Kate Oxsen

June 30: 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

June 12, 2024


Wis 1:13-15; 2:23-24; Ps 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11, 12, 13; 2 Cor 8:7, 9, 13-15; Mk 5:21-43 or 5:21-24, 35b-43

Burying the dead properly has been a very important ritual for Jews before, during and after the time of Christ. They did not seem to believe that a burial was the only way to grant the deceased any special graces. They simply believed it was the best way to honor a deceased person one final time.

Providing a proper burial was a holy task, commanded by law. Often this can be confusing for modern readers, because, according to biblical law, burying the dead can render one impure. However, the words impure and impurity are not synonymous with immorality or sin. They simply refer to a physical state that is out of order and needs to be addressed with a ritual.

Ritual is a very important part of being human. It appears we may see the beginnings of some ritual taking place in today’s Gospel story.

When Jairus came to ask for Jesus’ help, his daughter was near death (Mk 5:23). But by the time they arrived, the girl had died. People in the community had already gathered at Jairus’ house and were mourning her passing (5:38). The people at the house suggest that Jesus leave, because the girl has died. But Jesus stays and, of course, works a miracle in resuscitating her.

In the Old Testament we have stories of both Elijah and Elisha bringing back to life a child who has died. Their rituals were a bit more complex than the one Jesus uses here (1 Kgs 17:19-23; 2 Kgs 4: 32-36). Jesus merely takes her by the hand and makes a pronouncement (Mk 5:41).

One can imagine that Jesus was able to bring Jairus’ daughter back from the brink of the death without any ritualistic actions. However, he chose to incorporate his body into the working of this miracle.

Perhaps the human part of Jesus felt like he did need a ritual, something physical to connect him to the divine in him. Even if he did not need it, perhaps he knew that those in the room might need to see something to believe that Jesus did, in fact, resuscitate the little girl. Just as the people who had gathered at Jairus’ home to see his daughter needed to mourn together as a community, communal mourning is a type of ritual that can usher in the beginning of a healing process.

The same is true for the many rituals we have, too. Rituals can be a refuge. They offer us a sense of normality in chaotic times. They connect us to our families and our heritage and help to shape our identities. They can also help us work through difficult or painful feelings. This is why rituals are so significant.

During the Mass we engage in many rituals. We come together and we hear the stories of our spiritual ancestors. We pray the same prayers. Offer the same sign of peace. No matter what is happening in our lives, the rituals of the Mass will always be there. It is steady and stable, just as God is steady and stable.

There are other, smaller rituals people might perform daily. My great-grandmother prayed the rosary nightly. Some people pray the Angelus in the morning, afternoon and evening. A mother might bless her children with the sign of the cross before they go to school.

While these rituals are small, they still offer the same benefits. They provide structure, stability, and connection. Most importantly, they provide a small way for us to welcome God into our daily lives. With these daily rituals we create ways to connect with God and our loved ones.

Fortunately for us, our Catholic faith has many rituals. But we also have our own rituals outside of the life of the church. They might be tied to our family history or cultural heritage. The rituals in which we engage throughout our lives are valuable because they create meaning. They can demonstrate our values, our beliefs and our hopes. What special rituals shape your life?



  • scripture