Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
First Reading: Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-34
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 30:2, 4-6, 11-13
Second Reading: St. Paul’s 2nd Letter to the Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13-15
Gospel: According to St. Mark 5:21-43
The G.K. Chesterton classic Orthodoxy ends with the line “There was some one thing that was too great for God to show us when He walked upon our earth; and I have sometimes fancied that it was His mirth.” I don’t think I’ve ever before disagreed with that most corpulent ‘Prince of Paradox’ and papally designated Defender of the Faith, but here I must.
In this weekend’s story of the raising of Jairus’ daughter from the dead it would seem that mirth, or lighthearted humor, is the last thing we might find, yet embedded in that story is a moment where Jesus shows us His true relationship with His disciples and thus His true relationship with us.
While Jesus is on His way to the daughter of Jairus He is in the midst of a huge crowd. One woman in that crowd has such faith in Jesus that she thinks that if she can just touch His clothes – not even touch Him, just His clothes – she can be cured. So amidst all of the bumping and jostling of the crowd she is able to get to Jesus and touch His clothes. Jesus then poses this question to his disciples: “Who touched Me?”
Anyone who has ever been to Disney World over Easter break, or Times Square on New Year’s Eve, or a Tokyo subway ever, knows the absurdity of that question. And so, I’m sure, did Jesus. Imagine the looks from one disciple to another – looks that say, “Is He serious?” or “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
In the Spiritual Exercises St. Ignatius asks us to put ourselves in the scenes of the Gospel stories and to allow the Holy Spirit to take us where He will. I have imagined in this scene that the unwritten text of this story has Jesus with a wry grin on His face saying something like, “I’m just messing with you – it’s that woman right over there.”
These are the closest friends of Jesus. These are the people that Jesus will hand His ministry over to when He goes back to the Father. The ability to joke around with someone is a true sign of friendship, and these are the true friends of Jesus. And so are we.
Whenever a light or humorous moment breaks the tension of a situation it is a gift from God. It tells us that despite the troubles of the moment, Jesus is in control so we can relax.
In Super Bowl XXIII the San Francisco 49ers were down by 3 to the Cincinnati Bengals with just over 3 minutes remaining. The 49ers were on their own 8 yard line. Joe Montana looked over the heads of his teammates in the huddle and gazed into the stands. His eyes lit up as if inspired and he then turned his focus to the 10 sets of eyes in the huddle looking to him for guidance. He pointed into the crowd and said “Hey, look – isn’t that John Candy?” Two and a half minutes later John Taylor caught the pass that won the Super Bowl for the 49ers. Joe Montana will never be confused with Jesus – except maybe by over-zealous Fighting Irish and 49ers fans, but in that moment Montana tapped into what Jesus expressed to His disciples in our gospel story.
In our own more mundane lives we’ve felt these moments as well. If you’ve ever heard someone say, or have said yourself, “If I didn’t laugh, I’d cry,” then you know this feeling. We do this instinctively at wakes when we reminisce with the other mourners about the good times we all had with the deceased - the times of great, tear-bringing laughter. It is a most-needed release. It is also God’s way of letting His friends know that, in the end, as the medieval mystic Julian of Norwich was told by Jesus in a vision: “all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”
And not just for Julian; but for the woman in the gospel story, and for the daughter of Jairus, and for all of us.