Wisdom 1, 13-15 & 2, 23-24 + Psalm 30 + 2 Corinthians 8, 7-9, 13-15 + Mark 5, 21-43
Two women without names both called “daughter” and two examples of faith is what Mark puts before us today. Then there is a man who has a name, Jarius. He not only has a name, he has faith. Tradition suggests that because he is named, he was a known disciple of Jesus as time went on. But these verses are not really about him. They are about the two women and what happens to them. Notice that the number twelve comes up twice in these verses, a number that always suggests completeness or fullness. The young woman is twelve years old. She is just at the age when she can give life. She is the daughter of what must have been a prosperous and significant leader in the community. The older woman has suffered for twelve years and is completely ruined, hopeless, and penniless, and because of her twelve year affliction is unable to give life. The story builds around these themes.
As much as a reflection on Jarius might be fruitful for a sermon on prayer, he is not the center of the story even though his faith, patience, and trust are tested by the slow moving Jesus who, surrounded by a big crowd, stops moving toward his home to ask what seems to everyone a silly question: “Who touched me?” The question however, highlights what the church puts before us today: touch. First the older woman touches Jesus, then Jesus touches the young girl. In both actions there is a serious violation of the law that says you do not touch women who are bleeding, and you do not touch corpses. In her condition, the older woman is as good as dead. She has nothing left. She has been cast out with no hope of being healed and restored to the life of the community. The twelve year old seems to be dead too at the very threshold of life she is being mourned. Then comes the touch that changes everything.
In a sense, Jesus trades places with them. Two who are untouchable and unclean are restored by one who is willing to risk sharing their condition to show them the mercy and love of God. One who has and is life trades places with them to give them a life. He will suffer for this violation of the law persecuted and accused by the law enforcers who are always in the way of God’s mercy and love.
The story of both of these women is a story of what happens when death comes into contact with the living Christ. Whatever God touches springs to life. The woman in the crowd believes so deeply in Jesus that, even without his attention or permission, she is able to tap into the life force that comes from him. When he touches the child’s hand, life leaps through him into her, her heart begins to beat again and she opens her eyes, and she not only rises up, she begins to walk around. And then, Mark puts this right into focus by telling us that Jesus said: “Give her something to eat.” Suddenly this story pulls us into the Eucharist.
In a few moments we shall all be touched by God. We shall come into intimate physical contact through Holy Communion with the life-giving God who has come to us in Christ Jesus. These miracles preview the new creation Christ has come to proclaim. Life comes again into this world because of Jesus. Today we celebrate a miracle, but not simply one from the past. We celebrate a miracle that happens today, because when we receive Jesus Christ in Communion, his breath, body and blood flow into us. We become Christ’s body in the world.
Both the miracles of Mark’s Gospel and the miracle of today highlight the importance of faith. Without it, we are unable to participate in the powerful life flowing from Jesus into his church. Faith means staying in touch with Jesus, even if we must push through unbelieving crowds who discount religion and our faith. If we falter in faith, Jesus says to us what he said to Jarius: “Do not be afraid.” We are a people touched by God. Think of that as you come in procession to this altar to touch again and consume the life-giving Body and Blood of Christ. Remember what Mark tells about what happens to people touched by God. Live! Regardless of the obstacles this world can throw up in our face, live and let the mercy and the love of God flow through you.