The Sunday Project
A Resilient Community
Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time |
By Stephen Pollmann
God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living. For he fashioned all things that they might have being; and the creatures of the world are wholesome, and there is not a destructive drug among them nor any domain of the netherworld on earth, for justice is undying. For God formed man to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made him. But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world, and they who belong to his company experience it.
Brothers and sisters: As you excel in every respect, in faith, discourse, knowledge, all earnestness, and in the love we have for you, may you excel in this gracious act also.
For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. Not that others should have relief while you are burdened, but that as a matter of equality your abundance at the present time should supply their needs, so that their abundance may also supply your needs, that there may be equality. As it is written: Whoever had much did not have more, and whoever had little did not have less.
When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered around him, and he stayed close to the sea. One of the synagogue officials, named Jairus, came forward. Seeing him he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, saying, “My daughter is at the point of death. Please, come lay your hands on her that she may get well and live.” He went off with him, and a large crowd followed him and pressed upon him.
There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years. She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors and had spent all that she had. Yet she was not helped but only grew worse. She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak. She said, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.” Immediately her flow of blood dried up. She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction. Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who has touched my clothes?” But his disciples said to Jesus, “You see how the crowd is pressing upon you, and yet you ask, ‘Who touched me?’” And he looked around to see who had done it. The woman, realizing what had happened to her, approached in fear and trembling. She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”
While he was still speaking, people from the synagogue official’s house arrived and said, “Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?” Disregarding the message that was reported, Jesus said to the synagogue official, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.” He did not allow anyone to accompany him inside except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official, he caught sight of a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. So he went in and said to them, “Why this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep.” And they ridiculed him. Then he put them all out. He took along the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and entered the room where the child was. He took the child by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!” The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around. At that they were utterly astounded. He gave strict orders that no one should know this and said that she should be given something to eat.
Today’s gospel is a microcosm of the queer Catholic experience: in one instance, we can see ourselves personified in a suffering individual who, despite her own frustrations and fear, seeks to engage with Jesus, albeit indirectly; in the other, I see our community personified in the grieving crowd, inconsolable over the death of their sister and expressing their frustration by ridiculing Jesus whose advice is to take heart and “just have faith” (Mark 5:36).
In both instances, Jesus remains steadfast in His mission of compassion and healing; but what’s curious and identifiably Christ-like about these interactions is how the parties involved are able to participate in such powerful, transformative experiences in spite of (or perhaps even because of) their own wounds, fears and limitations. This is where I see our community and our vulnerabilities laid bare in the gospel: we often develop fears surrounding our queer identities as a natural response to the wounds we suffer, either at the hands of others or as a result of some indiscriminate tragedy -- this fear then encourages us to participate in our own limitation by retreating from faith when we likely need it most.
However, we can rejoice in the truth that we receive in both of these stories: there is healing through perseverance, and where faith was once absent, it will be restored. The sick woman finds herself severely disadvantaged as a result of her circumstances: she’s sacrificed years of her life, her financial security, and likely her patience and goodwill in attempting to heal herself of her affliction. It is likely through a combination of determination and desperation that she summons the strength to approach Jesus despite the size of the crowd surrounding Him, and because of her faith and perseverance, she is rewarded. In the case of Jairus’s daughter, Jesus demands a change from the grief-stricken crowd prior to performing the miracle they intensely desire: he requires an increase in faith, and yet the crowd is understandably hesitant to comply. We do not know whether the crowd outright refuses to or is simply incapable of managing such a transformation, but Jesus is satisfied with simply acknowledging their pain and proceeds to resurrect the girl. This act can be interpreted as divine reassurance, that even when our own pain prevents us from fully engaging with God, Jesus extends Himself and not only recognizes our pain but will grant us healing and the fulfillment of our deepest desires.
As queer Catholics, many of us are too familiar with these sorts of expectations set by the Church and its institutions: we are pressured by others in our community to set aside our frustrations (often without the recognition of our compounded suffering) and are frequently made to believe that we must radically change ourselves in order to engage with Jesus. Yet the gospel and ministry of Jesus remain as a testament to our resilient community: that God’s love is capable of surmounting any earthly obstacle, and when our own pain or wounds make it difficult to draw nearer to Him, we can rely on His abundance to provide for our needs.