Wellspring of Scripture


Year B: 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Gospel: Mark 5: 21-43

Todayís Gospel has been carefully constructed by Mark to join together the stories of two women - one on the threshold of puberty, the other probably in the menopause. These stages in life still hold problems - but those facing women at the time of Jesus were far greater.


We are sometimes tempted to think that a womanís subordinate position in society meant that they were not loved or respected. The lengths that Jairus was prepared to go to for his daughter proves otherwise. He is desperately concerned for her - pleading with Jesus to come and make her well.


For the woman with the haemorrhage, life would have been very bleak and very lonely. The Law would have forbidden anyone from touching her - or her touching them lest she make them unclean too. She would not have been able to prepare food for her family - and may not even been allowed to eat with them. For the whole of the lifetime of Jairusí daughter, she would have lived on the edge of family and social life


In their different ways, both women were isolated - the younger woman giving up on life altogether - the older woman desperate enough to risk one last touch of the hem of Jesusí garment.


Jesusí reaction to both is to reach out and touch - fully aware that such a touch would make him ritually unclean and was quite likely to cause scandal. For him, the evident human need far outweighed the letter of the Law.


In both cases, that touch was healing. For the older woman, the haemorrhage ceased - wonderful enough in itself - but still more wonderful to be able to return home - to receive welcoming embraces from her family - perhaps even hold her grandchildren for the first time - and to be restored to her dignity as wife and mother. She was able to live again.


For the young woman, Jesus realised that what she needed was quiet and privacy - this was to be an intimate healing. To the young woman on the threshold of adulthood, Jesus gives her permission to be a child again - touching her tenderly and calling her to wake up.


Two very different women - healed by words of Jesus - but, above all, by his willingness to overcome taboos and reach out and touch them.


What does it mean for me?


Which details in these stories stand out for you? Why?

What challenges - or reassurances do the stories hold for you?

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