Homily for June 28, 2009

Father Tom’s Homily
13th Sunday
June 28, 2009

When our delegations drive out to the mountains to visit the five settlements we call Calavera, they are driven out to the town of Corinto where dozens of people from the settlements greet them. The people accompany our delegation into the first community, carrying our backpacks, the first of many gestures of their gracious hospitality to us over the days we are with them.
About ten years ago there was an unusually large number of people waiting for us at Corinto. The reason was that there had been a funeral at the church that morning for a 13-year-old girl from Gimilile who had died from measles.
This brought home to us how vulnerable these people are to many sicknesses that we do not consider to be a deadly threat.

In the first century, 60% of the children who had survived childbirth died by their mid-teens. The scene presented in today’s gospel story was a very common one in the time of Jesus. And it is still common among the poor in the world today.
What we see in today’s gospel is a young girl at the point of death and the grief of her parents.
The dad, a synagogue official, seeks out Jesus, an itinerant preacher and healer. He begs Jesus to come to his daughter’s bedside.

As Jesus is making his way to the home of the little girl, a sick woman also seeks healing from him. Mark weaves these two healing stories together. Several details invite us to make connections between the dying little girl and sick woman.
Both are daughters. The child is a daughter of Jairus. Jesus addresses the woman as “daughter.”

12 is an important number in both stories. The girl was 12 years old and the woman had her sickness for 12 years.
In ancient numerology the number 12 had special significance. The number 12 attached importance to a matter. Thus there were 12 tribes of Israel and 12 apostles.

Both are ritually unclean. The girl by her death and the woman by her flow of blood. This means that they would contaminate all those who touch them. It meant that the woman and all who touched her were excluded from worship at the Temple.
For 12 years it had shut her off from community life.
The woman touches Jesus. Jesus touches the dead girl. He is not made unclean, rather they are made clean and whole by his touch.

Today’s gospel is a resurrection story that shows his power even over death. The woman was dead in the sense that her sickness excluded her from the community. Jesus restores both women to their circle of family and friends. They are brought back to life.

Mark’s telling of this story includes a reflection about the mystery of Christ’s healing power. With his choice of words describing the hemorrhaging woman, Mark points ahead to the overarching theme of the gospel, the mystery of Jesus’suffering and death.
Mark uses the same word “suffered greatly” to describe her condition that Jesus uses to predict his own passion “The Son of Man must suffer greatly” (chap 8).
Mark also uses the same word “she is healed of her scourge”that Jesus predicted he would suffer in his passion. “They will scourge him” (chap 10).

This introduces us to the mystery of Christ the Healer.
He is afflicted along with the sick and the dying that come to him for healing. He is the “Wounded Healer.”
Isaiah spoke of the Wounded Healer Messiah “By his wounds we are healed.”

To Thomas who was locked in the tomb of disbelief, Jesus said, “Touch my wounds.”
When he touched the wounds of Jesus’ crucifixion, Thomas was freed from his tomb and believed in Jesus the Risen One. He was healed.
The mystery of healing that we discern in Jesus the Wounded Healer is that it is the crucified ones of the world who can offer healing to our violent, dysfunctional and badly wounded world.
The mystery of healing is this. It is to those who suffer that the gift of healing is given.

The language that Mark uses in telling about the raising of the dead girl is notable. Mark wrote his gospel in Greek, but at one point in this story he uses Aramaic, the language tat Jesus used.
He quotes the very words of Jesus, “Talitha koum” (“Little girl, rise up.”). Why does he use the Aramaic instead of the Greek? At all other times in Mark’s gospel Jesus’ words are given in Greek.

Mark was a disciple of Peter, he was Peter’s assistant. Peter’s ministry brought him outside Palestine where he would have preached in Greek. But in retelling the story of the healing of the little girl, Peter would use the very words of Jesus in Aramaic, not in Greek.
Peter was in the room where Jesus raised up the dead girl. He could never forget Jesus’ voice and how the dead girl heard those very words and awakened from death. He could never forget the love and gentleness of Jesus when he took the girl’s hand and spoke those words.
In his mind and memory Peter could hear that “Talitha koum” all his life. Mark uses the very words that Jesus spoke to the little girl because that was the only way that Peter told and retold this story.

We should hear today’s wondrous story as our own. Jesus is our Healer too.
He is the Wounded Healer who empowers us by our experience of suffering to reach out to heal others.