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Little Girl, Get Up!

Get Up, Stand Up. Stand Up for Your Rights.

had emergency surgery recently. (It was caused by a hernia that I already had another surgery scheduled to fix, but a strangulated small bowel turned an elective surgery into an emergency surgery, and they had to remove about 6-7" of my small intestine and resection back the healthy parts, leading to a week in the hospital and another week at T's, recovering.) As I still don't have a lot of energy -- and a cold is now sapping whatever brain activity I was capable of to begin with -- I pretty much manage to do some light reading every day, but can't concentrate for long before I find myself getting tired. But one thing I've been trying to stick to is the Daily Office (Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, or both) in the Book of Common Prayer. This has become a highlight of my day, to be honest, and I was rewarded today with a Gospel reading that seemed so applicable to feeling so under the weather as I currently do. It was Mark 5:21-43 for Monday in the 3rd week of Epiphany today:

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. And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, "If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well." Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, "Who touched my clothes?" And his disciples said to him, "You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, 'Who touched me?'." He looked all around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease."

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.

Now, of course, the two healing narratives in this passage are what made the strongest impression on me. I've read this passage many times, I know, but I'm not sure I've ever read it when I was myself was sick -- certainly never when I was recovering from a cold and major abdominal surgery. So it's a comforting Gospel lesson in Epiphanytide for that reason alone.

But I was also struck by a couple of things. For one, it's interesting to me to see that, once again, Christ's divinity is demonstrated through his interactions with women. This happens so frequently -- from his birth to his death to his resurrection -- that we don't think much about it these days. But in 1st century Palestine, I understand, it was rather radical for a teacher and a healer to devote as much time -- including, in this story, travel time -- and (literally) energy to women. Or for a strange woman to touch a man and vice versa. Some part of this openness may be due to the fact that, in Judaism, one traces one's Jewish ancestry through the mother, which itself was a novel concept for the religions of the region and is literally more "feminist" than the paternal line of determining who does and doesn't belong. But it also shows that in Christ, there really isn't "male or female, Jew or Greek." (Or "gay or straight," I would add.) Instead, all are welcome to his grace, even (or especially) a 12-year-old girl.

It heartens me also that the leader of the synagogue was so concerned about his daughter that he sought out this healer he'd heard about and begged him to attend to her. How different a story is that from what we hear how women, and especially girls, are treated in so many parts of the world even today! Here, however, two thousand years ago, was a little girl, a "talitha" in Aramaic, who was loved by her father Jairus and the people in her life as much as any boy might have been. That may not seem amazing to us today -- in fact, anything otherwise is hateful to us -- but I imagine this story has far more resonance in those parts of the world where girls still aren't valued as much as boys and where religious leadership is still solely the province of men.

The other thing that struck me as very modern is the description of the woman's ordeal with her hemorrhage: "Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse."

In other words, our healthcare system, which today continues to bankrupt sick people, hasn't much improved in 2,000 years in how its delivered, only perhaps in the science behind it.