13TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR B ON JUNE 27, 2021 (R. 1: Wisdom 1: 13-15; 2: 23-24; Psalm 30: 2, 4-6, 11-13; R. 2: 2 Corinthians 8: 7, 9, 13-15; Gospel: Mark 5: 21-43)
EMMANUEL INEDU OCHIGBO
THE TOUCH THAT TOUCHED
Today’s gospel passage is an example of what Scripture Scholars call, “Markan intercalation” or “Markan Sandwich.” Some others refer to it as “envelope style.” This is a literary technique in which the writer begins a story and then interrupts it with another story. After the conclusion of the new story or inner story, the writer then continues and concludes with the first story. This style occurs in the Gospel according to Mark for about six times. Usually, the two stories lack a major character that is common to both of them, the stories are located in different places, the events in both stories tend to happen chronologically, and there are correlations between major characters and their actions in both stories. In today’s Gospel passage for example, in Mark 5: 21-24, at the invitation of Jairus, Jesus begins his journey to Jairus’ house and in Mark 5: 35-43, Jesus arrives to raise Jairus’ daughter. The time between the two passages above is filled with the story of the healing of the woman with hemorrhages.
By using this style in his Gospel account, Mark invites us to make comparisons between the two stories, to note the major characters, to see how each one helps us to understand the other. Apart from Jesus, the major characters in today’s stories are Jairus, his daughter and the woman with hemorrhages. Let us identify the differences between Jairus and the woman with hemorrhages. On the one hand, Jairus is named, a male, a leader of the synagogue, and a father. He sees Jesus and publicly asks him to heal his little daughter but receives the miracle in private. Jesus then instructs him to keep it secret. On the other hand, we are not told the name of the woman with hemorrhages. She is female, she is excluded from the synagogue due to her flow of blood, she has no family ties mentioned, she only hears about Jesus and touches him secretly from behind. She receives her miracle in secret but is made by Jesus to confess it publicly. Also, Jairus wants Jesus to come to his house and touch his daughter, while this woman wants to go to Jesus to touch the hem of his garment.
Now, in the area of similarities between both stories, the woman with hemorrhages and Jairus’ daughter are both females, the number twelve is common to both of them (Jairus’ daughter is 12 years old, the woman has 12 years of hemorrhages). Jairus’ daughter is unclean by reason of death and the woman is unclean by her flow of blood, Jairus’ daughter is touched by Jesus, and the woman touched the hem of Jesus’ garment.
The number twelve is common to both stories. The number twelve in the Old Testament reminds us of the twelve tribes of Israel. In the New Testament, the number twelve reminds us of the twelve Apostles who form the new Israel, and we as Christians are the descendants of the Apostles. This story therefore is not just about Jairus, his daughter and the woman with hemorrhages. It is also about all Christians. The power of Jesus over us has no restriction. He has come to heal us of infirmities and to bring us back to life. He however requires us to have faith as a necessary condition for our miracle. To the woman he said, “…your faith has saved you…” and to Jairus he said, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.” We may ask, “Is faith no longer a gift from God; what if God has not given us faith?” Yes, faith is a gift from God, and so is the air we breathe; though the air is a gift from God, we have to make the effort of breathing it in through our nostrils into our lungs to benefit us.
It is funny that Jesus asked “Who has touched my clothes?” After all, a large crowd was following him and pressing upon him. His disciples reminded him of the crowd and how ridiculous it was for him to have asked who touched him. Surely, his disciples were ignorant of the fact that, “In spite of all the touches, there was a touch that was a touch of all the touches.” Jesus knew that only one person really touched him. He meant the sick woman who touched him with faith. That was the touch that touched. Jesus was so touched by her touch that she is the only one that Jesus addressed as “Daughter” in the Bible. The crowd surrounding Jesus represents the large number of Christians living today who are close to Jesus, who listen to Jesus, touch Jesus, and even eat Jesus particularly in the Eucharist without experiencing any transformation. The disposition with which we come to Jesus matters a lot.
Jairus came to Jesus for the sake of his daughter, while the woman came to Jesus for her own sake. I invite you to come to Jesus for your sake and for the sake of others. Let us call him saying, “Heal me, Jesus for I am sick; touch my husband/wife/parent/brother/sister/my child/friend who is sick.” Let us call on Jesus the healer to rescue our sick nation, our sick culture, and our sick world. And may our faith in God never fail us until we come to our heavenly inheritance, through Christ our Lord. Amen.