Saturday, June 30, 2012
WHAT WILL PEOPLE THINK?
GUARDING YOUR REPUTATION
The gospel reading for this Sunday, July 1, 2012, contains two miracle stories: The raising of Jairus’ dead daughter and the healing of the woman who had a chronic flow of blood. http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/070112.cfm
What I noticed in studying the gospel passage was how the three main characters chose to disregard possible criticism -- “What will people think?” As someone who was raised to be very cognizant of what other people think of me and my behavior, it is refreshing to see people who manage to pay no attention to the opinion of others when pursuing an important goal.
First there’s Jairus, the synagogue leader. Jesus’ last visit to a synagogue had ended in a plot to kill him (Mk 3:6), but since Jairus’ daughter is deathly sick he comes and throws himself at Jesus’ feet (!), obviously more worried about his child than about his reputation in the synagogue. Good for him!
Then there’s the woman whose flow of blood had left her desperate for twelve years: Her illness had rendered her doubly disgraced in the Jewish community: First, the flow of blood meant that she was constantly ritually impure; and second, she was unable to bear children – the supreme disgrace for a Jewish woman. So she, “impure” as she was, disregarded propriety and touched Jesus’ garment. Once again the conventions went out the window because of someone’s desperate plight.
JESUS AND THE TABOOS
And then there’s Jesus, whose well-know flouting of man-made restrictions would contribute a lot to his downfall. He touched a leper to cure him, he allowed that prostitute to wash his feet with her tears, he spoke to women in public in a society which forbade a husband to speak to his wife in public. And he ate with sinners, another act that made him ritually impure. The list could go on.
One of the strongest religious taboos in Judaism concerned touching a corpse. Remember the story of the Good Samaritan, and how the priest and the Levite kept walking past the prostrate body of the robbers’ victim? The two men were primarily concerned about touching what might turn out to be a dead body, even if it meant possibly leaving a gravely injured person lying there.
So, Jesus entered Jairus’ house and took with him the child’s parents and a few disciples. And what did he do? “He took the child by the hand.” He didn’t care what people would think about his willingly contracting ritual impurity by touching a corpse. There were more important things afoot.,
DO YOU CARE?
Clearly our society would be better off in many ways without its peer pressure and its taboos both spoken and unspoken. I’ve been thinking about the implications of all this for me. I’d like to believe that at my age and in my life situation I’m not as affected as others might be by the pressure to conform. Leaving to one side the question of giving scandal unnecessarily by behavior that has the appearance of gross impropriety, I wonder how willing I am to do something I believe is right and necessary even if it means that a lot of people might think less of me?