From Mark’s Gospel….
When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, [Jesus] 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.
(From the Daily Office Readings, Mar. 12, 2012, Mark 5:38-43)
What is most interesting and empowering about this story of the healing of Jairus’s daughter told in today’s reading from Mark’s Gospel is its ending. Jesus goes to the girl, takes her by the hand and says, “Talitha cum,” which Mark tells us means “Little girl, get up.” But Mark also later tells us that the girl was twelve years old. She is an adolescent and this is significant: by Jewish tradition, a girl becomes a woman at twelve years and one day. So this young girl was poised at the very threshold of womanhood, of taking her place in the community as an adult. So not a little girl, but nearly a young woman, got up at Jesus’ command. Jesus then said to those around them, “Give her something to eat.” He doesn’t say to her, young adult though she may be, “Go and make your own breakfast.” Instead, he turns to her family and says, “Give her something to eat.” After the healing and lifting up of the one cured, Jesus commends her to the care and nurture of the community. ~ In our society, even the best of medical care comes to an end and, as with Jairus’s daughter, the patient’s family must take over. In The Book of Common Prayer, a prayer “for the aged” asks that God “give them understanding helpers” (BCP 1979, page 830); this story reminds us that not only the elderly, but also the very young and those in the prime of life may, from time to time, have need of assistance, may be patients in the midst of illness or recovering from expert medical care. As caregivers, we who are members of their family (or other nuclear community) are the experts in their history; we know a lot about our loved one and about their own abilities to provide care and a safe setting. Among the common care responsibilities we may all someday be handling for a family member as he or she recovers from illness, injury, or surgery are personal care (bathing, eating, dressing, toileting), household care (cooking, cleaning, laundry, shopping), healthcare (medication management, physician’s appointments, physical therapy, wound treatment, injections), and emotional care (companionship, meaningful activities, conversation). ~ The end of Mark’s story of the Jairus’s daughter’s healing reminds us that these are Christ-like ministries empowered by God, not simply onerous family burdens. In The Book of Common Prayer there is also a lovely prayer entitled “For strength and confidence” following the liturgy of Ministration to the Sick: “Heavenly Father, giver of life and health: Comfort and relieve your sick servant N., and give your power of healing to those who minister to his/her needs, that he/she may be strengthened in his/her weakness and have confidence in your loving care; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” (BCP 1979, page 459) This story from Mark’s Gospel reminds us that family members are included among those to whom we ask God to give the “power of healing.”