February 5th is the Feast Day of one of my favorite Patron Saints - St. Agatha!

“Portrait of a Young Woman as Saint Agatha”
by Cariani (Giovanni Busi), 1516 - 1517

(Tuesday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time)
Readings and Commentary:[3]
Reading 1: Hebrews 12:1-4
Brothers and sisters:
Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,
let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us
and persevere in running the race that lies before us
while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus,
the leader and perfecter of faith.
For the sake of the joy that lay before him
Jesus endured the cross, despising its shame,
and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God.
Consider how he endured such opposition from sinners,
in order that you may not grow weary and lose heart.
In your struggle against sin
you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood.
Commentary on Heb 12:1-4
Hebrews returns to its principle theme in this selection.  The author encourages the faithful to redouble their zeal for the faith.  It is interesting that the author mentions specifically how the community (cloud of witnesses) strengthens the faith. The reading goes on to place Christ’s passion as a model of steadfastness, encouraging the faithful to resist against all opposition.  This resistance, says the author, should include shedding one’s own blood for the faith.
R. (see 27b) They will praise you, Lord, who long for you.
I will fulfill my vows before those who fear him.
The lowly shall eat their fill;
they who seek the LORD shall praise him:
"May your hearts be ever merry!"
R. They will praise you, Lord, who long for you.
All the ends of the earth
shall remember and turn to the LORD;
All the families of the nations
shall bow down before him.
To him alone shall bow down
all who sleep in the earth;
Before him shall bend
all who go down into the dust.
R. They will praise you, Lord, who long for you.
And to him my soul shall live;
my descendants shall serve him.
Let the coming generation be told of the LORD
that they may proclaim to a people yet to be born
the justice he has shown.
R. They will praise you, Lord, who long for you.
In this song of praise the psalmist gives the response to God’s covenant.  It supports the idea from Hebrews 12:1-4 that this act of worship is done in community by the individual.  In fact the song presumes a communal worship of God. (“Let the coming generation be told of the Lord that they may proclaim to a people yet to be born the justice he has shown.”)
Gospel: 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.
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 him,
"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.
Commentary on Mk 5:21-43
This selection from Mark’s Gospel begins with Jesus continuing his journey of healing.  The passage relates two interwoven examples of the power of faith in healing.  First the Synagogue Official’s plea to Jesus to heal his daughter is presented.  This is important from the standpoint that it is recognition of Jesus status by the local faith community.  An official from the Synagogue would only consult with one widely recognized as an authority in spiritual matters.
On the way to the little girl, a woman with a hemorrhage that had been incurable by local physicians pressed in close and touched his cloak.  She was cured and it was as if her faith reached out and touched Jesus unlike the others crowded around because he felt her touch among all the others.  He turned and was able to specifically identify her.  The Lord’s words to her were; “…your faith has saved you.”
Arriving at the Synagogue Officials house Jairus’ faith was tested a second time as he was informed his daughter had died.  Jesus ignored these reports and proceeded to reward Jairus’ faith by bringing his daughter back from death; a sign of his mission to all mankind.
One of the many rewards of faith in a loving and merciful God is the consolation of Christ in times of grief.  The Holy Father, Pope Benedict expresses this much better than I could in his recent encyclical Spe Salvi:
Indeed, to accept the “other” who suffers, means that I take up his suffering in such a way that it becomes mine also. Because it has now become a shared suffering, though, in which another person is present, this suffering is penetrated by the light of love. The Latin word con-solatio, ‘consolation’, expresses this beautifully. It suggests being with the other in his solitude, so that it ceases to be solitude.[4]
In simple language, the grief or sorrow we experience, especially at the loss of a loved one, a friend, or even a relationship is indeed the feeling of being alone, deprived of the person whose loss we have suffered.  Into this void comes Jesus, his loving hand outstretched, bridging the gap between life and death.  In Him we are never alone.  It is his consolation that lifts us out of hopelessness and gives us grace to overcome even the greatest of obstacles.
As the Holy Father says, Christ’s consolation is expressed most visibly though his followers (that would be us).  Our compassion for those who suffer becomes a miracle in itself.  It is not easy to accept another’s suffering though is it?  Accepting that burden necessarily means to experience the pain felt by the one who suffers.  That pain, we submit, is quantifiable.  That is there is only so much to go around and the more who share in that suffering, the less burdensome it becomes to the group within which it is shared.  It is Christ’s (con-solatio) consolation – we are no longer alone.
Today as we think about the grief of Jainus, who briefly was stabbed with the pain of losing a daughter, let us remember those who grieve the loss of those they love; husbands, wives, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters.  May all those who suffer the loss be blessed with Christ’s steadfast presence and our offer to share their suffering so it might be lessened though the consolation and mercy of God.

[2] The picture used today is “Portrait of a Young Woman as Saint Agatha” by Cariani (Giovanni Busi), 1516 - 1517
[3] The readings are taken from the New American Bible with the exception of the Psalm and its response which were developed by the International Committee for English in Liturgy (ICEL).  This re-publication is not authorized by USCCB and is for private use only.
[4] Spe Salvi, II, 38.