25 June 2009

'Give her something to eat'

Christ resurrects the daughter of Jairus, Friedrich Overbeck, 1815

I won't be on the net until at least Monday because I'm flying to Cebu tomorrow, about 25 minutes east of Bacolod City, to be the team-priest for a Worldwide Marriage Encounter weekend.

Here are some thoughts on the gospel for the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, 28 June, which I've also posted on the Online Forum of Misyon, which I edit on behalf of the Columbans in the Philippines. The gospel is taken from St Mark 5:21-43 (shorter version, 5:21-24, 35b-43). It's really a pity when the Church lets us omit one of two powerful stories that the evangelist has deliberately intertwined.

This is one of my very favourite gospels. St Mark combines two stories, that of a woman who has been sick for twelve years, and the raising to life again of a 12-year-old girl.

In the shorter version of the gospel that may be used the story of the woman is left out. Really, I think the full gospel should be read.

St Mark's gospel gives us human details about Jesus that the others don't give. An example of this is the very last line: 'He . . . said that she should be given something to eat.' I can imagine the excitement of the parents and relatives and the smile on the face of Jesus as he gently reminds the family that the young girl is hungry, having been very ill.

This is also one of very few gospel stories where the actual words as Jesus spoke them in Aramaic are recorded. 'Talitha, koum!', 'Little girl, I say to you, arise!' There's an intimacy in the recording of the Aramaic here. The Maayong Balita - Good News - translation in Cebuano-Visayan translates those words as 'Inday, bangon!'. In Cebuano, 'Inday' is a term of affection and respect for a young girl or for a woman not older than yourself. It is sometimes a person's nickname.

I once gave a recollection day to children in a Catholic elementary school in Cebu and used this story. Some of the children thought that the girl's name was Talitha! After lunch some of the chldren came to me to tell me that one of them had a toothache and asked if we could pray with her so that she would get better as 'Talitha' did. We prayed together with the young Cebuana 'Talitha' and her toothache went and she was able to continue with us in the afternoon.

The story of the woman with the hemorrhage is one that is so common in the Philippines, not in the details of the actual illness, but in the reality of families, sometimes families that weren't poor before, becoming penniless because of medical expenses. Even those who are covered by Medicare have to pay cash down before they are treated, even though they may have been paying in for years. (They eventually get a refund that doesn't take into the account the money they have had to borrow in the meantime and pay back with interest because of the unfeeling bureaucracy that is so prevalent in the Philippines).

This poor woman was also considered 'unclean' because of the nature of her illness and so was ostracized to some extent. so she experienced not only a physical cure but was brought back into the life of the community.

St Mark notes that Jesus was 'aware at once that power had gone out from him'. This shows that Jesus wasn't a 'magician; saying words that cost him nothing but that he was personally involved with those he healed and that each of these encounters cost him something.

Raising of Jairus’ daughter, Ilya Rapin, 1871

Mk 5:21-43 (Revised Standard Version)

And when Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered about him; and he was beside the sea. Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name; and seeing him, he fell at his feet, and besought him, saying, "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." And he went with him.

And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. And there was a woman who had had a flow of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. She had heard the reports about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, "If I touch even his garments, I shall be made well." And immediately the hemorrhage ceased; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone forth from him, immediately turned about in the crowd, and said, "Who touched my garments?" And his disciples said to him, "You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ' Who touched me?" And he looked around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had been done to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. And 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, there came from the ruler's house some who said, "Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?" But ignoring * what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, "Do not fear, only believe." And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. When they came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, he saw a tumult, and people weeping and wailing loudly. And when he had entered, he said to them, "Why do you make a tumult and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping." And they laughed at him. But 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. Taking her by the hand he said to her, "Talitha cumi"; which means, "Little girl, I say to you, arise." And immediately the girl got up and walked (she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

I was unable to locate a painting of the healing of the woman.

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