This Sunday we celebrate the Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time. The term, Ordinary Time, does not mean unimportant. The word stems from the same root as ordinal (like the ordinal numbers) and refers to the fact that these are the counted Sundays of the year. They fall into the broad category of celebrations of the “Day of the Lord” As the readings for the special liturgical seasons tend to focus on various articles and events of our faith, the readings for Ordinary time tend to focus on the business of living the Christian life. They speak of how to go about being a disciple. This week they look at the gift of life, both physical and spiritual, that God has given us and cause us to think particularly about what our response ought to be. How is my gratitude towards God seen in how I use the gifts with which He has blessed me?
First Reading: Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24
1:13 Because God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living. 14 For he fashioned all things that they might have being; and the creatures of the world are wholesome, And there is not a destructive drug among them nor any domain of the nether world on earth, 15 For justice is undying. 2:23 For God formed man to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made him. 24 But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world, and they who are in his possession experience it.
NOTES on First Reading:
* 1:13-15 The author is not speaking of physical death here. He is concerned with spiritual death, the eternal separation from God. The author also seems to be indifferent to the fate of the body.
* 1:14 The physical world does not have the capacity to cause spiritual death. The netherworld, Sheol, is equated with the personification of death.
* 1:15 Justice is seen as undying and therefore it leads to immortality. This immortality is neither the fame with one’s posterity which is spoken of in other parts of the Old Testament nor the philosophical idea of the native immortality of the soul. Rather it is the freely granted divine gift of unending life with God. This is a very late development in Jewish thought. The idea of a life after death in more or less the modern sense was a moderately new idea that became widespread in Judaism only a couple of hundred years before Christ.
* 2:23 The author connects the idea of “the image of God” from Gen 1:26 with the immortality to which humans are destined but which can be lost by sin. Wisdom never says that we are immortal by nature but rather that we receive immortality as a divine gift. The author seems to have no interest in the fate of the physical body. He seems to see physical death as simply a result of our earthly origins (See 7:1) with no eternal consequences.
* 2:24 Since death, as used here, is only experienced by the wicked, it clearly refers to spiritual death rather than physical death which visits the good and wicked equally. This reference to the devil is the first biblical text to equate the serpent of Eden (Gen 3) with the devil. See also 10:1; Sir 25:23; John 8:44; Rev 12:9; 20:2. The author interprets the threat of death in Gen 2:16-17 and 3:3 as spiritual death rather than as physical death. Envy may have arisen because Adam was made in the image of God or because he was given control of all creation.
Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 8: 7, 9, 13-15
7 Now as you excel in every respect, in faith, discourse, knowledge, all earnestness, and in the love we have for you, may you excel in this gracious act also. [8 I say this not by way of command, but to test the genuineness of your love by your concern for others.] 9 For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that for your sake he became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you might become rich. [10 And I am giving counsel in this matter, for it is appropriate for you who began not only to act but to act willingly last year: 11 complete it now, so that your eager willingness may be matched by your completion of it out of what you have. 12 For if the eagerness is there, it is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have;] 13 not that others should have relief while you are burdened, but that as a matter of equality 14 your surplus at the present time should supply their needs, so that their surplus may also supply your needs, that there may be equality. 15 As it is written: “Whoever had much did not have more, and whoever had little did not have less.”
NOTES on Second Reading:
* The portions of the text in brackets above are not included in the reading because they are parenthetical and off the point that the reading wishes to make.
* 8:7 Paul presents the charitable service is promoting briefly and in passing within the perspective of his theology of the charisms. This verse suggests that the Corinthian Church excelled in many ways. Such a suggestion would have flattered the Corinthians but it was meant, at least partly, as a rebuke in the form of faint praise. In other communities grace is described as being manifested in their faith, hope, and love, or partnership in the gospel. These are all qualities that were conspicuously missing among the Corinthians who were suffering from a serious problem of pride in the possession of the spiritual gifts and lacked the love that should be evident among members of the Body of Christ. This same technique is used in 1 Cor 1:5.
