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Homily for Tursday of the 4th Wk in Ordinary Time, 01 Feb 2022, Mk 5:21-43

Today we reflect on the curious story of Jairus in Mark’s Gospel. I call it curious because it is interrupted by another story. It is like a piece of bread with tuna spread sandwiched in between. And the filling in between is the story of the woman with hemorrhage (Mark 5:21-24,35-43).

There is also a contrast between two kinds of disposition. You have Jairus in a state of panic on the one hand, rushing Jesus, practically dragging him along to get him to lay hands on his daughter who is critical. I imagine him pushing and shoving the crowd on account of his daughter’s emergency situation. But you have Jesus on the other hand, who comes along, but is taking time to stop and check who it was that had touched him (Mark 5:25-34). The storyteller sets Jairus aside for a while to tell us what it was that had caught the attention of Jesus. When he gets back to him, Jairus’ state of desperation has progressed from bad to worse.

It is when Jesus stops and pauses a while in the midst of this emergency that the narrator introduces another character—a nameless woman who has suffered from hemorrhages for twelve years, the same number of years as the age of Jairus’ daughter.

Unlike Jairus who has been introduced as an important character, namely, a Synagogue official who feels entitled to Jesus’ full attention, this woman is not even calling attention at all. She is not asking for special time to be prayed over.

The author tells us she has exhausted all her savings on doctors. Perhaps she did what she did because she thought she was going to be charged for any special attention by Jesus and she had nothing anymore to offer for his services. So she decides instead to inch her way through the crowd, to just help herself. Instead of asking to be touched, she does the touching, believing that she would get well if she could put her hand on even just the hem of Jesus’ clothes.

Meanwhile, Jairus is “hoping against hope” that Jesus could reach his daughter just in the nick of time. But he is suddenly confronted by the odds of a delay that could have been avoided if only Jesus had not bothered to ask who it was that had touched him. I can sense that the storyteller is deliberately making the reader feel the sense of desperation that would later crush the heart of Jairus when the news comes that his daughter is dead already.

Imagine the mix of anger and self-pity that overcame Jairus when he got the news. Earlier he was almost literally dragging Jesus along. Now he suddenly freezes in shock, and then melts down. And this time it is Jesus who persists and gives Jairus the assurance that things are not over yet. I imagine Jesus this time taking Jairus by the hand and saying to him: “Do not be afraid; just have faith.”

Despair often comes with the tendency to isolate oneself. In desperation for their loved ones who suffer, sometimes people have the tendency to be insensitive to the sufferings of others. I imagine Jairus silently bearing a grudge against Jesus for allowing himself to be delayed just to find out who had touched him. What was the big deal anyway? Why should it be more important than his daughter’s life?

Even the disciples found it odd why it mattered at all for Jesus to know who touched him, when a lot of people were pressing in on him from everywhere.

As far as Jairus was concerned, nothing or no one else mattered at that moment except his daughter. It was totally irrelevant or inconsequential for him that a woman who had suffered quietly and waited for twelve years was going to find that one single opportunity for a healing encounter with Jesus.

I think what Jesus wants Jairus to learn here through the experience of a delay is precisely the virtue of patience and the capacity to bear with other fellow sufferers. The act itself of waiting in patience all these years for this one single moment is the woman’s key to hope.

To wait, to be patient, to hold on, to endure till the end, these are typical expressions that accompany the Psalms of hope in the Old Testament. (See Pss. 5:4; 27:14; 38:16; 39:8; 40:2; 42:6,12; 43:5). We have several biblical characters who have become icons of hope for having waited all their lives for the fulfillment of God’s promise: Abraham (who was told that he would be the “Father of many nations” but could not even have a single child with Sarah ag the start), Moses (who would lead Israel out of Egypt through the desert for forty years but only until the threshhold of the promised land), and the old man Simeon in Luke, whose hopeful demeanor has been immortalized in a Canticle where says it was worth the wait: “Now I can die, Lord.”
I don’t know why they invented the expression “hoping against hope.” Maybe what they really mean is—hoping is about not giving in to despair, for as long as you have God in your company even when things seem to go wrong.

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Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

President of Radio Veritas

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