Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Lectionary: 98
1st Reading: Wis 1:13-15; 2:23-24 Psalm: Ps 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11, 12, 13 2nd Reading: 2 Cor 8:7, 9, 13-15 Gospel: Mk 5:21-43 Or Mk 5:21-24, 35b-43
The First Reading:
If you underline the verses in your bible, you will realized that this reading is from two sections with a chapter of material in between. The first section shows the Lord’s plan. The excluded middle is a monologue spoken by those who do not live by God’s plan. The second section is a return to the previous voice for the v. 23-24 punchline. This reading deals with death in a theological perspective. Death was not in God’s plan, but it came about because the world has been corrupted by sin.
Psalm 30 talks about our dependence on the Lord. He first thinks he is ‘content’ in his faith but when the problems of life came, he was filled with ‘terror’ when his life became endangered. He discovers a different and profound faith through this experience. His previous relationship with the Lord was not wrong, because the Lord had rewarded him with virtue. Yet, it was only in despair that the psalmist discovered complete trust in the Lord. He called out for the Lord to spare his life. The Lord answered him and now he lives his life praising the Lord.
The Second Reading:
This reading comes from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. It shows the emphasis that Paul placed upon charity. This charity was not just to promote “equality” among the members of the community. It was an imitation of Christ, “who though he was rich, for your sake he became poor.” Paul is asking the Corinthians for contributions to help the Christian community at Jerusalem, a project he also mentioned in his earlier letter to them (1 Cor 16:1-4).
Now, I know what you were all thinking when you read the Gospel:
(created with zipmeme.com)
Maybe it was just me. Today’s Gospel is written in the form of a literary device referred to as a “sandwich.”
- A) Jairus asks Jesus to heal his daughter.
- B) The story is interrupted and Jesus heals a woman who was suffering from hemorrhages.
- A) Jairus’ servants say that his daughter died. Jesus then brings her back to life.
Everybody’s happy and you’re slightly confused by the interruption. So why does Mark write this story as a sandwich? That question is best answered with an except from a beautiful journal article written by James Edwards which discusses the dynamic:
But what kind of belief must Jairus have in a situation in which all human hopes are exhausted? The answer is given in Jesus’ command to believe (pisteuein, v 36): Jairus must have the kind of faith (pistis, v 34) the woman had! Faith knows no limits, not even the raising of a dead child, as Jesus goes on to demonstrate.32
The insertion of the woman with the hemorrhage into the Jairus story is thus not an editorial strategem whose primary purpose is to create suspense or “to give time for the situation in the main incident to develop”. The woman’s faith forms the center of the sandwich and is the key to its interpretation. Through her Mark shows how faith in Jesus can transform fear and despair into hope and salvation. It is a powerful lesson for Jairus, as well as for Mark’s readers.
The woman was healed because her faith had saved her. This is the kind of faith that Jesus wants Jairus to possess and this is the lesson that Mark wants us to take away from the story.
Putting Them Together:
The hardest thing to understand is how death can exist in the world. It is painful. It seems all powerful. The readings this sunday are calling us to transform our faith into complete trust in God. God is more powerful than death. If we place our life in his hands, even if our bodies die, we will not suffer extinction. Today, the book of Wisdom says that God did not make death. Elsewhere, the Psalmist learned the beauty of his faith when he faced his own death. Jairus lost and then found faith again when his daughter was brought back to him. Paul also reminds us that Christ became “poor” so that we might become “rich.” It is ultimately the death of Christ which has freed us from the death of sin. Let us call to the Lord, for nothing is beyond him, not even death.
(1) Edwards, James R. Markan Sandwiches: The Significance of Interpolations in Markan Narratives (link)
All quoted text is from the NAB translation. All lectionary information is from the USCCB. All commentary on the scripture is strictly my own except when referenced. If you want to read more, I highly recommend the online resource “Text of the Week”.