Biblical Readings for each day's Mass,
(as listed in the Liturgical Calendar for Ireland, 2018)

01 July. 13th Sunday

Saint Oliver Plunkett, bishop and martyr

1st Reading: Wisdom 1:13-15, 2:23-24

Whatever God makes is wholesome. We are meant for immortality

God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living. For he created all things so that they might exist; the generative forces of the world are wholesome, and there is no destructive poison in them, and the dominion of Hades is not on earth.

For righteousness is immortal. God created us for incorruption, and made us in the image of his own eternity, but through the devil's envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his company experience it.

Responsorial Psalm (from Ps 30)

Response: I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me

I will praise you, O Lord, for you drew me clear
   and did not let my enemies rejoice over me.
O Lord, you brought me up from the netherworld;
   you preserved me from among those going down into the pit. (R./)

Sing praise to the Lord, you his faithful ones,
   and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger lasts but a moment;
   a lifetime, his good will.
At nightfall, weeping enters in,
   but with the dawn, rejoicing. (R./)

Hear, O Lord, and have pity on me;
   O Lord, be my helper.
You changed my mourning into dancing;
   O Lord, my God, I will give you thanks forever. (R./)

2nd Reading: 2 Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13-15

Paul asks his well-off Corinthians to help the Christian poor in Jerusalem.

Now as you excel in everything-in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you-so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking. For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.

I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. As it is written, "The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little."

Gospel: Mark 5:21-43 (or, shorter version: 5:21-24, 35-43)

Jesus cures the haemorrhaging woman and the daughter of Jairus

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, "My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live." So he went with him.

And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from haemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, "If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well." Immediately her haemorrhage stopped; and she felt in er body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, "Who touched my clothes?" And his disciples said to him, "You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, 'Who touched me?'" He looked all around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease."

While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader's house to say, "Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?" But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, "Do not fear, only believe." He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and waiing loudly. When he had entered, he said to them, "Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping." And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child's father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, "Talitha kum," which means, "Little girl, get up!" And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.


Friends of God

1. The Book of Wisdom takes up a key idea from Genesis, that we were made in the image of God (see Gen 1:27.) But whereas the Genesis account of creation applied the term to human existence as such, the Book of Wisdom confines it to a special quality of existence which causes humans to act in a God-like way which makes them "friends of God" (see Wis 7:26-27.) Living as a Friend of God means that we will act towards the world as God acts, seeing it as "good" (Gen 1:10) and therefore being concerned for its welfare rather than being involved in its exploitation. What is stressed in equating the serpent of Genesis 3 with the devil is the necessity of the avoidance of evil in one's life if one is to be a friend of God. A link can be made from today's first reading with the evil we are doing to the "world's created things" in which "no fatal poison can be found" in themselves. If we continue to pollute the world we will have poisoned many of its resources for ever more. How can we then continue to be called friends of the Creator God who "takes no pleasure in the extinction of the living?"

2. Paul would be an asset to any fund-raising programme. His method is simple: first praise, then appeal and lastly threaten. But his principles are valid for all time; we have no right really to what we do not need. Today's second reading could be used as an appeal to help the disaster areas of the world. As Gandhi said: "I suggest that we are thieves in a way. If I take anything that I do not need for my own immediate use and keep it, I thieve it from somebody else. In India we have got 3,000,000 people having to be satisfied with one meal a day, and that meal consisting of unleavened bread containing no fat in it, and a pinch of salt. You and I have no right to anything that we really have until these three million are clothed and fed better. You and I, who ought to know better, must adjust our wants in order that they may be nursed, fed and clothed."

3. The miracle stories show Jesus healing either by touch or by a word. Both methods are present in the two miracles of today's Gospel but there is a certain poignancy in the touch story as it is not Jesus who consciously touches the woman but she him. The stealth of the woman with the "issue of blood" in trying to touch Jesus without anyone being aware of it was occasioned by the ignorance of those times which considered that a woman in her condition was ritually unclean and anyone she touched was also rendered unclean. The fact that she touched him does not bother Jesus. The remarkable fact of Jesus being able to break through the taboos of his time could provide the basis for a discussion of present day taboos, especially in relation to women, and what they are doing to the human race in general and the Church in particular.

The hem of his garment

A priest lived just across the street from a doctor's surgery. The doctor had an excellent reputation and people queued up all day long to consult him. One morning there was an urgent knock on the door of the priests's house. When he opened it, the caller said: "Come quickly, Father. A man has just dropped dead on the pavement outside." Grabbing the sacred oils, the pastor rushed out. Sure enough, a man was lying prostrate on the footpath. and the priest anointed him. A small group of people encircled the body, which lay only a few yards from the door of the doctor's surgery. It seemed like a cruel irony. Had the man survived these few extra yards, his life might have been saved by the doctor. When the priest mentioned this to the hushed bystanders a woman replied, "You have it all wrong, Father,. He was just on his way out from the surgery." Whatever the man's complaint was, he took it with him to the grave.

