Siphoning Sanctity? How to Reconcile Mark 5:21-43’s Peculiar Passage with Reality

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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on July 4, 2018.


Having taught high school Old and New Testament in the past and being a cradle Catholic, the newness of the Good News found in the Bible sometimes gets taken for granted. During the Liturgy of the Word for Sunday’s Mass, the Gospel reading actually penetrated my theological torpor and liturgical listlessness. Mark 5:21-43 details two healing stories in one gospel proclamation. The evangelist began with a synagogue official named Jarius pleading to Jesus to save his daughter near death.

Random or Intentional Detail in the Gospel of Mark?

On the way toward Jarius’ residence, Mark inserts a random tangent. He tells of the woman afflicted with a hemorrhage for a dozen years! Jesus heals this poor woman, and the passage concludes with Jesus raising Jarius’ daughter from the dead.

questions

Reflecting on this passage the following questions invaded my mind:

  • Why does Mark insert a seemingly random story within a healing story? Could he not simply detail the healing of the hemorrhaging woman after completing the passage on the healing of Jarius’ daughter?
  • Does this Gospel reading contain the strangest sentence uttered by Jesus: Who has touched my clothes? Is he not omniscient and all-knowing as God?
  • Power flowing from Jesus…what a peculiar way to describe the healing incident?

These questions initially perplexed me, however, when I had time to think about the passage and re-read the evangelist’s words and interpret in light of the teaching of the Catholic Church I learned of the deeper more spiritual meaning hidden within Mark 5:21-43 and how it relates to my life today.

Christ Willing to Save All—Social Status does not matter

Sandwiched between the beginning and the end of the healing of Jarius’ daughter, Mark inserted Jesus’ encountered a woman suffering from a blood disorder. After careful review, I noticed the juxtaposition between the two individuals. Below is a chart that showing the differences in how Jarius’ daughter and the unnamed woman came to learn about Jesus.

Jarius’ Daughter Woman Suffering Hemorrhage
Young Older
Prestigious Family Poor
Father’s Intercedes Actively Passive Request for Healing
Saw Jesus Heard Jesus

John Paul II declared, “[O]nly in Christ do we find real love, and the fullness of life. And so I invite you today to look to Christ.” Certainly, Mark 5 demonstrates people who recognize the importance and power of Jesus.

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Encountering the Power of God

According to the evangelist, “And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone forth from him, immediately turned about in the crowd, and said, ‘Who touched my garments?’” Obsessed with superheroes, I recently received Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game from my wife for Father’s Day. Along with my passion for this geeky deck-building game, I have rented a slew of comic books from the library as well.

While my fandom seems random to the discussion of Mark’s Gospel, I need to provide a little backdrop to my thought process after hearing the priest read Mark 5:30. The first thought that popped into my head, “I did not know Rogue made an appearance. Sapping or draining of power is the hallmark of that X-Men character. Marvelously [no pun intended], merely grazing the cloak of Jesus healed the woman right away.

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Joking aside, the healing power of Jesus is quite amazing. Previous consultation with doctors failed to ease the woman’s suffering. The passage that may be interrupted as a “power loss” of Jesus is not meant to infringe on his divine nature. On the contrary, Mark, like the other Synoptic Gospels, never dispute the divinity of Christ, he was utilizing language that his audience would be able to understand.

Jesus—Hope in Face of Despair

Mark 5:21-43 also focuses on hope in a seemingly hopeless situation. After healing the woman with a hemorrhage, Jesus arrived too late—at least that was what the crowd thought! Urging Jarius to accept his daughter’s fate the onlookers declared, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” Men of little faith and tenacity would have resigned themselves to start the grieving process. Yet Jesus urged the synagogue official to not be afraid.

According to Saint Pope John XXII, “Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.” From the onset of this Gospel reading Jarius actively sought the aid of Jesus and pleaded for the return of his daughter to life when all looked hopeless as she appeared to linger in the shadow of death. Below is a link to a story about Jesus providing miraculous healing to another young daughter—prematurely born!

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Uniqueness of the Individual

A final thought that crossed my mind when reflecting on Mark 5:21-43 was that Jesus focuses on the present moment with grace, love, and resolve. Even on the way toward healing a prominent religious official’s child, Christ paused to listen to the needs of an ordinary, poor woman. Saint Mother Teresa said, “Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.” Do not worry about the past nor the future only concern about the need of God’s children in front of you.

