Home Homilies Michael Whelan SM, PhD Gospel for the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) (30 June 2024)

Gospel for the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) (30 June 2024)

Gospel Notes by Michael Whelan SM

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” So he went with him (Mark 5:21-24 – NRSV).
While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat (Mark 5:35-43 – NRSV).

Introductory notes


Matthew 9:18–26 and Luke 8:40–56 reproduce this same story of the leader of the synagogue asking Jesus to come and heal his daughter.

The large crowd that greets Jesus when he returns to the west bank of the lake – perhaps Capernaum? – is in stark contrast with the lonely figure of the Gerasene demoniac who met him when he arrived on the other (Gentile) side of the lake. The people gather “by the sea”.

Is the reference to “the sea” a simple matter of fact – that Jesus’ ministry was centred on the area near the Lake of Galilee – or is there some deeper symbolism? There are in fact a number of “geographical symbols” in Mark and the other Gospels. For example:

  • the “mountain” – see the calling of the Twelve in 3:16-19 and the transfiguration in 9:2;
  • the “wilderness” – see the witness of John the Baptist and the temptations of Jesus in 1:1-13, Jesus seeking a place to be alone and pray in 1:35 and his seeking privacy in 1:45, his withdrawal with the disciples after hearing the news of John’s execution in 6:31, his feeding the people in the wilderness in 6:34-44 and similarly in 8:1-10;
  • the “sea” – Simon and his brother Andrew, James and his brother John, encounter Jesus “by the sea” (1:16-20); Levi the tax collector is called as Jesus walks “by the sea” (2:13-15); Jesus delivers a major teaching in parables “by the sea” (4:1-34); Jesus “departed with his disciples for the seaside” and the crowds caught up with him (3:7).

The mountain, the wilderness and the sea are all redolent with echoes of the Exodus Event. There is a New Exodus Event unfolding here.


one of the leaders of the synagogue: “The president or ‘head’ of the local Jewish worshiping community, rosh ha-keneset in Hebrew (m. Yoma 7:1; m. Sot. 7:7–8). The title is found throughout the Mediterranean world in the first century, although it does not occur in Josephus or Philo. In a synagogue the conducting of public worship, reading of Scriptures, preaching, and public prayer were performed not by a professional class of officials but by lay synagogue members. The ruler of the synagogue, accordingly, was not a worship leader or a professionally trained scribe or rabbi but a lay member of a synagogue who was entrusted by the elders of the community with general oversight of the synagogue and orthodoxy of teaching. His responsibilities included building maintenance and security, procuring of scrolls for Scripture reading, and arranging of Sabbath worship by designating Scripture readers, prayers, and preachers. Ordinarily, a synagogue had only one ruler, but not always. Acts 13:15 speaks of at least two rulers in the same synagogue. In v. 22, however, ‘one of the synagogue rulers’ should probably be taken to mean ‘one from the class of synagogue presidents.’ Inscriptional evidence from the first century a.d. ascribes the title to a surprisingly diverse lot of individuals, including individuals who bore Greek names and who wrote in Greek. Moreover, nearly two dozen Greek and Latin inscriptions dating from the first century b.c. onward from both Palestine” (J R Edwards, The Gospel according to Mark, Eerdmans; Apollos, 2002, 161).

fell at his feet: The Gerasene demoniac also fell at Jesus’ feet – see 5:6. Though the demoniac is worshipping, Jairus is petitioning. In both instances Mark makes clear the special dignity of Jesus. Mark is also reminding us that not all of the Jewish authorities were hostile to Jesus. Jairus, for one, is deeply appreciative and affirming of Jesus. Yet we also recall that the last time Jesus appeared in a synagogue they threatened to kill him – see 3:6.

lay your hands on her: The expression can be positive or negative. One commentary notes: “Laying on of hands, which is sometimes used in the negative sense of harm (Gen 37:27; Lev 24:14; Neh 13:21; Luke 20:19), appears in different positive contexts: blessings (Acts 8:19), consecration (Lev 8:10), sacrificial ritual (Exod 29:10; Lev 4:15; 16:21), and healing (2 Kgs 4:34; Mark 16:18; Acts 9:12; 28:8). In Genesis Apocryphon 20:28–29 Abraham exorcises the plague visited upon the Egyptian king for abducting Sarai by placing his hands on him” (J R Donahue, & D J Harrington, op cit, 173.)

people weeping and wailing loudly: “Mourners formed a professional guild in first-century Judaism and were required at funerals; ‘Even the poorest person in Israel should hire at least two flute players and one wailing woman,’ said Rabbi Judah a century later. The mourners, usually women, accompanied the bier from the house to the grave, clapping their hands together and wailing haunting laments. When Jesus says the girl is but sleeping, lamentation turns to derision. ‘They laughed at him.’ The professional mourners represent the hard-core realists of every age who decide when empirical realities have foreclosed on divine possibilities” (J R Edwards, op cit, 167).

Human need trumps law

In today’s Gospel – Mark 5:21-24 & 35-43 – Jesus is approached by “one of the leaders of the synagogue”. His name is Jairus and he begs Jesus to come and heal his daughter: “‘My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.’” Mark then uses a phrase that reminds us of God’s Promise: “He went with him”. He went with him! Jesus walks with Jairus into his life and his world, into his particular needs, limits and possibilities. He is there for Jairus. He meets Jairus where Jairus is. This person in need is what draws Jesus.

This is a paradigm for the life of the Church and the life of the disciple. An essential part of our very identity is shaped by the wounds of others – those places where death encroaches and saps life from us. Walking with people who face the imminence of death – in whatever form that takes – is an essential part of our identity as Christians. Indeed, it is an essential part of our being fully alive as human beings.

Practices, beliefs, prejudices, assumptions, expectations and habits that we take for granted, can get in the way. Jesus is not held back by such things, by social taboos or religious conventions. In being there for Jairus, he does something that is forbidden: He touches a corpse: “He took her by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha cum’”. In Jairus, wounded humanity reaches out to Jesus for healing. Healing is why Jesus walks with us. Social taboos or religious conventions will not stop him healing us. Will they, however, stop us from being healed or becoming healers?

Pope Francis calls us to break out of the worldly prisons that society and, yes, religion can become for us. For example, he names “‘the gray pragmatism of the daily life of the Church, in which all appears to proceed normally, while in reality faith is wearing down and degenerating into small-mindedness’. A tomb psychology thus develops and slowly transforms Christians into mummies in a museum” (Evangelii Gaudium, 83).

Again, Pope Francis urges us to be a Church that finds identity – and joy – in going out to serve our brothers and sisters who, for whatever reason, may find themselves in a dark and difficult place: “The Church must accompany with attention and care the weakest of her children, who show signs of a wounded and troubled love, by restoring in them hope and confidence, like the beacon of a lighthouse in a port or a torch carried among the people to enlighten those who have lost their way or who are in the midst of a storm. Let us not forget that the Church’s task is often like that of a field hospital” (Amoris Laetitia, 291).

It might help if I remember that I too “show signs of a wounded and troubled love”.