The woman with the haemorrhage in today's gospel had suffered painful treatment under various doctors, without getting better. Of course, up to the 19th century medicine was fairly primitive. For most of history people prayed for real miracles to cure their infirmities. In the Middle Ages, death stalked everywhere, not least in pestilence-ridden cities. War was endemic and hygiene unknown. Town and country swarmed with the deformed, the maimed, the crippled and the blind. Death ran riot throughout Europe during the horrific period of the bubonic plague, aptly called the Black Death. Nothing stood between the individual and his eternity except God. The centre of every church was its shrine containing relics of the saints. People flocked to these shrines in search of cures. Many travelled great distances to Rome, to the Holy Land, to Compostella, believing, like the woman with the haemorrhage, that it would suffice to touch an important relic to restore them to health. Compostella claimed to have such a relic, no less than the remains of St James, who had watched Christ raise the daughter of Jairus to life. One could hardly come closer to the healing power of Christ than that.

But the world has changed dramatically since then. Happily, there are cures for almost every human ailment nowadays. The few surviving holy relics serve as embarrassing reminders of our naïve past. But was it totally naive? Christ claimed nothing else for these two miracles than the faith of the participants. "Your faith has restored you to health," he told the woman who was cured of her haemorrhage. What separates her from most of us is the depth of our faith. Even modern medicine, with its wonderful successes, can recognise the importance of the patient's faith in his cure. Who knows? That man who went out the surgery door might not have stepped so abruptly into eternity, had faith in his doctor not faltered. That, like the doctor's prescription, is a secret he took with him.

Christ, now as then, can cure our sicknesses. All he needs is our faith. Of that, Lourdes is proof, if proof were needed. God does trail his coat in our shabby little world. With a little faith we could find it; with a little courage we could touch it. "Do not be afraid," he says to us, as he said to Jairus, "only have faith."

Striking a Balance

It has probably occur to you that one of the symbols of religion might well be a collection basket. I've never seen it used that way but there would be good precedence for it. From Paul today, we heard a pep talk to boost a collection he was taking up for the Church in Jerusalem. Paul was doing this in the 50s and the church was still in its early days. The interesting question is why Paul would conduct a collection in Greece for the church in Jerusalem. He could have been motivated by our obligation of charity to the poor. That was a tradition inherited from the Old Testament. But there might well have been another motive. The Jerusalem Christian community was composed of converts from Judaism while most of the converts Paul made were from among Gentiles. This existed a friction and distrust between the two. Paul was not insisting that his converts follow all the Jewish laws and customs. This didn't seem orthodox, or might we say, kosher. So perhaps Paul was trying use this collection as a way to create a better atmosphere. The Christians in Greece had received a rich endowment from the spiritual heritage of the Jews and the Old Testament. Should they not be willing to share their monetary surplus with their Jerusalem colleagues?

This collection remains a controversial one even today because we just don't know Paul's full motive, nor do we know if the collection was even accepted by Jerusalem. Paul makes no mention of it in letters written after he went to Jerusalem to offer the collection and the account contained in the Acts of the Apostles of this period tells us nothing either. If the offering only produced more contention, perhaps Acts is sparing us the details.

One thing this collection does tell us is that not all the problems of that early Church were from outside: persecutions, arrests by both Jews and Romans, being fed to the lions. It tells us that there were internal problems as well. I can happily report to you that, for the most part, no one is feeding Christians to the lions any more and they are not arresting Christians in Rome or Jerusalem. Unfortunately, some internal strife still exists. At the time of Second Corinthians, the friction was between those Christians who held firmly to their Old Testament past and those who did not have that perspective. Today much of the problem is between those who hold firmly to our pre-Vatican II traditions and those who try to draw their Christian lifestyle from the documents of the Council and from today. It is unfortunate but, in the extreme, the symbol of the conflict is the Latin Mass.

Whatever the cause of any internal conflict, Paul almost unwittingly gives us a solution to the problem. The solution is balance as opposed to extremism. Here Paul was telling them that their efforts to give relief to others should not make things difficult for themselves. As he put it, "I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance." Paul knew that one of the primary characteristics of our relationship with God should be balance. Shouldn't we expect that from the creator God who is the source of our wisdom.

