Homily for July 1, 2012--Fr. Scott Bullock

July 1, 2012

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 98

Reading 1 Wis 1:13-15; 2:23-24

Responsorial Psalm Ps 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11, 12, 13

Reading 2 2 Cor 8:7, 9, 13-15

Gospel Mk 5:21-24, 35b-43

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.

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.


  • Can we pull away the layers of twenty centuries of history that separate us from the Gospel passage, to enter into the world of Jairus, the synagogue official, whose daughter in Jesus’ great mercy is raised from the dead?
  • Jairus, the gospel tells us, is an archisynagogus, a “synagogue official.”
    • The synagogue was the place of prayer and the study of the scriptures.
    • Following the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 587 BC, synagogues sprung up as alternate places of study and worship, since the sacrificial rituals of the Temple are no longer possible.
    • John McKenzie, in his book Dictionary of the Bible, says, “The management and maintenance of the synagogue and the order of the services were in charge of a archisynagogus or “ruler of the synagogue.”
    • McKenzie goes on, “Services were held in the synagogue on the Sabbath and on feast days.  Men and women were segregated in the seating. The services began with a shema (Dt. 6:4ff), the Jewish profession of faith. This was followed by a long prayer recited by one of the congregation; originally improvised, the prayers acquired a set form which was copied in manuals. A section of the law was read in Hebrew, followed by a translation into the vernacular and then by a homily upon the passage read, again improvised by a member of the congregation. . . . The services were gradually expanded by the addition of other prayers and the singing of psalms.  The Pentateuch was arranged in a cycle of readings which covered the entire Pentateuch in three years.”
    • Jairus, then, was a man who managed the house of prayer and participated in the weekly prayer and study of the scriptures.
  • May I suggest that Jairus can, by his actions in the gospel, become our teacher of prayer, even as he spent his life, week in and week out, in the synagogue, the place of prayer and study?
  • Notice how this man of prayer brings his need to Jesus:
    • First, he seeks out Jesus
    • Second, he falls at Jesus’ feet
    • Third, he “pleads earnestly with Jesus”
    • Fourth, he moves Jesus to action
    • Fifth, when others speak of the hopelessness of his cause, Jesus cautions him against fear and encourages him to faith.
    • Sixth, Jesus goes with the man into his needs, accompanying him (and his wife) into the chamber where death has a hold of his daughter.
    • Finally, seventh, “He was utterly astounded” and spread word of this action “throughout the district” (Matthew 9:26)
  • Let us look briefly at each of these necessary steps of prayer, to learn from the Jairus, this man of prayer:
    • First, he seeks out Jesus
      • We need to go to Jesus, to where he said he could be found:  Prayer means we seek Jesus, even as he seeks us.  Where is he to be found?  In the silence of our “rooms,” that is, our hearts, and wherever two or three are gathered in his name.  If we expect to find Jesus in prayer, we must seek him where he can be found and not be surprised if we fill our lives with others things, he might not be found.
    • Second, Jairus falls at Jesus’ feet.
      • What an important lesson by Jairus, meaning two things:
        • First, that Jesus is God.  Only God is to be worshipped in this manner; otherwise, worship in such a manner would be the worship of a false God or an idol.  Jairus, this man who spent his life learning to pray in the synagogue, shows us that we come to Jesus who is no less than God.
        • Second, Jairus teaches us the need to humble ourselves in prayer.  Kneeling, the great gesture of humility.  Prayer is a humbling, when we declare we are not all-powerful, we are not God.  Another is God. 
        • Unless we come in humility before Jesus who is God, knowing our efforts are ultimately fruitless, we will not be praying.
    • Third, Jairus “pleads earnestly with Jesus.”
      • The time for posturing, games, platitudes, superficial words, is over.  An urgent need is presented.  Only Jesus can fill the need, and the prayer is a pleading with earnestness.  This is the type of prayer that moves the heart of God:  needy, truthful, with a frantic nature that says we are without any recourse but God.  Until we reach this earnestness, it is probably true that we still think we can handle the situation.
    • Fourth, the prayer moves Jesus to action
      • We must trust that our prayer moves the very heart of God.  Prayer is the tool that God has given us that moves God.  By God’s choice, our loving prayer will affect God.  As one theologian said, “prayer moves the heart that moves the world.”
    • Fifth, when others speak of the hopelessness of his cause, Jesus cautions Jairus against fear and encourages him to faith.
      • We should then not be surprised when, after prayer, things continue to look dark.  Others will wail and lament, “cause a commotion” like in the gospel, as if all is lost.  Jesus encourages Jairus, and us, to remain steadfast in prayer, to renounce fear and to believe.  For me, Mark 5:36 is the perfect summary of prayer and perhaps my most cherished scripture verse of the New Testament:  it is worthy of memorization and easily done—very short:  “Do not be afraid, just have faith.” Or “Fear is useless, what is needed is faith.”  When things look dark, we choose to reject fear and to trust in faith.
    • Sixth, Jesus goes with the man into his needs, accompanying him (and his wife) into the chamber where death has a hold of his daughter.
      • In doing so, the circumstances of Jairus teach us that Jesus is with us in our trials, not distant.  He literally is there, beside the death bed of Jairus’ daughter.  We can feel very isolated and alone in our difficulties.  Here we learn that faith means a confidence that we are not alone, that we have a God that loves us so much that he is with us in our need.   Prayer is not so much seeking God in heaven, as discovering Christ in our world, in the middle of our needs.
    • Finally, seventh, Jairus and the others were “utterly astounded” and spread word of this action “throughout the district” (Matthew 9:26)
      • This reaction, of joy, of praise and declaring the ways of God to others, is the last part of prayer.  This spreading of the message to others is a detail not included in Mark’s account of this scene, but is noted in the version in Matthew.   A meeting with the living Lord in prayer and his resulting care for us will finally move us, in gratitude, to a praising of God and a desire to share this Good news with others.  Prayer is completed in praise.
  • Jairus, the synagogue official, spent his days studying the scriptures and in prayer.  When his time of need came, he knew what to do—he knew how to pray.
    • If we can watch him carefully, in Mark 5, we can learn to pray too. 
    • Our faith teaches us that only the Holy Spirit can teach us to pray.
    • So, if you desire to pray, you must want to be taught to pray.
    • I can see no better way that picking up your Bible, turning to Mark 5, and asking the Holy Spirit to teach you by the example of Jairus, who sought Christ, fell humbly in worship before Christ our God, and earnestly expressed his need.  The prayer then moved the heart of God, who strengthened Jairus’ faith  in the face of fear and doubt and then went with Jairus into his need and there cared for him.  All that was left for Jairus was to praise Christ and tell others about God’s goodness to him.
  • God the Holy Spirit, teach us to pray by seeing and following the example of Jairus.