This is exactly what Jesus did in Mark 5:25-34. He noticed the presence of the sickly woman. And Christ stopped to show mercy the person in need at the present moment.

As a father of four young children, my focus is frequently divided between juggling the various needs and adventures of my kids growing up. What I learned to devote my attention and time to the present moment and act with love instead of worrying about the various needs and whether it will be adequate or not.

The genius of the Gospel message centers on the individual first. Siphoning sanctity cannot occur as love multiplies not divides when more and more individuals come into your life.

family circus

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A Holy Kaleidoscope—The Diversity Of The Saints In Light Of Christ

Have you ever received gifts or trinkets growing up that you continue to keep for sentimental or nostalgic value? Something a family member or a friend gave you on a birthday or for a special event that remains on prominent display in your home?

Prism

I received a prism on my 8th birthday. A simple but an intriguing item. I kept it on my bookshelf for many years. Unfortunately, I lost the prism.  I still reflect (no pun intended) on the awesome light tricks: bending rays of light and creating miniature rainbows.  The splendid spectrum-forming crystal helped in forming simple and joyful memories with my siblings. Since lacking a physical prism, I still use a metaphorical prism as a perfect analogy for explaining how diversity (of light) can be reconciled into a focus of unity.

The word diversity tends to invoke sudden reactions from people. Perhaps it is due to a hostile political environment or maybe it is because various entertainment sources poke fun at striving for differences of thought (refer to The Office Season 1 Episode 3: “Diversity Day”). Even within my own workplace I hear co-workers scoff or grumble at the idea of recognizing differences in opinion, culture, thought, or belief. Oftentimes, failure to identify the good that people’s differences can bring for the greater good lead to hostile environments, bullying, fractured relationships, and promote self-centered tendencies.

Communion of saints

Rainbow of Holiness

Focusing on the ugliness of the differences in the trees leads to us missing out on the beauty of the forest when viewed all together—in unity. As a person who struggles mightily with change and a fervent desire to maintain consistency throughout the day, week, and year, I oftentimes fail to see how differences can promote unity.

Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount, urges his followers, “You are the light of the world” (Matt. 5:14). Prisms separate light into various hues. Analogously, the Holy Spirit bestows individuals various gifts (hues) of charisms. These gifts help spread the light of the Gospel. Only unified through the light of Christ may the saints provide various ways to communicate the Gospel. Saint John Paul the Great said, “Unity not only embraces diversity, but is verified in diversity.”

The Catholic Church teaches various paths to holiness exist. According to the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium,

“All the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status are called to the fullness of the Christian Life and the perfection of charity; by this holiness as such a more human manner of living is promoted in this earthly society” (no. 40).

God calls everyone to holiness.

Ordained Saints

Holy Orders

I will not spend too much time on saints who received the sacrament of Holy Orders as the more famous saints that come to mind were priests, deacons, or bishops. According the Catechism of the Catholic Church,

“Since the beginning, the ordained ministry has been conferred and exercised in three degrees: that of bishops, that of presbyters, and that of deacons. The ministries conferred by ordination are irreplaceable for the organic structure of the Church: without the bishop, presbyters, and deacons, one cannot speak of the Church” (1593).

Saints that immediately come to mind who received the sacrament of Holy Orders include the following (not even close to an exhaustive list):

  • Peter
  • Augustine
  • Athanasius
  • Gregory the Great
  • Stephen
  • Pope John Paul II
  • Francis of Assisi
  • Francis de Sales

Married Saints

Saints Louis and Zelie Martin

The vast majority of the Catholic faithful consists of married couples and their families. However, when I was researching for this article I could not think of any married saint immediately off the top of my head. Perhaps it is because marriage is more commonplace than Holy Order. I think the diversity between a man and woman in the Mystery of the sacrament of Matrimony has been lost in our culture.

Not everything in marriage needed to be reduced to sameness between the spouses. If that happens a little bit of the Mystery may disappear. Marriage involves learning about your spouse. Love desires sacrifice. It’s not about conformity or coercion. I can’t expect my wife to be exactly the same as me. The sacramental grace received from the Holy Spirit helps us grow in holiness.

Diversity leads to unity.

