What To Do When You Don’t Have The Strength To Go On I Catholic Bible Study

by Catholic Bible Studies And Reflections, Gospels

Gospel Reflection for Mark (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, “Tabitha 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.


“Life is what happens to us when we are busy working on other things.”

– A. De Melo

Life passes, but we can’t take for granted that we are actually living it. A large part of our life passes us by while we are sleeping, and we are unaware of what is going on around us and within us.

Sometimes we fall asleep because we’ve given up on being masters of our lives. We are no longer living life because we let others write the script for us. We let go, passing through life unenthusiastically, though every once in a while the desire to live again reappears in our minds only to fade away, for we tire quickly just thinking about it.

Sometimes we just prefer to sleep so that we don’t have to take responsibility for our lives. We sleep to avoid the tasks that reality entrusts us with. And we sleep the sleep of withdrawal and fear.

Sleep is a symbol of death. It’s a suspension of life.

This passage from the Gospel presents us with two people that are unable to live. Twelve years are symbolic of a time of fulfillment. We hear about lives that, for different reasons, have not been lived to the fullest.

The woman afflicted with hemorrhages is forced not to live by the opinion of those around her: the blood that flows, like the life that passes, makes her paradoxically impure and therefore she cannot have contact with others nor friendships. The life she’d like to live escapes her grasp. She must stay at a safe distance and is condemned to solitude.

It is the judgment of others that steals her energy and prevents her from living. The doctors here represent those who spend their lives giving advice to others that only makes life worse: “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” (Mk 5:26).

This woman starts living the moment she tears up the prescription others have imposed on her and she decides to touch Jesus. She decides to do what others don’t allow her to.

Many times we become slaves to the labels that others have given us. Sometimes these labels are comforting because at least they give us an identity by which to recognize ourselves. We are someone. But we pay the price and sometimes we no longer have the energy to choose who we want to be.

Jesus allows himself to be touched. What seems like and impure contact with a sick humanity becomes a source of new life. Many times the pretention of trying to maintain oneself pure can kill life.

The text also specifies that the little girl, who arose immediately and walked around, was in fact a child of twelve, as if to say that a child of twelve ought to be walking around and active. Like with the woman with hemorrhages, Jesus enters into contact with human illness, taking her hand. Perhaps this little girl only needed an adult to believe in her and to invite her to get up and walk with her own legs.

Then there is a father who, like so many parents, do not understand or accept the slumber of his child. Rather, he is a father that acts like an adult. He does not argue with his sleeping daughter, nor does he become despondent. He gets up and goes to look for help. The father is a father because speaks in place of the child, he translates her needs, and brings home what the child needs to live. That is the meaning of fatherhood. He is a father that knows how to wait despite the urgency of the situation he is living through.

Perhaps we are bleeding uselessly, like the woman suffering hemorrhages, because we keep looking for life where it can’t be found. We become fixated on situations, relationships, work, that do nothing other than steal our energy.

Perhaps we have decided that we don’t want to wake up so that we don’t have to walk with our own legs, like this little twelve year old.

Perhaps we need to let Life touch us so that we can begin to believe in ourselves again. The time is over for living life half asleep and without energy or zeal.

Questions for personal reflection:

  • What are the situations in your life that steal your energy? Did you choose them? Can you change them?
  • Do you sometimes renounce life out of fear of having to walk with your strength?

Photo by Bruno Aguirre on Unsplash

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