Sunday, June 28, is the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B).
This column was introduced when April and I were editors of the Register’s now-defunct sister publication, Faith & Family magazine. The column, about the meaning of Scripture and Sunday activities, stressed April’s specialties: She has a master’s degree in theology and is a master mom. In the years since, the column has changed, and April’s workload home-schooling nine children changed. Tom will now shoulder the column alone, with her consultation.
Wisdom 1:13-15, 2:23-24; Psalm 30:2, 4-13; 2 Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13-15; Mark 5:21-43 or 5:21-24, 35-43
This Sunday's Gospel is about Jairus and the woman with the hemorrhage — interweaving two different stories that tell a single powerful lesson about how Christians should behave toward Christ.
Too often in the spiritual life, we want to give up on Jesus because we misunderstand how Jesus works. Jairus and the woman with the hemorrhage teach us the proper disposition to have.
First, take the woman with the hemorrhage. Mark uses telling detail to paint the picture of a woman who has been bleeding — and, therefore, impure as a Jew — for 12 years.
“She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors and had spent all that she had,” writes Mark, “yet she was not helped, but only grew worse.”
Her predicament is very modern. She is searching for something that will make her whole and pure and stop her life from ebbing away, but she cannot find it. So far, the only remedies offered are eating up her expenses and leaving her worse off — you can think of her trying the myriad transformations our society offers and finding them empty.
Jesus does not approach her. He doesn’t knock her off her horse, like Paul, and she doesn’t hear the Father’s voice from a cloud pointing him out. Instead, when she encounters him, he is slipping away through a crowd. She sees his back and reaches, desperately, out for him.
This is our reality in the spiritual life: God doesn’t necessarily stop in front of us and demand to be noticed. He is instead retreating from us, amid a crowd of competing priorities; and if we don’t deliberately insist on an encounter with him, he will get away, out of our sight and priorities.
The Gospel’s second story, about Jairus, is a variation on the same theme. In this case, Jairus, a synagogue official, seeks Jesus out by the sea and falls at his feet.
Jesus consents to address his problem. But notice what happens: First, a crowd follows them, distracting Jesus’ attention. Then, Jairus gets word that hope is gone: “Your daughter has died; why trouble the Teacher any longer?” Last, when he brings Jesus home, Jesus says, “Your child is not dead but asleep,” and the people, who know very well that the girl is dead, ridicule him.
Here is another predicament we face in the spiritual life: We may get Jesus’ attention, only to find that our problems seem too big for him. The person we are praying for in our family may show no signs of life, physical or spiritual. And our reliance on Jesus may look absurd to everyone we know.
In this case, our job is the same as the woman with the hemorrhage: to have faith in Jesus and not give up.
If we keep reaching out to him in prayer and if we keep bringing our problems to him, he will show us that he is powerful. Get his attention by praying forcefully, passionately and deeply.
Seeking out Jesus always pays off.
Tom Hoopes is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas,
where he lives with April, his wife and in-house theologian and consultant, and their children.