Here’s a list of some married saints:

  • Louis and Zelie Martin (more famously known as the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux)
  • Monica (mother of St. Augustine)
  • Elizabeth Ann Seton
  • Joachim and Anne (parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary)

Religious Saints

Saint Teresa of Avila

Individuals not called to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders or Matrimony, often go on to live out the vocation of the religious life. The Catechism states the following about this vocation,

“Religious life derives from the mystery of the Church. It is a gift she has received from her Lord, a gift she offers as a stable way of life to the faithful called by God to profess the counsels. Thus, the Church can both show forth Christ and acknowledge herself to be the Savior’s bride. Religious life in its various forms is called to signify the very charity of God in the language of our time” (926).

Saints who lived out this lifestyle provides an impetus to the Church in times of slow growth or decline. Among the saints who lived out their religious vocations include:

  • Benedict of Nursia
  • Teresa of Avila
  • Mother Teresa of Calcutta
  • Maria Faustina
  • Therese of Lisieux

Consecrated Life

Catherine of Siena

The fourth and final vocational path to holiness is the consecrated life. Such individuals do not receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders, Matrimony, nor life in a religious community. This vocation often gets misinterpreted as miscellaneous catch-all category for individuals either indecisive or uncommitted to the other ways to holiness.  But the consecrated life is a valid and essential vocation needed in the Church. The Catechism  reads highly of this vocation,

“The state of life which is constituted by the profession of the evangelical counsels, while not entering into the hierarchical structure of the Church, belongs undeniably to her life and holiness” (914).

This vocation in particular affords individuals a certain freedom, not enjoyed by the other vocational paths. People living out the chaste and consecrated life share their unique gifts with the world.

Saints who lived out this fourth path to holiness include:

  • Agatha
  • Lucy
  • Agnes
  • Catherine of Siena
  • Joan of Arc

Diversity (and Unity) of Love

Light of the world

According to Lumen Gentium,

“For just as in one body we have many members, yet all the members have not the same function, so we, the many, are one body in Christ, but severally members one of another” (32).

While the ever relatable analogy of the Body and its individual parts testify to the truth of the unity of the Catholic Church in spite of its diverse members, I find that the analogy of the light and the color-spectrum also provides an interesting view on this seeming tension between unity and diversity. Along with my gift of a prism, I enjoyed looking at kaleidoscopes. The beauty would be lost without having light to shed brilliance on the kaleidoscope. In a similar way, the uniqueness, diversity, and individual excellence of the saints would all be in vain unless viewed through the prism of Jesus Christ.

Related Links

Communion of Saints: The doctrine expressed in the Apostles’ Creed

5 Reasons Why October is the Holiest Time of the Year

The Deeper Meaning of the Communion of Saints

The Beginner’s Guide to Catholic Saints

 

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A Reflection on Fulton Sheen and How Indifference Halts Love

Fulton Sheen quote

Hate is not truly the opposite of love. It’s actually indifference.

At least with hate you are invested in the subject, person, or thing you despise. There exists a relationship. Granted the relationship is bad. But a relationship still.

Indifference involves complete detachment from a person, subject, or thing.

Indifferent people don’t care.

Such individuals only view the world for how much pleasure they can gain from it.

Indifference leads to boredom. Boredom leads to further apathy.

A vicious circle of falling further from the Truth—that we were meant to love.

Love God, others, and ourself.

What is the remedy for indifference?

Humility. Think less of yourself.

Start small. Try to do one thing today that inconveniences you, but helps another.

Take down the wall of indifference in your life brick by brick. 🧱

And rebuilt your life on the True Cornerstone— Jesus!

Fulton Sheen quote
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A Catholic Guide to Unity During the COVID19 Pandemic

The United States of America is united only by name. Today, unity is more rare than a unicorn. Even worse the Catholic Church in America has exposed Her fractured body. The COVID19 pandemic magnified problems already existing in the Church. Frankly, I am exhausted of seeing the infighting of Catholics on social media. It’s a great sign of contradiction for the world when the Church’s member fight about political, legal, or liturgical differences (all minor compared to theological unity).

4 marks of the church

Jesus prayed for unity in John 17:20-21, “I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.” This is the approach we need to take as Catholics. Pray without ceasing for unity. Here’s a list of other things Catholics can start doing immediately to help bring the Church together. 

Remove Labels

Religion and politics is a bloody and violent marriage. History proves this. Catholics need to quit attaching labels to themselves. There is neither conservative or liberal Catholic. To label in this case would be to limit truth. It implicitly puts politics above the faith.

