Sybil 1998

Gospel text

Mark 5: 21-43

21 After Jesus had crossed over to the other shore, a great crowd gathered around him on the edge of the lake. 22 At that moment comes one of the synagogue leaders named Jairus who, seeing him, throws himself at his feet 23 and begs him urgently, saying: "My little girl is dying, I would like you to come and spread the hands on her for her to be delivered and to live". 24 So Jesus went with him.

A large crowd followed him and held him close. 25 Now, a woman who had been afflicted with bloodshed for twelve years, had suffered much at the hands of many doctors and had spent all she had without getting any improvement, if not to go from bad to worse, 27 after hearing about Jesus, came out of this crowd behind him and touched his tunic. In fact, she said to herself, "If I can at least touch his clothes, I will be delivered". 29 Immediately her blood stopped flowing and she knew through her body that she had been healed of her illness. 30 Immediately recognizing at the bottom of himself that a surprising energy had been expressed through him, Jesus turned to the crowd to say, "Who touched my clothes?" 31 His disciples answered him, "Look at this crowd that is pressing you closely, and you ask, 'Who touched me?' " He was looking around to see who had done that. 33 All fearful and trembling, knowing what had happened to her, the woman prostrated herself before him and told him the whole truth. 34 Jesus said to her, "My daughter, it is your faith that has set you free. Go in peace and be healed of your illness."

35 At the time when Jesus was saying these things, people from the synagogue leader came to him and said, "Your daughter is dead. Why do you still want to disturb the master?" 36 Having seized this exchange, Jesus told the synagogue leader, "Do not be afraid, only have faith". Then he let no one go with him, except Peter and James, and John, James' brother. 38 When they arrive at the house of the synagogue leader, Jesus watches the noise, the mourners and all their cries. 39 When he entered the house, he said to them, "Why are you making all the noise and crying? The child is not dead, she sleeps". But people were making fun of him. After driving everyone out, he takes with him the father and mother of the child and those who were with him, then he enters the room where the child was. 41 Grabbing the child's hand, he said to her, "Talitha kum," which translates as: girl, I tell you, wake up! 42 And immediately the little girl got up and could walk, for she was twelve years old. People were amazed and completely ecstatic. 43 But Jesus strongly insisted that no one should know it. Then he asked that she is be given food.


Condemned by fate or stepping stone to live?

Gospel commentary - Homily

A staggering energy against fate

I was shocked recently by reading the testimony of female teachers in a high school in the suburbs of Paris. This testimony resembled that of educators in some public schools in poor areas. Educators are being abused. In an hour of class, it is hardly possible to teach 15 minutes. To go teaching is to enter a cage with lions. Do not be surprised at the number of days off for depression. At the same time, what surprises me is that they still want to continue teaching. Why? There is of course the salary. But would there not be more, would not there be something like what is found in today's Gospel?

This Gospel presents two nested narratives. That of the woman who had blood loss is the most important and explains everything else. She has been fighting fiercely for 12 years to recover, to the point of leaving all her income. This desire to live, this refusal of a diminished life is so powerful that it leads her to overcome her fear and to enter into relationship with Jesus by piercing the wall created by the crowd. The evangelist tells us that Jesus felt that a staggering energy came out of him. The Greek text speaks of "dynamis" which gave our word dynamism and dynamite, that the Bibles translate by force or power, or sometimes miracle, word that I prefer to translate by stupefying energy. For this woman, it was her second birth, a birth she chose herself, a birth she prepared. Talking about energy is a way of talking about faith. And it is in this light that we must see the second story, that of Jairus.

The way Mark tells us this story and the symbols he uses clearly shows that he is describing the situation of the believer. For the house in which Jesus enters is the Church, where he is accompanied by the pillars of faith that are Peter, James and John and the members of the immediate family. It is this faith that carries the child. The unbelievers, those who mock Jesus, are not invited to enter. To describe in the Greek text the gesture of Jesus to take the child by the hand to make it rise, he uses the same words as those used to speak of the resurrection. Finally, if he asks to feed the child, it is that one moves to the Eucharist after baptism. By my baptism, I passed from death to life, I rose with Christ and now I go to the table of believers with him. But the key to this narrative as the first is the same: it is the staggering energy generated by faith, mine or that of others, that allows to pass from a universe of death to a full life.

What is most wrong with a human being is this perception of reality that people call fate. I can still hear people say around the coffin of my sister-in-law who died of cancer at age 33: "It was her fate". But no. To believe that any fate leads our life, to believe that a diminished situation is normal, can only be a death-line. However, it takes the staggering energy of faith to fight against this idea of a fate. Because the daily reality, like those of the teachers described above, is so complex, so difficult at certain times and sometimes so frightful, that only faith allows to let speak the vital energy which lives inside us, only the faith makes it possible to let out the deep desires we carry, only faith allows us to hope for the sun on the other side of the mountain. Faith breaks the logic of fate. In the film about Tina Turner, black American singer, beaten and abused for several years by her husband, we can see this scene where with a disconcerting serenity she finally resists the threats of her former spouse revolver in hand: thanks to the advice and with the help of a friend, she entered the world of faith somehow, she was born to herself.

For Tina Turner, Buddhism was her path to faith. For educators in poor areas, various paths have helped them find this amazing energy. For the woman with the flow of blood, for Jairus, for me, for you, no doubt, it is through this contact with Jesus who went to life through death that we have found this energy. What prevents us from going to the end of this formidable force?


-André Gilbert, Gatineau, March 2006