HOMILY FOR THE THIRTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR B 1 July 2018
Reading 1 Wis 1:13-15; 2:23-24 For God formed man to be imperishable;”
Responsorial Psalm Ps 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11, 12, 13 “ I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me” and “O LORD, my God, forever will I give you thanks.”
Reading 2 2 Cor 8:7, 9, 13-15: For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.
Gospel Mk 5:21-43 or 5:21-24, 35b-43 “He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”
Twelve years with a severe medical condition and her livelihood spent on doctors! Today, as the medical profession continues to transform itself into medical “industry” – the many dedicated, well-intentioned, self-giving doctors, nurses and support staff notwithstanding – and amidst all the complexities of the political debates, this woman’s drama sounds exceptionally contemporary. The Gospel says, “she spent her livelihood on doctors but was unable to be cured by any.” No AARP or Medicare. What made her turn to Jesus? Sheer desperation? Perhaps. Yet desperate people don’t often make the wisest choices. What prompted her decision to risk life and limb and public outcry (if not stoning) as a designated “unclean” individual defying laws separating her from healthy citizens? To discern an answer to that question, it may be helpful to posit possible situations (and corresponding mindsets) a person with her condition would find herself.
She must have been WEARY. Twelve years with a condition that would certainly have made her anemic, weak and perhaps struggling with associated depression. It probably crossed her mind to repeat the words of Job’s wife when she said to him: “Curse God and die.” Evidently, this woman eschewed that temptation. Instead, she found ways to maneuver through those dark thoughts and impulses. Here are some possibilities:
- Consolation: Perhaps identifying with others who suffer offered some relief – recognizing she was not alone in her condition or her situation. She may have sought friendship with others with similar conditions. Lepers, after all, were forced to associate exclusively with lepers. At that time, women experiencing menstruation were set apart from men. So perhaps our protagonist spent her days and years in the company of menstruating women. Of course, these women would come and go leaving her alone, but they would re-appear and the life flow of women’s natural rhythms and the conversations and insights shared may have brought her deeper wisdom and some levels of peace. Perhaps, she was not the only one with continuing hemorrhage and found some kindred solidarity, one among several women there waiting for doctors’ arrivals, commiserating together the lack of antidotes to their condition. In that way, she provided her own sense of consolation with her refusal to isolate herself, to fall into the trap of alienation even though the societal norm pressured her to do so.
- Resourcefulness: We know nothing of her life situation: Married? Single? Widowed? Divorced? Whatever the case she found some way or had some means to have her basic needs met: food, clothing, shelter and the ability to offer her doctor’s recompense. We can assume she was not married for the Gospel specifies “she spent HER livelihood on doctors,” i.e. not her husband’s. Furthermore, her medical condition would have made her unfit for the marriage bed, so it most likely she never married or divorced. Very likely she weaved cloth at her loom and had a colleague purify her products for sale in the marketplace.
- Gratitude: That her medical condition did not inhibit her from productivity, however, mitigated her energy levels. She must have cultivated ways to be thankful for what was, rather than what was not; grateful for who she was, rather than who she was not.
We have much to learn from this woman plagued with but cured of hemorrhaging: Weariness supported by prayer; Consolation in identification with others who suffer; Resourcefulness; Gratitude and Hope, all bound together in FAITH. The beauty of her faith in Jesus and her subsequent healing comes from the fact that she refused to remain a victim; she did not let her past or the crisis of her present illness inhibit her choices for the future. Her faith instilled in her that marvelous capacity to hold suffering and joy in body and mind without annihilating, ignoring or failing to attend to either one.
She must have known enough about the Messianic expectation that the true Messiah would identify with her—for He was to come to the lowly, the persecuted, the suffering, the bereft. After all, Jesus’ miraculous healings fulfilled an essential aspect of JESUS HIMSELF: His oneness with humanity. She was able to recognize in JESUS as the one who perfectly held the tension between joy and sorrow, suffering and deliverance as her faith had motivated her to do. Thus, she courageously surrendered her fallible condition to His Perfect Condition, recognizing that she and Jesus had more in common than what would be apparent to most who did not take the time to know her or consider Jesus to the extant that she had.
YOU and I have more in common with Jesus than we readily acknowledge. You and I continue to be nourished by Him in Sacrament and Word. You and I grapple with joys and sorrows, degrees of sickness and health, social successes and social failures but find our hope in Christ and His Being, His Union with God the Father, trusting in their literal sharing of their Spirit within us – the divine spark in every human being that, for us, for God’s good purposes, has been nurtured so lovingly, consistently through our Catholic Faith and Traditions. For God formed us to be imperishable in the Spirit, and God engages us to cooperate with Grace just as Jesus continually merged His human will with His Divine Will. Hear today what Jesus said to the woman he says now to you: “Your faith has saved you, Go in Peace and be cured of your affliction” — that is be cured of whatever separates you from you, from us, from Christ.