13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
In today’s Gospel we read about Jairus, the synagogue official. His twelve-year-old daughter is dying. He falls at Jesus’ feet and begs Him to save his little girl. Before Jesus has time to go to the girl’s bedside word comes that she’s already died. What does Jesus do? He says to Jairus, “Do not be afraid, just have faith.”
Let’s stop here just a minute. First of all, Jairus is a synagogue official. That’s not a minor point. It’s not something that Mark just threw into the story. Jesus wasn’t exactly a favorite of the synagogue officials. A lot of what He was teaching was new, even radical. Much of what He taught went against traditional Jewish teaching. We know that eventually the leaders of the Jewish faith would put Jesus to death. But here’s this guy whose daughter is dying. Like any parent, he’ll do anything to save his child, so he approaches the Lord. “Please save my daughter” he says.
But then word comes that the girl has died and Jesus tells Jairus not to be afraid, but to have faith. How would you and I react if we were in Jairus’ place? I don’t know about you, but I got word that one of my kids was dead I’d go nuts. I’ve come to this man who claims to be the Son of God asking Him for help and now my child is dead! Would you and I have faith that this long-haired wandering preacher could somehow resurrect our little girl? Mark doesn’t tell us how Jarius reacted. Maybe he believed Jesus. Maybe he didn’t. We don’t know.
Jesus goes to Jarius’ home along with Peter, James, and John. No one else was allowed to go with Him. When they got to the synagogue official’s house there was a crowd “weeping and wailing.” Jesus tells the crowd that the child isn’t dead. She’s just sleeping. And the crowd ridicules Him. Who wouldn’t? She was dead. They knew it. They’d seen it for themselves. Jesus must have been making a cruel joke. How dare He? He must be crazy!
Then Jesus puts them all out. He goes into the girl’s room with Peter, James, John, Darius, and his wife. He takes the girl by the hand, tells her to rise, AND SHE DOES!
People, this is a miracle! He’s come to the home of someone who shouldn’t have believed in Him and raised his daughter from the dead. Then He says that no one should be told about it. But imagine the reaction of the crowd outside when Darius and his wife walked out of the house with their little girl. Surely this man must be who He said He was. Weeping and wailing turned to cheers. There must have been a party to end all parties.
Remember, Jesus didn’t perform this miracle for one of His friends, or one of His followers. He did it for an official of the synagogue, one of the Jewish leaders. If he wasn’t Jesus’ enemy, he definitely wasn’t one of His friends. By raising this man’s daughter from the dead Jesus certainly made a statement.
If we read on in Mark’s Gospel we see that Jesus left that place and went home to Nazareth where you would think He’d get a hero’s welcome. That’s not what happened. The home towners took exception to Jesus’ preaching. “We know this guy. He’s Mary and Joseph’s son; a carpenter. Where’s He getting this stuff? Why isn’t He working any of His miracles for US?” Then they tried to throw Him off a cliff. “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town.” Even before they crucified Him, it wasn’t easy being the Messiah. Sometimes it isn’t easy to be one of His followers either.
This week we celebrate our nation’s birthday, Independence Day. As Catholics, its the end of the Fortnight of Freedom, a time set aside by our bishops to pray for religious freedom, not just for Catholics, but for all people of faith. As you know, the Supreme Court this week upheld the constitutionality of the government’s health care program. If the so-called Obamacare initiative had been held to be unconstitutional, the HHS mandate would have been struck down and the threat to our freedom would have been over, at least for now. But it wasn’t so we still have work to do. I’d like to share with you a prayer by Bishop John Carroll, the first Catholic bishop in the United States and cousin of Charles Carroll, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. He wrote this it on November 10, 1791 and asked that it be read in all the parishes of his diocese. Please consider rereading it this Wednesday, preferably with family and friends.
As you reflect on the Bishop’s words, remember the faith of Jarius. He came to Jesus in his time of need and his faith saved his little girl. Sadly we live in a time where some of the things that Bishop Carroll asks for seem as unlikely as a little girl rising from the dead. But, as Jarius learned, with faith, with God, anything is possible.
We pray, Thee O Almighty and Eternal God! Who through Jesus Christ hast revealed Thy glory to all nations, to preserve the works of Thy mercy, that Thy Church, being spread through the whole world, may continue with unchanging faith in the confession of Thy Name.
We pray Thee, who alone art good and holy, to endow with heavenly knowledge, sincere zeal, and sanctity of life, our chief bishop, Pope N., the Vicar of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the government of his Church; our own bishop, N., all other bishops, prelates, and pastors of the Church; and especially those who are appointed to exercise amongst us the functions of the holy ministry, and conduct Thy people into the ways of salvation.
We pray Thee O God of might, wisdom, and justice! Through whom authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted, and judgment decreed, assist with Thy Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude the President of these United States, that his administration may be conducted in righteousness, and be eminently useful to Thy people over whom he presides; by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy; and by restraining vice and immorality. Let the light of Thy divine wisdom direct the deliberations of Congress, and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed for our rule and government, so that they may tend to the preservation of peace, the promotion of national happiness, the increase of industry, sobriety, and useful knowledge; and may perpetuate to us the blessing of equal liberty.
We pray for his Excellency, the governor of this state, for the members of the assembly, for all judges, magistrates, and other officers who are appointed to guard our political welfare, that they may be enabled, by Thy powerful protection, to discharge the duties of their respective stations with honesty and ability.
We recommend likewise, to Thy unbounded mercy, all our brethren and fellow citizens throughout the United States, that they may be blessed in the knowledge and sanctified in the observance of Thy most holy law; that they may be preserved in union, and in that peace which the world cannot give; and after enjoying the blessings of this life, be admitted to those which are eternal.
Finally, we pray to Thee, O Lord of mercy, to remember the souls of Thy servants departed who are gone before us with the sign of faith and repose in the sleep of peace; the souls of our parents, relatives, and friends; of those who, when living, were members of this congregation, and particularly of such as are lately deceased; of all benefactors who, by their donations or legacies to this Church, witnessed their zeal for the decency of divine worship and proved their claim to our grateful and charitable remembrance. To these, O Lord, and to all that rest in Christ, grant, we beseech Thee, a place of refreshment, light, and everlasting peace, through the same Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior. Amen.
Bishop John Carroll, Bishop of Baltimore, November 10, 1791