June 26-27: Preparing to Celebrate this Weekend’s Mass

Be sure to read Mark 5, 21-43 before you come to Mass this weekend. On the surface, it looks like one of the two people Jesus encounters is healed and the other brought back to life. That’s what it looks like. But, as we say, what you see is not always what you get.

Consistent with St. Mark’s style, there is quick movement, drama, and great commotion here in chapter 5. Throughout the Gospel, there is always a rush and always a crowd. However, in the midst of that chaos, there always stands one who is calm and peaceful. This was abundantly clear last weekend when we shared the episode of the calming of the wind and the sea.

With regard to the two incidents in this weekend’s account, it is helpful to understand that there is problem with translating this Gospel passage into English. Two verbs in English come from one word in Greek and Latin: “to save” and “to heal.” These words come out of the single Latin word “salus.” We overcome the problem by seeing that a “salve” (like an ointment) can bring healing, but when we see it in print and add to the spelling we get “salvation.” Once we get that point, we can go deeper into what is happening here. Which is to say, these are stories of “salvation,” not simply miracles of healing.

Throughout all four of the Gospels, Jesus is always confronting alienation and separation. He comes face to face with them in these verses. Universally, His presence and what He does restores relationships. So, the older woman in Mark 5 will no longer be ostracized from her husband and her community. Because of her bleeding, she would have been an outcast from everyone, even her husband, for fear of sharing her fate. The loneliness would have been worse than the bleeding, don’t you think? The little girl, meanwhile, is restored to her parents, and even more so, by calling her “daughter,” Jesus is bringing her into the larger family of God’s loved ones.

The mission of Jesus, then, is a mission of reconciliation and of healing what is broken apart – and that healing becomes even greater as it becomes “salvation.” The woman and the child are saved, and the wonder of it comes from the touch of the Lord. The woman touched Him and, at that moment, became unclean. He traded places with her. He brought her into His relationship with God, and now He will be the one who is cast out and the one who bleeds. Then, He touches the girl who is dead. He trades places with her as well. Now He will be the one who will die so that she (and we) can live.

This is where it becomes very personal for us: are we open to being touched by His love, touched by His grace, and touched by His word? Are we willing to have faith, engage in prayer, and live in hope so that we might be open to His touch? God’s saving grace is available to everyone, from important officials who have names to little old people who go nameless into eternity, but whose names are well known by God. In our brokenness and weakness, we all need Christ’s healing touch. When we receive Communion this weekend or share in the Spiritual Communion, He will come to us and invite us to reach out and touch His Body (and, in fact, become one with Him). In that action, what is broken is healed, what is lost is found, and in that Communion we will be restored both to one another and to God – who longs to save us.

Let us pray. “Lord God, through your Word and your Sacraments you touch our lives and you give us the power of your grace. Fill our hearts with gratitude, keep us faithful to way of your Son, and help us to serve you faithfully. Through Christ our Lord.”

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