Wis 1, 13-15; 2, 23-24; 2 Cor. 8, 7.9.13-15; Mk 5, 21-43.
The Jesus narratives in the gospels call for a reading that transcends times and cultures. If we simply repeat the narratives without an in-depth reading, we risk losing the entire significance of the Jesus story for us today. The science of interpretation is a must in our reading and understanding of the Scriptures.
In today’s gospel reading, we have a double healing that took place in a Jewish context. We cannot just read about Jesus’s healing power and ignore that he is subverting the status quo and crossing the boundaries of power, sexual status and position on the social ladder. Jesus was a healer not just because he cured the sick, as with the woman who believed she would be healed if she touched his cloak, or because he had the power to raise from the dead Jairus’s 12-year-old daughter. Jesus was not just a miracle worker. We believe he was God, who came to heal a sick world contaminated by what today’s reading from Wisdom calls a “fatal poison” that distorts reality as created by God. The Son of God came to heal our social networks and our way of relating to each other in a system that favours the privileged and despises the underclass.
Pope Francis ad nauseam insists on the need for the Church to choose a preferential option for the poor. This option is not just more awareness about the needs of the poor, subtracting a percentage in favour of the poor from our massive fundraising for the infinite craze to embellish our churches and make our festas greater.
Jesus, even in his highly religious Jewish context, reinvented the Church not to be an institution that defends status and entitlement, as many a time we still do. Jesus reinvented the Church to create new possibilities of human community. Because it is only where there is a deep sense of community that the preferential option for the poor is possible.
In today’s gospel, the healing of Jairus’s daughter is framed around the healing of the woman with the blood flow. Jairus, a Synagogue official, represented honour and status; the woman, embodied shame. “The woman came forward frightened and trembling,” writes Mark. The way Jesus deals with both opens wide new horizons for the social inclusivity of the kingdom.
There is no place for a social ladder in the Church; there is no justification for privileges and titles; there is no reason to maintain social status in a Christian community; nobody can be excluded from the Jesus table. Of course, this is Jesus saying ‘I have a dream’. Looking at things as they are in our Church settings, we can easily conclude that Jesus’s dream is still the unreachable utopia. It suffices to look at the anachronisms in the variety of titles and statuses and to see how many of our liturgical vestments simply stink of worldly fashion parades.
As long as the Church remains in its Babylonian captivity, as Martin Luther aptly wrote back in the 16th century, it would will be hard to proclaim in a credible way the Jesus story and his significance for the way we live. In the troubled world we are in, the call is for a Church to be really and deeply in line with Jesus’s dream.
It is only community that heals, going powerfully beyond divides in society, be they of status, political, cultural or even religious. Sociologists and biblical scholars, wrote Walter Brueggemann lately in his book Rebuilding the Foundations, have much to say to one another because they seem to have a wide spectrum of common concerns in their interpretation of the world and of what is happening to our social fabric.
In the face of these social concerns and of the ailments of people and society alike, the more the Church is closed in on itself and concerned with its own survival, the more irrelevant and the less needed it becomes.