'She touched His cloak....Immediately her hemorrhage stopped....Jesus said, "Who touched my clothes?...Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace."' -- Mark 5: 27, 29, 30, 34

Sunday's Wisdom (1:13-15; 2:23-24) passage is one of the most important in Scripture. Among other things, it answers a question which has bugged scholars for centuries: What triggered Pharisees, about a hundred years before the birth of Jesus, to start believing in an afterlife?

Until recently, most experts believed that some Jews had simply read the works of the classic Greek philosophers - thinkers like Aristotle, Socrates and Plato who presumed, because we had an immaterial soul, that our lives would continue even after our physical deaths.

But there was no "smoking gun." No one could track down who read whom, and when.

Recently, Scripture scholars who, like the late Rev. Roland Murphy, specialized in "wisdom literature," began to understand that the answer was in a verse of Sunday's first reading: "Justice is undying."

A step further
The Hebrew word employed here for justice (or "righteousness") refers to the relationship individuals have with Yahweh and the people around them. Though all Jews agreed Yahweh is immortal, Pharisees reasoned that if you enter into a relationship with the never-dying Yahweh and Yahweh decides to maintain that relationship, then you also will never die.

The big question is, "How does one know one has the kind of relationship with Yahweh which guarantees eternal life?" Jesus answered that by having His followers focus on their relationship with others.

Paul, for instance, asks the Corinthian Church (II Cor 8:7,9,13-15) to imitate Jesus by focusing on the needs of those around them. Just as He, "for your sake, became your abidance at the present time should supply" the necessities for the poor in your midst.

As always, the Apostle's goal is to create "equality" in those who are committed to integrating Jesus' dying and rising into their daily lives.

In Sunday's Gospel (Mark 5:21-43), Mark tells his readers that other Christs should demonstrate their dedication to justice not only by eradicating as much physical death as possible, but also by improving the quality of life for anyone suffering from illness or chronic pain.

Two stories
Those familiar with Mark will immediately recognize the literary device he often uses to show a passage of time: He'll start a story, interrupt it with another story, then return to the original. In this case, in the time it takes for Jesus to get to Jarius' home, He encounters a woman suffering from uterine bleeding. After she's cured of her malady, we return to the Jarius narrative.

The stories have common elements. Both narratives, for instance, have to do with women; both share the number 12; and most important, each focuses on faith. Though many people were "pressing upon" Jesus on the road to Jarius' house, only one touches Him with faith - a faith which eventually "saves" her.

In a parallel way, when told of the girl's death, Jesus encourages her father, "Do not be afraid; just have faith." Only because of Jarius' faith is Jesus able to resuscitate her.

In dealing with justice, our Christian biblical authors encourage their readers not only to have faith in their relationship with the risen Jesus among them, but also to have faith in their relationships with those they encounter in their everyday lives. Our relationships should always be life-giving, both to us and those with whom we relate. The life we develop by being just with others is the one element which guarantees we'll always experience life, even into eternity.