Frances writes on this Sunday’s readings :- We have a tendency to view the miracles of Christ in isolation and see them just as demonstrations of God’s great power. This is fair enough, so far as it goes, but it does not go far enough, since we focus on the individual event and can often sentimentalise its significance –‘wasn’t Jesus nice to respond to the woman’s need’. Our gospel, Mark (5:21-43), is in fact about something much greater, it is about the LIFE that is Jesus, the life that is the being of God himself and the source of all life. We see this in the two miracle stories which unfold in this gospel. Jairus appeals to Jesus to ‘save the life’ of his daughter, and the nameless woman touches Jesus in the conviction that this touch will be life restoring when all else had failed. Jesus touches the young child to restore her lost life.
As St John would so graphically put it in his prologue “In him was life and the life was the light of men.” Having become incarnate for our salvation Jesus brings God’s life to earth and gives his wholly life-giving spirit to those he heals. When he touches he cannot give less than the touch of the divine, the fullness of God himself. With this life-giving touch those outcast from society and the worship of Israel are once again full members of it; the dead are made new. We have little appreciation of the purity codes of Israel and their excluding effect on the sick, the maimed, the dead and indeed those who became contaminated by contact with them, as undoubtedly Jairus and his family would have been by handling their dead daughter, and the woman remember had suffered abuse and ostracism for 12 years, a lifetime in fact. In that touch Jesus did far more than reach out to the excluded, he broke down barriers which had for centuries cut people off from the worship of the God of Israel. He made clear whose power and glory he reflected and bore by that simple touch. Jesus is life itself and, just as the veil of the temple rips from top to bottom at his death, so here we see God’s power manifest; clear; visible and unmistakable; now no longer confined in the holy of Holies in the temple, but here in the dirt and bustle ofGalilee. It was never just an opportunity to be nice to the suffering or even to show forth God’s power, it was a correcting ofIsrael’s whole valuation of God himself and their manner of meeting him.
Sometime between the 3rd to 2nd century BC the writer of the Book of Wisdom (Wis 1:13-15; 2:23-24), was developing Hebrew thinking about the nature of God and he speaks of God’s nature and his intention towards us. “Death was not God’s doing, he takes no pleasure in the extinction of the living.” To the contrary, the writer insists that “God made man imperishable”; that the powers of death, Hades, are not the end of our story since we are “made in the image of God’s own nature.” This belief would later be reasserted and refined in the writings of St Paul, particularly in Romans, insistent as it is that we have an immortal destiny, fixed in God. This of course does not refer simply to our post mortem existence, but as Paul makes so abundantly clear, is part of the here and now. You and I are designed for Life, God’s life; this is what Paul knows Jesus affirmed in word and deed. In our rather unfortunate selection from Wisdom, the missing verse 1:16 makes clear that human death is the result of our evil but that that is by no means God’s final word on the matter, God did make man imperishable, he made him in the image of his own nature.
In writing to the Christians of Corinth, (2 Cor 8:7; 9; 13-15), Paul was at pains in expressing the new immortal nature of the believers and to bring home to them that their being a “new creation”, (2 Cor 5:17) committed them irrevocably to a new mindset, independent of the old one framed by the cut and thrust of the Corinthian hoi polloi. In the actual context of the letter he writes to remind them of their promised collection for the suffering church inJudea, which they appear about to renege upon. Nonetheless, the overall context, relevant for all of us too, is that the more outgoing we become in our lives, the more Christ-like we become and the more we find our reward. This giving of self and possessions will not in any way reduce us, but we will be filled and become vehicles expressing the life-giving nature of the Saviour himself.