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Ordinary Time 13 (B)
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Readings for the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

 

1. Wisdom 1, 13-15 and 2, 23-24

  • God did not make death.  Every time this passage comes around, I practice by repeating that phrase five times, each time accenting a different word.  By doing that I alternate the sense and give five slightly different interpretations. 
  • In general, though, I am telling the congregation that death is (or was) not part of God’s plan for us.  The author of Wisdom lived long after the Torah and the prophets.  Like Job and the Maccabees he searched for understanding in the midst of the people’s adversity.  The early Christians thought highly of these insights.
  • And, like the book of Job, this author defends the “innocence” of God in the face of this anomaly.  He fashioned all things that they might have being.  The creatures of the world are wholesome.  We hear the roots of our Catholic heritage here.  I am familiar with other Christian traditions that do not celebrate the Book of Wisdom, and I know that we hold a more positive view of the created world than they do.  These words I read today are not empty; we are often too prompt to detest the things that we renounce, so let us remember that all of them are goods from the hands of God.
  • There is no destructive drug among them nor any domain of the nether world on earth.  Now I hear the same affirmation in a negative sense, that nothing is evil by its nature.  This may take more daring to say; after all, we know the way certain people take a simple plant like the coca leaf or the poppy and process those addictive and destructive drugs.  Even the author was familiar with drunkenness and other vices.  Does he honestly believe – do I honestly believe – what I am reading?
  • We skip to another chapter to find a tentative answer.  By the envy of the devil, death entered the world.  I will emphasize ‘envy’ in the sense of a satanic envy, that threatens human nature and its good intentions.
  • Central point: Death is a reality for us because we are all disposed to it.  This reading, and the Gospel passage that follows, affirm that God is the author of life.
  • Message for our assembly: We have learned so much about the created universe and the ongoing destruction of stars, planets, dinosaurs, flowers, animals, and our own loved ones.  It is very difficult to affirm honestly that God does not want any of this to happen.  Not to mention the death of his own Son!  Sometimes I feel relieved that I am not appointed to explain a reading.
  • I will challenge myself: To expose the controversial proposition about God and the created world, so that our church must reach some conclusion for itself.

 

2. II Corinthians 8, verses 7, 9, and 13-15

  • The epistle passage for today has been shredded, making it difficult to read as a single unit and obscuring the original intent of the apostle.  This happens sometimes, but I am ready to meet the challenge.  Anyway, the apostle is trying to raise a donation for the church of Jerusalem: Your surplus should supply their needs.  That makes the reading a favorite in many American churches!
  • The apostle makes a gem of an argument that we would do well to imitate.  He contrasts the generosity, or skimpiness, of his listeners with the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ.  People are intent on amassing possessions, or on avoiding abject poverty.  For your sake he became poor although he was rich. 
  • But back to the beginning.  The church of Corinth had an abundance of gifts: faith, discourse, knowledge, all earnestness and love.  The apostle urges them on to excel in this gracious act also. 
  • Let me remember that the apostle speaks with the golden rule in mind.  Some day it may be the Corinthians who are in need.  Their surplus may also supply your need, that there may be equality.  In this context he cites a well known saying about the harvest of the manna: Whoever had much did not have little.
  • Climax: Once again earthly priorities are reversed in these assemblies of ours.  By his poverty you might become rich. 
  • The message for our assembly: Do we hear what the apostle is saying?  Does it apply to us?  Is it in our Christian nature to share with others, and in this way to imitate Jesus?  Is our Catholic church also catholic in its scope? 
  • I will challenge myself: To play up in my reading the example of Christ, because that will justify all the ‘treasure language’ that follows.

 

Gospel. Mark 5, 21-43

  • Today we can hear two cure stories in one.  Speaking of wealth!  When I listen to the daring of the long-suffering woman, who is definitely lower in society than the daughter of the synagogue leader, I remember the ending words of the epistle that there was abundance for everyone in the desert.
  • The woman afflicted by hemorrhages was cured almost privately in the middle of the crowd.  Even Jesus’ disciples almost missed it: You see how the crowd is pressing upon you.  In contrast, the little daughter of Jairus was brought back to life before many witnesses, but he gave strict orders that no one should know.  We are in the presence of the Messianic secret theme of Mark.
  • I hear mention often of a crowd and I want to mention it strongly when I declare the words.  A large crowd gathered around him and he stayed close to the sea.  So it begins.  Then he followed Jairus, and a large crowd followed him and pressed upon him.  I have been in large crowds, in subways, in ballrooms and in mass demonstrations, sometimes in large group liturgies, and this is what I want to convey to the assembly.
  • The story of the desperate woman in the crowd matches any script we might hear on human interest television.  As they say, I want to let that story tell itself.  I won’t hurry through, but let each sentence stand on its own.  I want to let my listeners feel as if they are there urging her on.
  • Then just as suddenly the pressing crowd melts away.  I will soften my voice at the point when Jesus enters the house with his disciples.
  • Climax: Daughter, your faith has saved you.  I note that Jesus found faith in the humble woman in the crowd, but sought it in vain among the important people at the synagogue: Just have faith.
  • Message for our assembly: How great is our faith? 
  • I will challenge myself: To portray a Jesus who is in control and searching hard for signs of faith.  Who has touched my clothes?  Little girl, I say to you, arise!

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