The Scripture Readings for Mass
(Liturg. Calendar for Ireland 2018)

01 July. 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)

St Oliver Plunkett

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.

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 reading 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.

Touching 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."

A providential meeting

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.

Yet, every encounter is in some way providential. What can seem initially like an interruption can be where we are meant to be. The person who unexpectedly crosses my path and who could be seen as interrupting what I have set out to do, can be the person whom the Lord has sent into my life. Rather than seeing the encounter as an interruption to something else, it can be better to see it as a grace, as an opportunity. What I set out to do may not be what is most important d. Rather, the call of the present moment may be what really matters, the person who stands before me here and now.

We see this kind of interruption in today's gospel. One of the synagogue officials, Jairus, pleaded with Jesus to come to his daughter who was desperately sick. Jesus set out with him on this very important journey. On the way to the house of Jairus, Jesus had an encounter with a woman, which delayed him. It took up precious time. Yet, Jesus did not react angrily or dismissively to this interruption. Indeed, the contrary was the case. The woman with the flow of blood simply wanted to touch the clothing of Jesus, without holding him up in any way. It was Jesus who ensured that the fleeting encounter that the woman was looking for became, in reality, a truly personal encounter, a real meeting between two human beings. When Jesus noticed that power had gone out of him because of the woman touching his clothing, he stopped, turned around in the crowd and asked, 'Who touched my clothing?' He wanted to meet this woman, in spite of the urgency of the journey on which he had set out. Eventually the woman came forward, frightened and trembling, not knowing what to expect. Jesus addressed her in very tender terms, 'My daughter', he said, 'your faith has restored you to health.' He engaged her in a very personal way; he called her into a personal relationship with him. This was the task of the moment. Some people would have seen this encounter as an unfortunate interruption; as a result of the delay Jairus' daughter had died before Jesus could get to the house. Yet, for Jesus this encounter with the woman was of ultimate significance; it was a moment of grace. It was the prelude to an even more wonderful moment of grace in the house of Jairus when Jesus not only healed the very sick girl as he was asked to do, but raised him from the dead.

The gospel encourages us to pay attention to the interruptions in life. What can seem like distractions can be where the Lord is calling us to be. When our plans do not work out as we wanted because of some unexpected turn of events, it may not be the disaster that we think it is at the time. Sometimes when our plans do not work out, it can create the space for something else to happen that we did not plan but which, in itself, can have great value for ourselves and for others. In the story we have just heard, Jesus gave himself fully to the interruption. He could have kept walking when the woman touched his clothing, but he attended to her. That was the call of the present moment for Jesus. In answering that call, he was doing God's work, and the task he initially set out to accomplish did not suffer. Jairus had his daughter restored to him. There are times in life when we need to embrace the interruptions, rather than just driving on with our head down towards the goal we have set for ourselves. We can misjudge where the real work lies. We often need to come to a deeper appreciation that the interruptions are our work, especially when they involve responding with compassion to the needs of others. When we set out on a journey, what happens on the way can be more important than arriving at our destination. [MH]


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.