I find the assigned lectionary reading for this Sunday eerily powerful and relevant to our past week. We had two rulings come through, one which stood for the right of all to have access to medical care regardless of economic status, the other which affirmed the equal value of a minority and historically socially-outcast population.
The following are my reflection notes, as I have been pouring over the text in preparation to lead discussion for the first time during our church's adult formation hour in the morning.
Proper 8B — Mark 5:21-43
In today’s lectionary, there are two healings interwoven into one narrative that challenges the status quo. A woman who had lived in complete social isolation, community rejection, suffering and poverty for twelve years is paired with a young girl who presumably spent those same years in relative privilege and joy.
It begins with the humbling of a member of the elite, leader of the synagogue, as he falls before the itinerant rabbi returned from the unclean Gentiles and grovels on behalf of his beloved daughter. The journey to healing is interrupted, fatally, by a community outsider of the lowest caste and value, who dares to enter into the crowd and lay claim for healing from the rabbi. When asked, she publicly recites her story in front of all, acknowledging what appeared to be a cursed judgement on her life. The rabbi raises the outcast’s status to “daughter”, and proclaims that her faith has made her well and at peace.
Once this is complete, Jesus returns to the original task of healing the young girl. He insists on the removal of fear and the gaining of confidence. He willingly touches a dead body, his second embrace of the unclean today. She too is raised, but in a quiet and low-key way as if to not draw more attention to the second than to the first healing.
Jesus proclaims access to healing for everyone, regardless of who can afford it.
He lowers the status of the elite, and raises the status of the outcast.
He does not heal the fortunate before caring for the unfortunate.
He proclaims healing and affirmation of worth and value to those who are brave enough to step out in faith.
He enters into uncleanness, and societal disapproval, to bring healing.
He calls us to follow him. The first shall be last, and the last first.