Year B: Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Little girl, I say to you, arise!

Mark 5: 21-43

 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. One of the synagogue officials, named Jairus, came forward. Seeing him he fell at his feet 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.” He went off with him, and a large crowd followed him and pressed upon him. There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years. 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. She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak. She said, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.” Immediately her flow of blood dried up. She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction.

Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who has touched my clothes?”  But his disciples said to him, “You see how the crowd is pressing upon you, and yet you ask, “Who touched me?” And he looked around to see who had done it. The woman, realizing what had happened to her, approached in fear and trembling.  She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”

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?” Disregarding the message that was reported, Jesus said to the synagogue official, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.” He did not allow anyone to accompany him inside except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official, he caught sight of a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly.

So, he went in and said to them, “Why this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep.” 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. He took the child by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!” The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around. [At that] they were utterly astounded. He gave strict orders that no one should know this and said that she should be given something to eat.


Discussion Questions: 

  1. In what circumstances of life is your faith most active and tangible to you? 
  2. The woman in this story was overwhelmed and trembling after feeling herself healed. When have you felt a sense of awe about a prayer for healing? Explain
  3.  How is keeping our pain and suffering to ourselves contrary to what Jesus is about?
  4. When have you experienced God’s healing touch through relationship with others?
  5. Is divine love only about restoring physical health? How is God’s love a healing presence for you beyond your needs, fears, and physical recovery from illness? Explain.
  6. In what circumstances of life is your faith most active and tangible to you?

 Biblical Context

Mark 5:21-43
Mary M. McGlone CSJ

Mark builds today’s Gospel like a miracle archway: The two columns are the father’s request and healing of the daughter of a synagogue official. The pinnacle is the healing of the woman with a hemorrhage. If the story were an arched gate, the entire construction would be adorned with symbols of hands and touching, an idea that recurs seven times from the official’s original request that Jesus lay hands on his daughter to the moment when Jesus touches her and she rises.

In between the father’s request and the girl’s arising, Mark describes both meaningless and healing touch. Meaningless touch is what happens when a group becomes a crowd and tries to move. Their attention is focused on their goal and who bumps into whom is of no account. That’s how the disciples saw this walk with Jesus; they were on the way to the official’s house and their intention was to remain near and see what would happen. Jostling was as inconsequential as the breeze as long as they could maintain a good viewing position. But the crux of the story focused on the woman they didn’t even notice, the one who had suffered for 12 years — symbolically forever. Mark tells us that physicians had been ineffective to accomplish anything except to have her spend all she had in vain.

Mark subtly leads us through the steps of her journey of faith. First, she heard about Jesus. What she heard sparked her hope and kindled her faith. Like someone who approaches God based on God’s merciful reputation rather than personal knowledge, she snuck up behind Jesus, believing that simply touching his cloak would save her.

She was right. Just coming in contact with him healed her infirmity. But for Jesus that was not enough. Jesus was not teaching theology or representing a far-off but benevolent miracle-working deity; Jesus was bringing people into God’s kingdom, the real presence of his loving Father for whom all things were possible. With a tactile sensitivity that most adults have grown out of, Jesus perceived that someone in the crowd had touched him as who he was, not just as another body in the crowd. So, he turned to look the one who had recognized him for who he was.

Mark does not say that Jesus made his question public, but rather that the woman, comprehending what had happened to her and seeing Jesus looking around, presented herself before him, in effect, allowing him to enter into personal relationship with her. He reciprocated by calling her “daughter,” assuring her that her faith had saved her and that she could go in peace, healed of her affliction.

This Sunday’s readings work together to remind us that God created the universe for immense good and that we have the power to collaborate with the divine plan or to allow the demons of greed and unbelief to shrink the atmosphere to the dimensions of our worst fears. The bold woman Jesus called “daughter,” reminds us that if we will risk reaching out in hope, the results can be beyond our imagining. 

