Wis 1:13-15; 2:23-24
2 Cor 8:7, 9, 13-15
“Little Lamb, arise.” When I celebrated Mass with the community of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd this week, I told them how I was struck by this translation of “Talitha koum,” Jesus’ words to Jairus’ daughter. It seems to describe so well what the ministry of these Sisters has said to countless girls for so many years in all parts of the world: “Little Lamb, arise.”
Our gospel is about life; not life that is raw or harsh, but life that is surrounded by reverence, mystery and tenderness. It stands strong against death. The Book of Wisdom observes, “God made us imperishable…death entered the world.” What do we do in the face of death? Through many thoughtful details, Mark invites us to observe the responses of the gospel characters.
We meet two women who cannot bring life into the world; one because of illness, the other because of death. The woman with the hemorrhage has not only suffered for long years, but is unclean. Her ailment is grounds for a divorce, and indeed she is alone the day she encounters Jesus. Ill though she is, however, she is strong enough to push her way through the crowd to reach Jesus. According to Jewish and Roman law, the twelve-year-old is of betrothal age, and so on the verge of being a life-giver. Jesus restores both of them.
And then there is Jairus. Jairus is a leader who is not too proud to fall down in homage before our Lord. On the way to his home, he must have walked with Jesus, leading the way, maybe even trying to distract Jesus from the woman who touched him? But Jairus, even more than the disciples, must have been struck by the words of Jesus to the healed woman: “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”
He must have been digesting them when he received the sad news that his daughter, his dear little one, had died. “Do not be afraid; just have faith.” How can he not be afraid? Jairus may have been more afraid of his daughter’s death than of his own. I bet that man forgot his manners and ran into the house as Jesus followed. Later, if one detail stood out in his memory, it must have been the tenderness in Jesus’ voice as he spoke the words, “Little Lamb, arise.”
As Jesus and the characters of the gospel deal with the question of life, there is an aura of respect and dignity. Jesus restores life so that others can give life. The two women have long since died, of course, but it is possible their life continues in countless descendants. Moreover, Jesus responds immediately to the vulnerability, trust and faith of those who appeal to him. He himself shares their fear of death.
“Little Lamb, arise.” May we imitate the Good Shepherd and speak life-giving words to raise up the fearful, those who are burdened, those who see no hope or know no tenderness.
- Fr. Bill Murphy, C.P.