13th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Reflection: Why do bad things happen?


In the Bible, the Book of Wisdom, or better known as the Wisdom of Solomon, is one of the seven deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament.

In Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Russian Orthodox churches, the book is considered canonical. In the Anglican and Protestant churches, the book appears among the apocrypha and was part of the Greek version of the Old Testament but not part of the Hebrew Bible. In Judaism, the Wisdom of Solomon is also not included in the Hebrew Bible.

Heavily influenced by Stoicism and Hellenism, this book, as well as other wisdom writings, sought to shed light on a wide range of viewpoints expressing the multifaceted religious, social and psychological struggles of a covenant community under foreign domination. Much of the content tries to deal with how to cope with life, especially those experiences we do not understand. One rather incomprehensible topic that the Book of Wisdom tries to offer “wisdom” on is death.

When the unexpected death of a loved one occurs, or even more tragic, the untimely death of a child, the one left to grieve sometimes cries out, “Why, God, why have you taken my loved one, my child from me?” “Why did you let them die?” “Why were they stricken with a deadly disease?” These questions were, no doubt, also asked by the biblical people as well.

Today’s reading from Wisdom tries to provide some consolation and theological teaching in response to these heart-wrenching questions: Neither pain, suffering nor death originate with the divine. The Holy One desires life for all creation, and not just earthly life, but also immortal life. Only in the Book of Wisdom do we hear that the divine, imperishable, immortal Spirit is in all things (Wisdom 12:1). Death is part of earthly, material existence, and in the Christian belief system, death is not the final experience; it is merely a passage into deeper life as attested to by the good news proclaimed in the Gospel of Mark.

Today’s Gospel features the story of a young 12-year-old girl whose father is heartbroken over his dying child. At the midpoint of the narrative, the child dies. What Jairus, a synagogue official, wants more than anything else in this world is for his daughter to be healed through the laying on of hands by Jesus.

The act of the laying on of hands as it relates to healing occurs numerous times in the New Testament. Interpretations of this gesture associate it with the transfer of power for physical and spiritual wholeness. In light of quantum physics, however, the transference of power is better understood as the transference of energy. 

In holistic medicine, the transference of energy and the laying on of hands is connected to the alignment of the seven chakras, i.e., the root, sacral, solar plexus, heart, throat, third eye, and crown. This alignment creates a balance that can be restorative and healing not only for the physical body but also for all of the inner faculties. Thus, what occurs in the little girl’s healing is a transfer of power, specifically, a transfer of energy flowing from the life and spirit of the divine one whose power works through Christ and the healing hands of touch.

In the area of spirituality, this alignment of the chakras and the laying on of hands are common practices among those who subscribe to Reiki. A Japanese spiritual practice of natural healing, Reiki came into prominence through Mikao Usui who founded the Usui system of natural healing. Reiki is administered through the laying on of hands which releases life force energy flow. People have practiced it for about 2,500 years. Reiki is not a cure; it is a practice of holistic healing. One comprehensive study on this topic is “Hands of Light: A Guide to Healing Through the Human Energy Field” by Barbara Ann Brennan. The little girl restored to life in the Markan Gospel narrative does not experience a cure; she experiences a transformation from death back to life. Thus, death is never the final word. Life is the ultimate desire of the divine as we have heard in the Book of Wisdom and which we now see in Christ’s healing touch upon the little girl.

Complementing the laying on of hands and the experience of energy transference is the gift of faith. In the Gospel narrative, healing involves not only a physical deed but also a belief in the power of the divine to heal. To be spiritually in touch with the divine energy source at the heart of all life and to believe in this divine energy as a force and source for transformative healing is key to the healing and renewal of all life on the planet. In sum, the teaching offered in the Book of Wisdom and the renewed life of a little girl in the Gospel gives hope to a languishing world.

Reading I

(Wisdom 1: 13-15, 2: 23-24)

God did not make death,
nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living.
For he fashioned all things that they might have being;
and the creatures of the world are wholesome,
and there is not a destructive drug among them
nor any domain of the netherworld on earth,
for justice is undying.
For God formed man to be imperishable;
the image of his own nature he made him.
But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world,
and they who belong to his company experience it.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 30: 2,4-6, 11-13)

R. I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.

I will extol you, O LORD, for you drew me clear
and did not let my enemies rejoice over me.
O LORD, you brought me up from the netherworld;
you preserved me from among those going down into the pit.
R. I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.

Sing praise to the LORD, you his faithful ones,
and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger lasts but a moment;
a lifetime, his good will.
At nightfall, weeping enters in,
but with the dawn, rejoicing.
R. I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.

Hear, O LORD, and have pity on me;
O LORD, be my helper.
You changed my mourning into dancing;
O LORD, my God, forever will I give you thanks.
R. I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.

Reading II

(2 Corinthians 8: 7,9, 13-15)

Brothers and sisters:
As you excel in every respect, in faith, discourse,
knowledge, all earnestness, and in the love we have for you,
may you excel in this gracious act also.

For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that though he was rich, for your sake he became poor, 
so that by his poverty you might become rich.
Not that others should have relief while you are burdened,
but that as a matter of equality
your abundance at the present time should supply their needs,
so that their abundance may also supply your needs,
that there may be equality.
As it is written:
Whoever had much did not have more,
and whoever had little did not have less.


(Matthew 5: 21-43)

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat
to the other side,
a large crowd gathered around him, and he stayed close to the sea.
One of the synagogue officials, named Jairus, came forward.
Seeing him he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, saying,
“My daughter is at the point of death.
Please, come lay your hands on her
that she may get well and live.”
He went off with him,
and a large crowd followed him and pressed upon him.

There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years.
She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors
and had spent all that she had.
Yet she was not helped but only grew worse.
She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd
and touched his cloak.
She said, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.”
Immediately her flow of blood dried up.
She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction.
Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him,
turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who has touched my clothes?”
But his disciples said to Jesus,
“You see how the crowd is pressing upon you,
and yet you ask, ‘Who touched me?’”
And he looked around to see who had done it.
The woman, realizing what had happened to her,
approached in fear and trembling.
She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth.
He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you.
Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”

While he was still speaking,
people from the synagogue official’s house arrived and said,
“Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?” 
Disregarding the message that was reported,
Jesus said to the synagogue official,
“Do not be afraid; just have faith.”
He did not allow anyone to accompany him inside
except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James.
When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official,
he caught sight of a commotion,
people weeping and wailing loudly.
So he went in and said to them,
“Why this commotion and weeping?
The child is not dead but asleep.”
And they ridiculed him.
Then he put them all out.
He took along the child’s father and mother
and those who were with him
and entered the room where the child was.
He took the child by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum,”
which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!”
The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around.
At that they were utterly astounded.
He gave strict orders that no one should know this
and said that she should be given something to eat.