13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
A priest, known for his lengthy homilies, noticed a man getting up and leaving during the middle of his message. The man returned to his pew just before the conclusion of the homily. Afterwards, the priest asked the man where he had gone.
“ I went to get a haircut,” he said.
“Why didn’t you do that before I started mass?”
The man replied, “Because I didn’t need one then!”
Time! It’s a precious commodity for many of us! And all of us have spent some time in the past, reflecting on how we’ll spent the time we’ve been given to live on this earth, because all of us want our lives to matter. All of us want our lives to have some lasting impact on anothers’ life. That’s a common human desire and one which, if we continue in our resolve to use our time well, can have some ultimate enduring value, not just to us, but to those whom our life impacts— some of whom we may never even meet or get to know. The question is whether we’re ready to truly engage our faith or whether we’re resigned to sit on the side-lines and let someone else engage with the persons and life events and opportunities which God places before us.
Mark does this in an interesting way, by intercalating one story in the middle of another, and uniting their common theme with the number 12. We first hear of Jairus, a synagogue leader who’s desperate to get Jesus to heal his twelve-year old daughter, who is near death. And while that story’s being told, we hear of a woman who’s been suffering from hemorrhages for the past twelve years. In both of these stories, the twelve is meant to juxtapose the 12 disciples’ increasing lack of faith, with the steadfast, committed faith of Jairus and the hemorrhagic woman.
Yes, it must have taken a lot of courage and faith for Jairus to approach Jesus, given that his job depended on the prevailing Jewish authorities, but Jairus doesn’t care about that right now. What he cares about is that his daughter’s life is coming to an end and he doesn’t want to waste any time playing political games or exercising stealthy maneuvers to ask for what he wants from Jesus. By the time he approaches Jesus, Jairus is confident that Jesus can come through for him. And that’s what impresses Jesus the most!
Mark records that, on the way, Jesus is followed by a large crowd of persons pressing in on him from every side. so much so, that it was virtually impossible to get close to Jesus. But like Jairus, one woman is bound and determined to accomplish her goal and fights her way to Jesus, in a desperate attempt to touch, even the smallest fringe of his clothing, believing that that single touch will heal her of her twelve year hemorrhage. —A hemorrhage which had isolated her and made her impure in the Jewish community for a long time. —-A hemorrhage which no doctor could stop. And we hear in the story, that the woman’s faithful resolve pays off! Her life is forever transformed because of her belief that what others couldn’t do for her, Jesus could and would! Indeed, Jesus gave her a new life to live because of her faith!
But it took dauntless determination, on the woman’s part, to extend her hand to the one whom she believed had the power to heal her. It took courage for her too, to come forward and to stand out from the crowd and admit that it was her who had touched Jesus, even though she could have easily remained anonymous and disappeared.
Because of their faith, both Jairus’ daughter and the woman with the hemorrhage are healed! What a sharp difference to the crowds, who were seemingly unengaged and lacking in any substantive faith. Perhaps they were simply curious and were skeptical that they had a reportedly powerful healer in their midst.
Perhaps too, they didn’t want to risk having their lives changed by a personal encounter with him. Perhaps the onlookers preferred instead, to look and jeer, to judge and to criticize, to gossip and lament, to waste their time and their lives on what didn’t matter. We see a lot of this same sort of activity today—don’t we— in social media and in select news channels! Rather than getting at the truth or the heart of a problem, many prefer to remain deluded or fixated only on what someone else tells them is the truth, or whatever doesn’t disrupt their particular worldview, rather than finding out the truth for themselves.
One of the questions we need to ask ourselves today is —– when it comes to our own religious commitments, are we ready and willing to put in the time and the effort necessary, to make our encounter with the risen and saving Lord MATTER to our earthly lives and to the lives of our brothers and sisters on this planet? From womb to tomb, are we seeking to be promoters of life, protectors of life, and life-giving, spirit filled disciples of Christ? Whether we like it or not, everyone who’s listening to me today is either a Jairus, a woman with the hemorrhage, or a member of the crowd. Everyone listening to me today either wants their faith to have a serious impact on their day-to-day living, or to advocate for someone important to them, or is just going through the motions, having a casual acquaintance with Jesus from time to time, but never really letting him into the deepest recesses of their hearts, minds, and souls. Everyone listening today either wants the time remaining to them on this earth to have a lasting, positive impact, or is resigned to die a quiet and undistinguished life, never really getting to know anyone other than their immediate family members and friends, never really accomplishing anything of consequence, and never taking a stand on any issue that can really transform our world or the persons in it, in a positive way, long after their death.
I hope all of us want to use the time God has given us WELL! I hope all of us want to be fully engaged with our faith! I hope all of us want our Christian faith to matter, not just in our personal lives, but in the world, as a whole! I hope all of us aren’t tired, worn out, and afraid of reaching out to Jesus in our sufferings and troubles, but rather, are confident that the Lord wants to use his divine power to help heal us and re-invigorate us, and restore us to a life that is worth living! I hope all of us are willing to place all our talents at the disposal of the Lord, in order to foster a culture of life all around us. I hope all of us are willing to intercede to God, on behalf of persons in our lives and in our world who have no faith, or whose lives are threatened, or who are unable to speak out for themselves, but who nevertheless have serious problems that can only be resolved by our Lord.
I hope too, that all of us listening today, will be guided and inspired by the marked generosity and overflowing graced-nature of Jesus himself, when others turn to us in moments of desperation and need, and not turn a cold shoulder to their hurts, desperation, or lamentations. Like Jesus, all of us need to be willing to be vehicles of God’s grace, to make his name more glorified, his presence more adored, his word more praised and honored. The life of every person is precious in the sight of God! As his disciples, all of us are entrusted with the ministry of bringing new life and healing to a hurting and troubled world and to restoring hope to those who have given up hope that there IS a loving, caring God who wants to connect with them. Like Jesus, all of us can spend our time on earth being vessels of God’s grace and mercy to persons and in places where sin and judgment, hopelessness and despair have run amok. For when we spend our time making our faith have a significant impact on us personally and on our community publicly, we’re in effect, helping to restore what was broken and witnessing to the new life God wants us all to embrace and to celebrate with each passing day!
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