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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Ordinary Sunday 13, Year B
South Sydney Uniting Church
July 1, 2018

Psalm 130; Mark 5:21-43

‘Two persons of faith’

Our gospel story for today is sometimes called Mark’s masterpiece. It is rich in detail and human touches – indeed, “touch” is one of its main themes. Really, there are two stories interwoven, and each sheds light on the other. Both the main characters emerge as persons of faith.

Last week Jesus chided the disciples for having “no faith” (4:40). In chapter 6 Jesus will be astounded at the “lack of faith” he finds in Nazareth (6:6a). Against this negative background, Jairus and the woman who touches Jesus’ clothing (the hem/fringe of his cloak) stand out as complementary examples of the kind of faith required if human lives are to be grasped by the transforming power of the kindom. God be with you

Let’s imagine the scenes …

Jesus is by the lakeside (he had crossed over and back again by boat). There’s a large crowd.

One of the synagogue officials (a minister of religion), Jairus, comes to Jesus, falls down at his feet and plead for Jesus to come lay hands on his daughter who is gravely ill ..

Right away Jesus starts walking toward Jairus’ house to help/heal. There’s a large crowd. Jesus is hemmed in …

Then a woman who had suffered an illness for 12 long years, comes up behind Jesus in the crowd …

She touches the hem/tassel of his cloak and is healed. Jesus feels her presence and turns to speak with her … She tells Jesus “the whole truth” …

He says, “My daughter, your faith has saved you; go in peace and be free …”

Jairus is still waiting for Jesus. News comes to report that the little girl has died. Jesus says to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid. Keep on believing.”

Jesus takes a small group with him, along with the little girl’s father and mother, and enters the house. The people gathered outside are laughing at him.

Jesus goes to the bedside of the little girl, takes her hand and says, “Talitha, koum!” … The girl, aged 12 we are told, gets up and walks about.

Everyone is astonished. Jesus says to give the little girl something to eat (a reminder of physical and social/cultural realities).

Perhaps you can relate to Jairus. He is deeply anxious, desperate to find help for his child. He has authority and standing. He is willing to plead/beg in public. To call on the help of a popular prophet. He starts out. He is stopped. He waits …

He has a social barrier to overcome: the minister and leader/ruler humbles himself. His part in the drama illustrates how faith must frequently go on a journey, confronting in the process greater challenges than were present at the start. He asked Jesus to come and lay hands on a daughter who was very ill. In the end he saw Jesus grasp her by the hand and summon her from death to life.

Jairus (and his long-suffering partner too, the little girl’s mother) saw what all believers experience sacramentally in baptism and in the mystery of death (various modes of death): the creative force/pull of the Spirit of life.

Perhaps you can relate to the woman. She has an illness the doctors cannot cure. She has spent all her money. She would have been regarded an “unclean” person, contagious, in the grip, so Mark imagines, of the “demonic world” from which no human power has been able to free her.

She touches the tassel of the cloak of the one she believes embodies the goodness of God. The tassels, tzitzit in Hebrew, one in each corner of the cloak (shawl or tallit), symbolises the Torah or Wisdom of God (Numbers 15:37-41). The disciples struggle to understand.

“When she touched him, the savior didn’t see/ But still he turned around and cried, ‘Somebody touched me’/ She said, ‘It was I who just wanna touch the hem of your garment/ I know I’ll be made whole right now’/ She stood there cryin’, ‘Oh Lord’ (Oh Lord)/ ‘Oh Lord’ and ‘Oh Lord’ (Oh Lord)/ ‘Oh Lord’ (Oh Lord)/ And ‘Oh Lord’ (Oh Lord)/ Said, ‘If I could just touch the hem of your garment/ I know I’ll be made whole right now’” (Sam Cooke & the Soul Stirrers, 1951).

Saved from her 12-year affliction, both personally and socially she has regained her life.

She could have thought to herself, “I am too ‘unclean’, too dirty and worthless, for Jesus to be interested in healing me.” But her faith pushed through that barrier to access the healing power of God.

Two persons of faith. Two aspects of faith and salvation. Humility. Dignity. How might you describe these two people? …

In small groups, let’s complete the homily together. What’s your favourite part of the story? How might it help us to access the power of God?

The homily proper, in fact, begins with a question such as this. How might the story help you/us to access the healing power of God? In what manner might we/you step from the crowd, to plead or to touch ... ? Amen.

Draws on commentary by Brendan Byrne SJ.