|Date:||June 26-27, 2021, Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B|
"Jesus enjoined them strictly not to let anyone know about it, and told them to give the girl something to eat." Can you imagine someone coming into the wake of a twelve year old girl, raising her from the dead, and then telling everybody to keep quiet about it? This is another example of what Gospel scholars call the Messianic secret. Mark uses this literary device throughout his Gospel to let his audience understand that they must reserve judgment about what these miracles mean until the full story of Jesus' death and resurrection is revealed. There was a tradition in Jesus' time and culture of holy men and women who could work miracles so these miracle stories of Jesus were not unique. Mark wants us to understand that Jesus was not just another miracle worker.
When I was younger, I used to listen to these miracle stories and think, "If I had seen Jesus perform miracles like that, I would be able to believe more strongly. My faith would be unshakable." But the point of these two miracle stories is exactly the opposite. The miracles came about because of the faith of Jairus and the woman with the hemorrhage. First there was faith and then there was a miracle, not the other way around.
As I reflected on these two stories, I was reminded again of how God has chosen to involve us in his plan of salvation. Throughout salvation history, theologians have tried to balance the tension between the almighty power of God and the efficacy of human effort. This tension between being saved by faith alone and the need to act out our faith tore the Church apart 400 years ago in the reformation. Could Jesus have cured the woman of her bleeding if she had not made the effort to push through the crowd and touch his cloak? Could Jesus have prevented the death of Jairus' daughter if Jairus did not journey to find Jesus and to prostrate himself before Jesus? I don't pretend to know the answer. What I do know is that the point Mark is making is that acting out our faith produces good things. We don't have to wait until our faith is perfect, either. From the clues Mark gives us, the woman healed of hemorrhaging has a faith which borders on superstition. She wanted to sneak her touch; she was not strong enough in her faith to face Jesus. Yet acting on even that small mustard seed of faith unleashes the power of Jesus.
So what are we to do? Just believing is not enough. We must use our belief to move us to action. We must act on the smallest flicker of faith to make it stronger, to encounter the power of Jesus in our lives. I don't know how you must do that for everyone is different. All I know is that it is not heroic things that we are called to most of the time. It is simple things, like coming together here at St. Isidore's or St. Elizabeth of Hungary's. Or picking up the Bible two or three times a week and learning more about this God who loves us so much. Or getting involved with the parish like so many of you did to get our St. Isidore Garden ready and planted, or helping with Alpha sessions, or getting involved with our collaborative social justice group. Maybe it is just secretly acknowledging your desire for healing from Jesus.
This Gospel of Mark reveals to us that the miracles that faith can produce in our earthly life are really the tip of the iceberg. The Messianic secret is that when we come to know that Jesus rose from the dead to change our humanity forever, the raising of the dead girl or the curing of the woman's bleeding are miracles that pale in significance to what waits for us all. After all the girl eventually died, and so did the woman. But the resurrection reveals that those deaths are not the end. The true miracle that our faith in action brings to reality is everlasting joy and happiness close to God, sharing in the eternal life of God. Yes it is God who does these great things, but in God's own wisdom we are called to be partners in this miracle of life on earth and life after death.
So let us act on our faith, however strong or weak it may be, and I promise you, you will be amazed at the healing power that can flow into your life from Jesus Christ.