Mark 5: 21-43, the Gospel for June 27
I made a good living, wailing. Don’t scoff. I gave voice to peoples’ wrenching pain and haunting loneliness when they were so numb they could barely stumble through the funeral procession. The deep seated sadness they couldn’t tell even their closest friends? I blared it out boldly. Mourning served a healthy purpose and came from the deepest part of me. I wasn’t faking it, you see. I’ve wrestled the old enemy death too, and carry the scars in my soul.
The corpse we mourned was a twelve-year old girl; her parents looked crushed as if a mountain or tall cedar had fallen on them. I knew the look.
When he silenced me, I was furious. How’s a girl supposed to make a living, feed her family? I was a professional, no charlatan. Others faked it: not I. I knew that pain on a first-name basis. My daughter died too, at six, even younger than this child. I’d never gotten over it, and when I wailed for this girl, I wept for her. I’d raged at God, too, using my filthiest language and cursing with my most blood-curdling expletives. How could a kind and merciful God allow such atrocities?
I got right in his face and yelled even louder with rage and ridicule. His explanation was bogus: “the child is not dead but asleep.” How we hooted and laughed at him with scorn! Wouldn’t we all wish that? How dumb would we be, not to know the difference? Even worse than making his lame excuse, he put us all out. We stood outside, our world overturned, not sure what was happening inside, and even more, worried whether we’d get paid for this job.
But no worry on that score. Jairus was generous, spilling over with joy that his daughter lived. The girl restored to her parents that day opened up questions that haunted me for several years after. Why their daughter, not mine? During sleepless nights, I went over and over the question in my mind, never reaching a satisfactory answer.
Until, one day, I met him again. It was a complete surprise. I’d gone to Jerusalem to visit my cousin, and she dragged me to a horrible scene, the path convicted criminals walked to the hill of crucifixion. I’d been angry at the guy who once disrupted my routine and my sleep, but I burst into tears at the shock of seeing him here. He might’ve been annoying, but I never thought he’d be carrying a cross!
What he said then completely contradicted his message last time we’d met: “Do not weep for me but weep for yourselves and your children.” What? Now we should weep? Was he condoning my work, affirming my natural sorrow? It was as if his sad face held all the terrible tragedies and cruelties humans have ever faced. “Yes,” he was saying. “You’re right to weep for that.” I was grateful he didn’t dismiss us with a brisk head pat, and “stop crying, girls.”
I puzzled over that encounter for several days–until my cousin told me rumors I couldn’t believe. “Some people say he lives again!” Oddly enough, the command he gave the 12-year old–“Arise”–was the same verb people were using now of him. It may sound crazy, but I desperately wanted it to be true. It was as if he called us to a larger life, a bigger wholeness, the intention of God that we should live on and on.
I won’t stop mourning—it’s too important to express that anguish. The people who try to stuff it seem to get even angrier, and never heal. But I have a strong voice, and I could also sing in celebration – for a new baby or a wedding. This life is crazy-full of sorrow and joy. That guy who raised the girl seemed to know them both. Maybe my singing could honor my daughter who was young and joyful—and him. Did lifting that girl from her death bed signal what was to come for all of us?
Excerpt from More Hidden Women of the Gospels by Kathy Coffey. Orbis Books, 800-258-5838, OrbisBooks.com