Choose Kindness over Callousness

st basil quote kindness

“But [insert opposite party] acted rude and belligerent. So our side needs to fight back!” How many times have you read something  similar on Facebook or Twitter 🤦‍♂️? Likely more times than you seen the word Jumanji . 😊

Kindness is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. This virtue is not a sign of weakness. It’s an indication your willingness to care about others over your pride.

Use Empathy

In Why You Should Develop Empathy in 2020 I wrote, “Empathy has become a primary focus for life in the 21st century.” If you evaluated 2020 by the amount of empathy being displayed, then it would be safe to claim we are in a new Dark Ages. Catholic social media threads largely lack empathy.

Darth vader empathy

Listen to Darth Vader. He did end up on the Light Side!

When a person explains their economic, mental, or physical struggles during the pandemic it is good to place yourself in another person’s shoes. I cannot imagine want a person is going through financially due to this crisis. Catholics make all sorts of judgments or assumptions about a person’s intentions and motivations. I can’t tell you why certain bishops or politicians acted a particular way during this pandemic. But I can TRY to see their point of view.


Pro-tip: Avoid making assumptions if you want to improve your empathy. Assumptions are the BIGGEST killer of empathy.


Pause➡ Think➡ React

Pause

Pause before you act on social media.

Stop. Look. Listen. It’s what we were taught as kids before crossing the street. What if a similar approach was used when using social media?

Scrolling down your newsfeed you stop on an interesting post. The headline caught your attention or your Facebook friend wrote something to hook you. Whatever emotions get evoked it is important to pause. Even a 30 second pause before typing can be helpful. A short stop before crossing into Comment Boulevard  will help reframe your attitude.

Read the Bible

Do you remember singing  Jesus Loves Me (or being sung to) to your kids?  It’s good to remind ourselves of the lyrics:

Yes, Jesus loves me
For the Bible tells me so (tells me)
So (tells me so)
Jesus loves me, this I know
For the Bible tells me so
Little ones to him belong
They are weak but he is strong

Here’s the thing, Jesus loves you (and me) and the whole world. A simple way for Catholics be more united is develop a habit of reading the Bible. The Bible is a collection of books testifying to God’s plan for salvation from sin. If you feel you’re beginning to get frustrated on social media go to the Scriptures for guidance, patience, and perspective.

Pray for Unity

unity

God desires the Catholic Church to be one. Sin fractures relationships. The Enemy wants to use the suffering caused by the coronavirus pandemic to splinter the Church’s unity. Saint Paul wrote in Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” God’s ways are above our total comprehension.

Why does he allow a booming economy to be shut down? How can He let racism persist? Does God care when the vulnerable are dying alone in the hospital?

These questions are all legitimate (I think about these often). Difficulties don’t mean doubts about the faith. Catholics across the world (and especially in the United States) need to choose love over hate. Empathy over assumption. Prayer over complaints.


“I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.” —John 17:20-21

 

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Celebrating 10 Years of Marriage!

🎉 Today my wife and I celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary!

Matrimony is a sacrament—a gift between spouses.

❤️ Her graces and help during the quarantine gave me hope this year we can survive anything.

We endured much hardship:

🔶 Four miscarriages

🔷 Job loss

🔶 Sickness

🔷 Mental health challenges

But we experienced much JOY:

🔶 Four beautiful children

🔷 Fulfilling work

🔶 Spiritual growth

🔷 Autism awareness and advocacy

Marriage is an exchange of love between spouses. But it can’t be divided (50% of the work done by each).

You have to be all in—100% for me and 100% for my wife.

❤️ Human love finds its source in the wellspring of Love—The Way, the Truth, and the Life.

I thank God daily for my wife and look forward to the next ten years (and beyond).

❤️ How do you see Love in your marriage or a couple in your life (if you aren’t married)?

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How Saint Catherine of Siena Leads You to God

The Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of Saint Catherine of Siena on April 29th. One of only four women Doctors of the Church, Catherine’s writings and life continues lead people to Christ.

Catherine of Siena

Catherine has been particularly important in my life. When my wife was pregnant with our youngest child  complications existed. Several times throughout the pregnancy we feared having a miscarriage. We prayed daily for the safety of our unborn child and asked for saints Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Siena, and Gerard of Majella for help and intercession. Avila Catherine Geraldine was born in late 2018. She was healthy!

Since then my family continues to look to Catherine of Siena as a role model and guide to God. The Doctor of the Church provides mystical insight into the Gospel and demonstrates the depths of God’s love.