Balance can be another word for prudence, being realistic, practicality and the ability to set priorities. Balance means trying to achieving what can be achieve and knowing what we can't. This sense of balance also means that while we may be able to see our own practical limitations, still we cannot have that same certainty about the capabilities of others. As a result, we should not expect the same from them that we expect from ourselves. Jesus made that clear when he told us not to judge others.

Our practice of faith should be realistic, balanced. If God thought us important enough to become one of us in the person of Jesus and institute the sacrament of the Eucharistic before dying on the cross then it is realistic to think that we should use this sacrament each Sabbath as a way of showing our love for God. It is also realistic to know that much of the rest of the week must be spent earning a living and fulfilling our obligations to family and neighbour as well as to ourselves. It is practical to think that we can make all that effort part of our spiritual life and an indication of our love of God as well.

So we must be balanced in our relationships with God, loved ones and neighbours. We must be realistic in what we contribute to our relationships as well as what we expect from them. St. Paul concludes his admonition for balance by quoting a line from the Old Testament book of Exodus. Here Moses is describing how the Jews harvested the manna which God caused to grow overnight to feed them during their wondering in the desert. Moses said, "Those who gathered much had nothing over, and those who gathered little had no shortage; they gathered as much as each of them needed." (Ex 16:18) Perhaps some of our conflicts are caused because we are unwilling to admit that our opportunities, our resources, our understand of things are a provision which God makes available to us. In our individual case, only he can judge what is in a practical sense too much or too little. (WJH)

Encounters are important

It often happens that we have it in mind to do something but when we go about trying to do it we are interrupted in some way. Someone comes along that we were not expecting and holds us up and we don't get to do what he set out to do at the time we intended to do it. If you are a certain personality-type you can get very annoyed by this. You can be there waiting for the person to move on so that you can get back to doing what you think you are supposed to be doing.

Every encounter, however unplanned, can have a positive effect. What seems like an interruption can put us in just the place we were meant to be. There's an interruption of this positive kind in today's gospel. A man named Jairus begged Jesus to come to his daughter who was desperately sick. While Jesus was on the way to visit the sick girl, he met another sick person, a woman suffering from haemorrhage, and this meeting delayed him getting to Jairus' house. It took up some precious time, even though the woman with the bleeding merely wanted to touch the cloak of Jesus. It was Jesus himself who turned it from a fleeting encounter into something more, a real meeting of a life-giving kind. This story encourages us to look at interruptions in a more positive light. What can seem like distractions can bring us where the Lord is calling us to be. If one of our plans does not work out, it can create the space for something that we did not plan but which turns out for the best. In Jairus story, Jesus brought great good from the interruption, and the woman was healed in both body and soul.

Machtnamh: Tionchar an teagmháil pearsanta (Encounters are important)

Is féidir go mbéidh tionchar dearfach ag éirí as gach teagmháil, fiú amháin iad a tharlaíonn gan phleanáil. Nuair a thárlaíonn a leithéad de briseadh isteach ar ár bpleanaí is féidir go gcuirfidh sé sinn díreach san áit ar chóir dúinn bheith ann. Tá briseadh-isteach de'n chineál sin I dtrácht i soiscéal an lae inniu. Iarrann fear arbh ainm Jairus are Íosa teacht chun beannacht a thabhairt d'á h'iníon a bhí go dona tinn. Nuair abhí Íosa ar an mbealach chun cuairt a thabhairt ar an cailín, bhuail sé le duine breoite eile, bean abhí ag fulaingt ó fuiliú trom, agus chuir an teagmháil sin moill ar a theacht go dtí theach Jairus. Cailleadh roinnt ama luachmhar, cé ná'r theastaigh leis an mbean breoite ach teagmháil le éadaigh Íosa. Ba é Íosa féin a rinne an teagmháil a iompú ó rud súarach, nóimeatach le rud éigin eile, teagmháil pearsanta a d'athraigh saol na mná. Spreagann an scéal seo dúinn féachaint ár teagmháil le daoine eile i solas níos dearfaí. Más rud é nach n-oibreoidh ceann dár bpleananna, is féidir leis an spás a chruthú le haghaidh rud nach raibh pleanáilte againn ach a thagann chun cinn níos fearr. I scéal Jairus, bhain Íosa maitheas as an bhriseadh-isteach, agus thug leigheas do'n bhean idir anam agus chorp.


Saint Oliver Plunkett, bishop and martyr

Oliver Plunkett (1625-1681), of an Anglo-Irish family from Loughcrew, County Meath, studied at the Irish College in Rome during the height of the Penal Laws. He taught theology in Rome until returning to Ireland in 1670 as archbishop of Armagh.After the Popish Plot (1678), when Titus Oates and others plotted to kill Charles II of England, Plunkett was arrested in 1679 and imprisoned in London, where after a show-trial he was hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn, 1 July 1681.