1 July [13th Sunday in Ordinary Time]
When Jesus had crossed 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.
This is an example of Mark's 'sandwiching': in the middle of one incident he places another. It gives remarkable pace to his story.
What is all the hurrying about? Jesus is hurrying to save the life of a little girl, and he heals a sick woman on the way. The first reading began, "Death was not God's doing, he takes no pleasure in the extinction of the living." So Jesus is doing God's work; he heals and he restores to life.
Watch how he does it. There is great gentleness and warmth in these two stories. The speed and the pressure of expectations didn't make him impersonal or mechanical, as it does many busy people. His affectionate expression to the little girl, “Talitha kum!”, is retained in his own language, Aramaic. The New Testament is written in Greek, but the writers kept just a few phrases in Jesus’ own language: maranatha, and Abba and Talitha kum. Terms of affection translate poorly, because they are more than their dictionary meaning: they are warm words. (I remember an ancient woman in my village who used to address everyone as a leanbh, 'child'.)
Likewise, when the lady wanted a cure and touched his cloak rather than face him, he said, “Who touched me?” He didn't want her cure to be anonymous; he wanted to speak to her and heal her, not just relieve her symptoms.
“Who touched me?” These are words to break through the stoutest walls of anonymity. There is a kind of frigid atmosphere when people don't know one another. If they have to exchange words they use the minimum number usually: “Excuse me!” “Thank you!” “Goodbye!” There is seldom any real warmth in them, and the smile (if any) that goes with them looks a bit stiff. But “who touched me?” breaks through all that. We can be spontaneous with our friends because we know how they will react; but we don't know how strangers might react, so we play safe; in a sense we hide ourselves. The woman in the story wanted contact with Jesus, and at the same time she wanted the security of anonymity. So in the press of the crowd she touched the hem of his cloak; she wanted an anonymous cure. It is still very much with us today. We are drawn to anything that promises us a cure. You could make a list of them, from the more sensible to the less! What is missing in many of them is a Who to touch you: what we really need is a Son of God with fire of compassion in his eyes, who looks for you saying, “Who touched me?” Or “talitha kumi!” Or even “a leanbh!”
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