraid and to follow confiding, and that he go back to his house with Peter, James and John.  Upon arriving in the midst of the funeral liturgy (cries, weeping) and enters in the room where the little girl is, accompanied by the father and mother of this girl and the three disciples that were with him.  The scene is strongly symbolic.  In the space of death, two groups come together with Jesus in the middle:  a family that cries powerlessly, that represent anguished humanity conquered by sorrow and death, and three disciples of Jesus, that represent the Church.  Jesus takes the hand of the girl and invites her to get up.  The girl gets up and he tells her parents to “give her something to eat” (v. 43), that is, that they help her to live, that they nourish in her a healthy and strong existence.  In this way, Jesus reveals himself as Savior of man and woman, conqueror of pain and of death.  In the resurrection of that little girl is anticipated and becomes present the mystery of his very own resurrection in favor of all humanity.  Peter, James and John, have assisted at the scene, and through them, the Christian community of all times have learned from the Master that which will make up in the future their mission:  to work for life and dignity of all men and women of the world, being in solidarity and close with the suffering and hopeless human family. 

 

            The three readings of this Sunday are an invitation to contemplate with gratitude the God of life, that in Jesus Christ has manifested fully his will of saving and resting to man and woman a full and happy existence.  At the same time, they are a call so that we will obligate ourselves in the defense and respect of life.  Abortion, capital punishment, euthanasia, poverty, injustice, the disrespect of human rights, all types of humiliation of man and of woman, are grave facts against life and against the holiness of God that has created life.