No Longer Drained of Life

Mark 5:21-43
Fr, Michael Marsh

 Do you ever feel like the bucket of your life has a hole in it? That it leaks faster than you can fill it? No matter what you do, how hard you work, where you go, what you try, you just can’t fill it up. Work, play, friends, and family all leave you feeling empty, restless, and searching. You can’t seem to get enough. The outflow is greater than the inflow. You are left drained of life: tired and weak, frustrated and hopeless, angry and resentful, sorrowful and grieving, fearful that you will never have the life you want. If you know what that is like, perhaps you know the hemorrhaging woman in today’s gospel.

We don’t know her name. We don’t know where she came from. She could be any one of us. She’s anonymous; another face in the crowd. What we do know is that she is sick, desperate, and in need. She has been bleeding for 12 years. That’s 4,380 days. In all that time no one has been able to help her. She’s spent all she had: time, money, energy. She’s only gotten worse. Day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year it’s always the same. Blood. She’s a walking fountain of blood.

The woman’s condition is more than physical. She’s losing more than blood. She’s losing her life, its warmth, vitality, and fruitfulness. That is a spiritual matter. Life and death always are.

At one level this is a story of an individual woman. At another level it is the human story. Her story is our story. It is as much about men as it is woman. Drained of life, we go through the motions. We’re alive but not really living. We feel disconnected, isolated, and alone.

Often, we convince ourselves that once this or that happens everything will be better. As soon as he changes, as soon as she does what I want, as soon as the economy gets better, as soon as I get a new job, as soon as I have enough money, as soon as I have more time, as soon as I get through this project, as soon as …. We all have our “as soon as.”

I suspect the bleeding women spent many of the last 4,380 days thinking, “As soon as.…” Today, however, is different. Something in her has changed, shifted. She has heard about Jesus. Maybe she heard about his teaching, about him casting out demons, about him healing the sick, or about him calming the storm on the sea.

We don’t know what she heard about Jesus but it was enough to make her believe she is more than a bleeding woman. She would no longer wait on others to fix her life. She refused to be identified with the circumstances of her life. Today she would reach beyond those circumstances and literally take matters into her own hand.

Deep within she knows, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” No matter how much we bleed, the truth of those words flows through our veins. She knows that Jesus offers a life that is “unleakable,” a life that can never be drained from her.

She touched his cloak. In that moment she was transfused with and by the power of God. It was enough to touch. The connection was made, and a relationship established. Life no longer leaked out of her but flowed into her.

The hemorrhage stopped but the healing continued. “Who touched my clothes?” Jesus asked. He was calling her out. He would not allow her to remain a nameless face in the crowd. He would not allow her to drift off into anonymity. He named her, “Daughter,” and sent her on the path of peace. She would no longer be the bleeding woman. She is now a daughter. She has an identity, a place, and a relationship. She has been healed and made whole. She is now fully alive and free to go in peace.

That is the “unleakable” life Jesus offers each of us. We no longer have to live drained of life. We too can know ourselves to be called, “Son” or “Daughter.” We too can walk the path of peace fully alive. If we but touch his clothes we too will be healed.

Every moment holds before us the opportunity to touch. That means we must reach beyond the circumstances of our lives. We can no longer live “as soon as” lives. It means we must take matters into our own hands. I’m not suggesting that we are in control but that we have a choice and a responsibility. Our faith must be active and tangible. How do we do that? We begin by looking at the clothes Jesus wears.

Sometimes he drapes himself in silence, solitude, and prayer. Sometimes it’s mercy and forgiveness. Sometimes it’s thanksgiving and gratitude. Other times it’s compassion and generosity. Always, it is self-giving love. The very attributes and characteristics of his life are the clothes he wears and the clothes we are to touch.

Wherever you are living drained of life, touch the clothes of Christ. Connect to them in your own life. Let them transfuse you with his life, his love, and his power. Touch and be healed. Touch and be named. Touch and go in peace.


Reflection Excerpt from; Interrupting the Silence Fr. Michael K. Marsh.