Fierce Defender of Truth

Few individuals have displayed such tenacity for the truth as Catherine did in her life. During the 14th century, the Catholic Church endured one of the most corrupt periods. Known as the Avignon papacy, the popes succumbed to worldly powers, specifically under the influence of the French monarchy. Catherine wrote frequently to Pope Gregory XI. An example of her boldness is shown in a Letter to Pope Gregory, “But, I hope, by the goodness of God that you will pay more heed to His honor and the safety of your own flock than to yourself, like a good shepherd, who ought to lay down his life for his sheep.”

Love is a Divine Furnace

Another key theme in Catherine’s writing is describing how God  love burns away sin.  God appears to be absent in our life. Suffering seems mysterious. That was the way I thought before reading the saint’s works. Her description of love as a divine furnace helped me better understand how God allows suffering to draw us closer to Him.

Fire of God's love

Reflecting on my past pains I realized how my prayer life actually bloomed. Having recovered from the contracting COVID19 a couple weeks ago, I rediscovered the importance of relying on God. At first I was angry for getting sick. I took all the precautions. Prayers started out as laments and ended in hope.

God was using my sickness to cauterize my sinful inclinations and renew my prayer life and trust in Him.

Spiritual Sister

According to the Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in his General Audience on November 24, 2010, “Catherine (of Siena) is one of these and still today speaks to us and impels us to walk courageously toward holiness to be ever more fully disciples of the Lord.” Her intercession is powerful. I used to only think of saints as people too lofty to relate to. But reading the Sienese saint’s writings and her struggles I gained an intimate spiritual relationship with her—like a sister.

Her wit and spiritual knowledge helps me grow in holiness. Sanctity. That truly is the purpose of family. Catherine wrote,  “There is no sin nor wrong that gives man such a foretaste of Hell in this life as anger and impatience.” Wow! Those words sound like they were written specifically for me. Parenting tests your patience. Daily. Hourly. And sometimes nearly every minute.

Catherine of siena quote

Catherine reminds me to trust in God. Her holiness shows through in her books and letters. I highly recommend looking to this Doctor of the Church for spiritual guidance.


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How You Can be the Hands and Feet of Jesus during the Pandemic

Prayer

Pray for everyone affected by the coronavirus. Is the toilet paper shortage frustrating? Definitely, but remember we are all on the same side—Team Humanity.

We should be helping the most vulnerable. Why? Because Jesus did that. He dined with sinners and tax collectors. Allowed the prostitute to wash his feet with her hair and perfume—even though the elite ridiculed him for that decision.

Christ let the children come to listen to him. He wasn’t afraid to help the leper. When he was tempted by the Devil, despite being hungry and thirsty, Jesus never gave into worldly power.

Social distancing makes it tougher to help our neighbor in the same tangible way that Christ helped those around him. But that shouldn’t cause us to lead to inaction.

As a Catholic, I became an adopted son of God. The Holy Spirit swells within all baptized individuals. A creative force of Love, the Holy Spirit will never cease to inspire us and grant us the gifts of courage, understanding, wisdom, knowledge, and wonder. The key is we have to be ready to ask for the gifts. Humble ourselves.

Here are a few ways to be the hands and feet of Christ during this pandemic crisis:

Be the Hands and Feet of Jesus

1️⃣ Hand write letters you your family members, especially those lonely, neighbors, or even contact a nursing home to get names of senior citizens to write to.

2️⃣ Don’t take more than you need

There is a difference between gathering for reasonable concern over a quarantine versus hoarding goods in panicked response or because you want to turn a profit.

3️⃣ Exercise charity online

Social distancing doesn’t mean people will stop being social. Digital interactions will increase. While we have been used to social media for years, the newsfeed has become saturated with negativity about the virus.

Fighting fire with fire only leads to more flames. The same is true with negativity. Match pessimism with a greater dosage of positivity. Be kind and empathetic online to others. Share a funny anecdote about how you are dealing with this crisis.

Jesus forgave Peter for being a jerk who denied him three times. You can certainly forgive those people who acted uncharitably regarding this issue or those individuals whose hysteria led to hoarding.

St. Paul was right in writing in Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Be the hands and feet of Jesus. Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no better time as the present to start. Learn from the suffering caused by this pandemic to love others!

Related Links

The Coronavirus and the Crowning of Mary

Profiting From The Panic Of The Coronavirus

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