Thirteenth Sunday In Ordinary Time
THIRTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR B
First Reading: Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24; Second Reading: 2 Cor 8:7, 9, 13-15; Gospel: Mark 5:21-43
The Old Testament Book of Wisdom is the source of the first reading. This book is also called “The Wisdom of Solomon” because in 9:7-8, 12, a prayer for wisdom describes a king who fits the description of King Solomon in the First Book of Kings and the Books of Chronicles. Solomon reigned over the combined Kingdoms of Israel and Judah from 961-922 B.C.. The Book of Wisdom was actually composed between 100-50 B.C. To attribute authorship to Solomon, famous for his wisdom, (the would-be baby-divider!), followed a common practice of ancient times intended to give greater authority to a book by naming it after a famous ancestor. This book is part of a collection of Old Testament books called “Wisdom Literature.” Another example of Wisdom Literature: Ecclesiasticus, also called “Wisdom of Jesus Ben Sirach.” The Book of Wisdom is one of seven Old Testament Books included as canonical (authentic con-veyers of revelation) in Catholic Bibles, and either missing or relegated to a secondary status in many versions of Protestant Bibles and referred to as “Deutercanonical,” or secondary canon.
The author is unknown. He was a learned Jew who composed this document in Alexandria, Egypt. He wrote for his fellow Jews, whose faith was shaken by the cultural life of Alexandria, its schools of philosophy, mystery religions, astrology, advances in science and popular cults. New Ageism centuries before our own New Age religious systems! The incentive for writing was probably the apostasy of some leading Jews – a scandal to the faithful. In our first reading the author defends the God of Israel as author not of death but of life, who “made all thing to have existence.” He proclaims that God made all creatures wholesome, none of them were created evil. He insists that God’s original plan was natural immortality (deathlessness) for human beings because they were created in his own immortal image. So why do humans die? “By the envy of the devil death entered the world, and it is the devil’s disciples who experience death.”
This reference to the devil seems to be the first time the serpent of Genesis 3 is biblically identified with the devil. The Book of Wisdom had great influence on the authors of the New Testament, but there seems to be no clear connection between this reading and today’s gospel.
The Responsorial Psalm (30) began its existence as a song of thanksgiving for deliverance from a mortal illness. The Psalmist implies that God’s motivation for curing him of his illness was that he could praise and thank God, since there is no praise and thanksgiving of God “among those going down into the pit.” “The pit” is one among other names used in the Old Testament for the place of the dead. Usually it was thought to be somewhere under the earth, or beneath the mountains, or in the west where the sun goes down. It is also depicted as a dark, chaotic place pervaded by grim silence.
The second reading continues a series from St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians. The background to this section of the Letter: Paul was determined to take up a monetary collection from all the Christian Communities he had founded and perhaps others. The purpose – relief for the poor Christians in Jerusalem. If Acts 2:44-45 correctly describes the communal living of this first Christian Community, their selling all possessions and distributing the proceeds led to extreme poverty. They had to have outside support to maintain their existence. Paul implores his own “parishes” to come to their aid. The thoughts and ideas expressed in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 should be obligatory reading for anyone involved in parochial or diocesan fund drives.
The gospel for this Sunday depicts a miracle within a miracle. Jesus had just landed by boat on the NW shore of the Sea of Galilee. A presiding official of the local synagogue approached him. His own daughter was at the point of death. Sometimes the gospels give the impression that Jesus had neither friends nor admirers among the upper classes of society. Not so! Even some of the scribes and Pharisees were his friends and protective of him. The official’s faith moves him to prostrate himself before Jesus and implore, “Please come and lay your hands upon her that she may get well and live.” Jesus immediately followed the man. The story of the first miracle is suspended as Jesus is said to be pressed upon by a large crowd. The second story begins. A woman who had suffered hemorrhaging for twelve years saw an opportunity. With the crowd pressing around Jesus she could slip into the crowd unnoticed and touch his clothes. The loss of blood made her and anything or anyone she touched ritually unclean according to Leviticus , but the Marcan Jesus is about to abolish the distinction between ritually clean and ritually unclean.
The woman experiences an instant cure. Jesus noticed that someone had touched him, aware that “power had gone out of him.” The woman came forward and admitted her indiscretion. But Jesus said, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured.” Mark intends this story and the story of the restoration to health of the little girl to be a catechesis encouraging faith in Jesus. The first story resumes. Jesus followed the official to his house. He took Peter, James, and John with him into the house, now filled with mourning and wailing, and the customary hired flute players. The people present ridicule Jesus for saying, “The child is not dead, just sleeping.” An important statement for Mark’s catechesis that Jesus has power not only over sickness but also over death. Jesus, his three disciples, father and mother of the girl accompany him, He takes the girl by the hand. Mark preserves from tradition the Aramaic words Jesus spoke, “Talitha koum!” As the faith of the hemorrhaging woman brought about her cure, so the faith of the parents works the restoration of the little girl to health and life. Catechetical points: faith, praying for others and resurrection of the dead by the power of Jesus.