13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading I Wisdom 1:13-15, 2:23-24
Reading II 2 Corinthians 8:7-15
Gospel Mark 5:21-43
What do we really want in our life as Christians? We want a relationship with God to be forever, and that is why we know that eventually God sent Jesus into the world to die, to suffer, to rise and to ascend so that we can renew that relationship with him and that friendship so that we no longer have death — but we have life. Do we still have people who die? Absolutely. But the death doesn’t end when we die because we have eternal life because of the Pascal mystery and the resurrection.
In our Gospel readings of last week and today we see all the miracles Jesus did while he was on earth. Jesus always helped anyone who needed it, whether it was driving out demons or helping the sick. He wants us to be whole and he wants us to be complete.
Last week in the Gospel we see the disciples in the boat, the storm comes up and there is thunder and lightning and waves start coming into the boat. The boat starts filling up with water and Jesus is sleeping. How many of us can sleep through storms? Well, Jesus did. So what did the disciples do? Did they say, “He’s sleeping there so we know we are going to be OK?” No. They said, “We need to wake him up. The water is getting higher.”
So they wake him up. He stopped the thunder and the lightning, he calmed the sea, and said, “Oh, you of little faith.”
In the Gospel of today we see the opposite. We have two individuals with a great deal of faith. So much faith that Jairus, who is the synagogue official, comes up to Jesus , gets his attention and cries, “My daughter is sick and dying. Help her!” And what does Jesus do? He says, “Take me to her.”
They all head off in the direction of Jairius’s house, and as they walk along the crowd keeps getting bigger and bigger. All of a sudden there is a second person with great faith that appears in the story, and this person may have even more faith than Jairius. She says, “I don’t even need to look at him with my eyes. All I need to do is touch his garment and I’ll be healed.” In the midst of this crowd she sneaks in and touches his garment, and it happens. She is healed. She was hoping it would end there but it doesn’t. Then we hear this strange thing in the Gospel. Jesus says, “I felt the power leaving me and going somewhere else. Who touched me? The disciples answer, “That’s a silly question. A lot of people touched you. You are in a crowd of people here.” But Jesus asks, “Who touched me?” A woman comes forward and says, “I did.” She told him the story and he says, “Your faith healed you.”
Then before they could move forward he receives word that Jairius’s daughter has died. What does Jesus say to Jairius? “Have faith. Let’s go.” So they go to his home and here are all these people weeping and wailing and doing all the things that people do when someone in a family dies.
Jesus says, “Stop it. She’s not dead. She’s just sleeping.” Again he is ridiculed. So he takes Mom and Dad by the hand, goes to her room, takes her by the hand and says, “Get up and rise.” She does and she is cured. Jesus says, “Give her something to eat.”
The bottom line is: God wants us to be whole physically, psychologically, and in every way we can be — that’s what he wants for us. He doesn’t want us to suffer, he doesn’t want us to die, but it is part of the reality of life. Was Jesus spared suffering? No. Was he spared physical death? No. Are we spared suffering and death? No.
Then it comes to the real test of what is faith. What is faith? Faith is that we believe in God so much that we know he always has our back and we know he is always there to help us in good times and bad.
One of the questions we are asked today is: How strong is my faith? Am I walking with Jesus? Do I have God in my life? Do I make him the center of my life so that I know that no matter what happens, everything is going to be all right. That is what Jesus wants for you. He wants you to know that he will walk with you every step of the journey. He may not be able to take away every storm in your life, but he will walk through the storm with you, side by side, and even carry you if that is what we want and need.
In our second reading from St. Paul to the Corinthians Jesus says, “We need to be thankful for the gifts that we are given from God.” We need to be thankful to our parents who brought us to this font to be baptized. We thank God for Liam who will be baptized in this faith community today because it is with this baptism that his experiences in life will change. He will now begin to walk with God even though he doesn’t know it. And Mom and Dad and the Godparents will show him the way.
We are asked that through baptism — we are Christ — and we need to be Christ to each other. And it is by being Christ to each other that we help each other walk through the storm. We look to events that happened two weeks ago in South Carolina at the AME church and we see the young man who comes into that church and joins a Bible study and prayer group for an hour, and then kills nine people. How many of you would be sad? How many of you would feel there is a storm in your life? How many of you would have enough faith to know everything is going to be OK, not what you want, but that it would be OK?
When we look at the faith of that faith community we can see and understand what strong faith is. Then the judge asked the victims and relatives to come to the courthouse, the shooter was videotaped into the courtroom and they were told they could say anything to him that they wanted. If those who died were your Mom or your child, what would you say? Would you say what they said? The one daughter whose mother was killed said, “You need to know that my life will never be the same because of what you did, but you know, I forgive you, and may God have mercy on you.” Another parent who lost a son went up and said, “I forgive you. May God have mercy on you.”
This is a wonderful example of what true faith is — faith knowing we will have storms in life we don’t like, but we know we have God in our life and it doesn’t make any difference. We may not like what is happening, but we can make it true, and maybe we will be better people because we know that God is always with us.
Think of that community in Charleston. What happened? The flag is going to come down and hopefully the hate around it will be diminished. Faith can move mountains and faith can make us who we need to be — people who are happy, and people who are content in good times and in bad times.
On Saturday we will celebrate the 4th of July. It is important for all of us to remember to be thankful for the freedom we have in our country. It is also important to remember those in the military who went before us and died so we can be free. It is also important to remember those in the military now, still fighting and protecting us.
We also need to remember that we live in a democracy and we need to vote, we need to say what we think, and we need to hold those values dear to us when we elect politicians who support those ideas. We need to remember that the right to come to church is not everywhere in this world. It is important that we continue to fight in every way for religious freedom, and we need to have our voices known.
So this morning as we celebrate the 13th Sunday in ordinary time let’s be thankful for the love God has for us, thankful to our parents who brought us to this font to be baptized and who planted that seed of faith in us so that we can let it blossom in our world and care for one another. In particular we pray for Liam as he is baptized into our faith community. We pray for Liam’s parents and godparents to recognize and carry out their responsibility to help him grow in his faith.
And let us remember that it is our responsibility in this faith community to always make Liam, and all those baptized, feel welcome and to help them grow in their faith.
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Terry Ellerman is a retired educator and serves as a deacon at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Quincy, Illinois.