* 8:8 Paul does not wish to give the impression of bullying them but wants them to act for the theological reason given in 9:7.
* 8:9 This same theological principle concerning the experience of Jesus, was expressed earlier in terms of life and death (2 Cor 5:15), and sin and righteousness (2 Cor 5:21). It is now rephrased in terms of poverty and wealth. Many scholars think this is a reference to Jesus’ preexistence with God (his “wealth”) and to his incarnation and death (his “poverty”), and they point to the similarity between this verse and Phil 2:6-8. This is not necessarily the case. Others interpret the wealth and poverty as succeeding phases of Jesus’ earthly existence, e.g., his sense of intimacy with God and then the desolation and the feeling of abandonment by God in his death (See Mark 15:34).
* 8:13-14 The Corinthians are not being asked to impoverish themselves. They are to use their surplus to help those in need as one day they too may need the help of others.
* 8:15 This is a reference to Exod 16:18 which deals with the gathering of manna. It brings up the idea that God will provide from the supply so that the needs of the people will be met.
Gospel Reading: Mark 5: 21-43
21 When Jesus had crossed again (in the boat) to the other side, a large crowd gathered around him, and he stayed close to the sea. 22 One of the synagogue officials, named Jairus, came forward. Seeing him he fell at his feet 23 and pleaded earnestly with him, saying, “My daughter is at the point of death. Please, come lay your hands on her that she may get well and live.” 24 He went off with him, and a large crowd followed him and pressed upon him. 25 There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years. 26 She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors and had spent all that she had. Yet she was not helped but only grew worse. 27 She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak. 28 She said, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.” 29 Immediately her flow of blood dried up. She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction. 30 Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who has touched my clothes?” 31 But his disciples said to him, “You see how the crowd is pressing upon you, and yet you ask, ‘Who touched me?'” 32 And he looked around to see who had done it. 33 The woman, realizing what had happened to her, approached in fear and trembling. She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.” 35 While he was still speaking, people from the synagogue official’s house arrived and said, “Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?” 36 Disregarding the message that was reported, Jesus said to the synagogue official, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.” 37 He did not allow anyone to accompany him inside except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38 When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official, he caught sight of a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 So he went in and said to them, “Why this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep.” 40 And they ridiculed him. Then he put them all out. He took along the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and entered the room where the child was. 41 He took the child by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!” 42 The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around. (At that) they were utterly astounded. 43 He gave strict orders that no one should know this and said that she should be given something to eat.
NOTES on Gospel:
* 5:22 The term, “rulers of the synagogue” may mean one of the members of the synagogue committee from which the office of elders developed, or even the president of the synagogue. To fall at His feet was a sign of homage. While it may indicate a recognition of the Divine, at this point of the gospel it is more likely to be simply the ancient middle eastern form of according human honor.
* 5:25 The “issue of blood” made the woman unclean according to Lev 15:19.
* 5:28 By touching the hem (fringe) of His garment the woman was expressing faith in Jesus as the Messiah who was described in Mal 4:2 (that’s 3:20 in most Catholic editions) as “the sun of justice with healing in His wings.” This is translated as “with its healing rays” by the NAB. The same word used for wings means extremities and corners and edges. Corners of cloaks were called “wings ” of the cloak.
* 5:30 Some older translations use the word, virtue, for power.
* 5:33 The woman had reason to be afraid. Lev 15:19 declares her to be unclean and so she should : not have been in a crowd at all, not have approached a rabbi, not have touched a rabbi in public because she was a woman. not have touched anybody because she was unclean.
* 5:34 In place of well some versions have whole or saved. In Greek the same word is used for both “whole” and “saved.”
* 5:43 The request for secrecy seems very strange since all the people who had been put out and who were at the house mourning would have known what happened when they saw the child again. It is part of the Messianic secret which is a literary device used by Mark throughout his gospel. It emphasizes the common misunderstanding of the role of the Messiah.