Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel
by Kristin Berkey-Abbott
The readings for Sunday, June 28, 2009:
First Reading: Lamentations 3:22-33
First Reading (Semi-cont.): 2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27
First Reading (Alt.): Wisdom of Solomon 1:13-15; 2:23-24
Psalm: Psalm 30
Psalm (Semi-cont.): Psalm 130
Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 8:7-15
Gospel: Mark 5:21-43
Notice how rooted in physicality is our Gospel for Sunday. We've got a bleeding woman and a dying girl. At the end of the Gospel, Jesus orders food for the no longer dead girl. The Gospel practically oozes on the page.
Notice too how we've got a variety of people--all they have in common is their fierce belief and their willingness to do whatever it takes for healing. They will ignore all the years of ill health. They will ignore their rational voices that say that one man can't bring health. Even when they're surrounded by naysayers, they believe. They will ignore death, so powerful is their hope.
And how odd that the Gospel ends with Jesus telling them to say nothing. Of course, this is the Gospel of Mark, where Jesus often tells people not to tell what they've seen. Why does he do that? Does he know the human impulse to tell things they've been told not to tell? Is Jesus scared of attracting the wrong kind of attention too early? Does Jesus know what he's doing? The Gospel of Mark is the one where Jesus seems least to resemble the great and glorious Savior whom so many of us would swear that we know. He's secretive in Mark, and mean to his mom, and he often acts like he's making it all up as he goes along. By the time we get to the Gospel of John, which was probably written last of the four, Jesus has changed radically. But I digress.
Notice that in this passage Jesus focuses his attention on some of the most outcast of his society: a little girl and a bleeding woman. If you've studied the Old Testament, you understand how outcast a woman who never stopped bleeding would be. Ancient purity codes were quite strict about body fluids, particularly when they came from women. And a female child would have also been seen as expendable, at least in the larger society. Yet Jesus doesn't withhold his power from them, even if they're not important to the larger society.
This Gospel echoes the story we heard last week. Here is Jesus again, talking to his disciples about their fears. Here is Jesus, doing what should be impossible for humans to do. Last week he's controlling nature. This week, we seem him controlling the human body. We even see him overcome death.
These stories make me think about my own faith, particularly during these hot, hazy days of summer, when it seems impossible to get off the couch. What would inspire me to go to Jesus in a similar way? I try to imagine Jesus saying to me "Daughter, your faith has made you well." I think of all the ways that my faith can--and does--fall short.
This Gospel is instructive, in that it shows what it might take to get our attention focused on what's important. If my little nephew lay dying, I would move Heaven and Earth to find a cure. If I had a disease that no one could cure, I might be moved to try things my rational brain wouldn't accept. Over and over again, in many a disease narrative, we hear people tell us that their disease redirected their attention and turned out to be a strange blessing.
I'm always wary of this approach--I don't want to glorify suffering and disease. I don't mean to imply that the sick ones are lucky, and the healthy ones are ill. But with this Gospel, it wouldn't hurt to take a look at our own faith lives. Where is God trying to get our attention? How strong is our faith? What would it take to make us yearn for Christ, to search so fervently for our Savior?