"Breaking Open the Word" :
James Cavanagh is the director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-Area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. His weekly column, "Breaking Open the Word," is syndicated by the Denver Catholic Register, official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver. Click here to visit the Office of Evangelization & Catechesis for the Archdiocese of Denver.
July 1: 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Overview: Death is a natural part of life. But from a spiritual standpoint death is an alien intruder who entered the world through the devil’s envy (first reading). Made in the image and likeness of God man was originally immortal. The reading from Wisdom echoes the first chapters of Genesis where death follows man’s disobedience brought about by the devil’s malice. Death is the ultimate symbol of man’s alienation from God, something only God himself can overcome, as is evident in this week’s Gospel.
The second reading is about the need to support the Church. Paul was collecting funds for the Christian community in Jerusalem, which was spiritually rich but materially poor. Corinth, on the other hand, was well-off economically, but spiritually lacking. The primary motive for giving, Paul says, comes from a sense of gratitude for “the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ.” One’s generosity, in other words, is a response of faith to the immeasurable generosity of God.
The purpose of Mark’s Gospel, summed up in Chapter 1, Verse 1, is to show that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. In this week’s Gospel reading Jesus reverses the effects of original sin through the healing of two women: one who had suffered from a hemorrhage for 12 years, and the other a 12-year-old girl who had died. Another important character in the story, often overlooked, is Jairus, the girl’s father. “Jairus” means “he whom God enlightens.” And indeed, in the course of these two miracles Jairus comes to see who Jesus really is: not just a healer, but the Lord of life and master over death. The delay caused by the woman with the hemorrhage is reminiscent of Jesus’ delay in going to Lazarus in John 11. The purpose of the delay was for the sake of those present: that they would come to believe that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God. The command to feed the girl after Jesus raised her from the dead is a clear allusion to the Eucharist.
Key verse: “God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living” (Wis 1:13).
Catechism of the Catholic Church: “It is Jesus himself who on the last day will raise up those who have believed in him, who have eaten his body and drunk his blood. Already now in this present life he gives a sign and pledge of this by restoring some of the dead to life, announcing thereby his own Resurrection, though it was to be of another order” (No. 994).
Pope Benedict XVI: “”The real alienation, unfreedom, and imprisonment of man consists in his want of truth. If he does not know truth, if he does not know who he is, why he is here and what the reality of this world consists in, he is only stumbling around in the dark” (“Behold the Pierced One”).
Application: Many homilies (and commentaries) focus on the miraculous healing of the two women, and how each of them points to Christ’s ultimate victory over sin and death. Another way of reading the story, however, is through the eyes of Jairus, which may be Mark’s intention. While the two women seem to be the focus of the narrative, only Jairus is mentioned by name. Through the twin miracles we, along with Jairus, are meant to be “enlightened” as to who Jesus is, and who we are in relation to him, so that we’re not “stumbling around in the dark.”
James Cavanagh is director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. Cavanagh’s column is distributed by the Denver Catholic Register.
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