‘Little girl, I tell you to get up’

Thirteenth Sunday of the Year B

This account of the raising of Jairus’ daughter invites us to reflect on the gift of eternal life promised us by Jesus. Fr Adrian Graffy reflects.

Mark 5:21-43

35 While he was still speaking some people arrived from the house of the synagogue official to say, ‘Your daughter is dead: why put the Master to any further trouble?’ 36 But Jesus had overheard this remark of theirs and he said to the official, ‘Do not be afraid; only have faith.’ 37 And he allowed no one to go with him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. 38 So they came to the official’s house and Jesus noticed all the commotion, with people weeping and wailing unrestrainedly. 39 He went in and said to them, ‘Why all this commotion and crying? The child is not dead, but asleep.’ 40 But they laughed at him. So he turned them all out and, taking with him the child’s father and mother and his own companions, he went into the place where the child lay. 41 And taking the child by the hand he said to her, ‘Talitha, kum!’ which means, ‘Little girl, I tell you to get up.’ 42 The little girl got up at once and began to walk about, for she was twelve years old. At this they were overcome with astonishment, 43 and he ordered them strictly not to let anyone know about it, and told them to give her something to eat.

Other readings: Wisdom 1:13-15, 2:23-24 Psalm 29 (30) 2 Corinthians 8:7,9,13-15


This is a very long gospel reading in the lectionary. It includes both the raising of a little girl and the healing of an elderly woman. Only the final paragraph is given here. It narrates the climax of the raising of Jairus’ daughter. This is the only account in the Gospel of Mark of the raising of a person from the dead. We might recall the detailed story of the raising of Lazarus in John chapter 11. Both these accounts invite us to reflect on the gift of eternal life promised us by Jesus.

The theme of life after death is introduced in the first reading for today’s Mass, from the Book of Wisdom. The writer explains that death was ‘not God’s doing’, but is a consequence of ‘the devil’s envy’. Human beings are not made for death but for eternal life with God. This is demonstrated definitively in the resurrection of Jesus.

The evangelist records the Aramaic words Talitha kum used by Jesus on this occasion. When these words are translated into the Greek of the gospel the expression ‘get up’ employs a word commonly associated in the New Testament with the resurrection of Jesus. Another Greek word used of the resurrection occurs when the evangelist reports that the little girl ‘got up’. The mighty works of Jesus are not simply meant to provoke astonishment and wonder among the witnesses. They also point Christian listeners to belief in the resurrection.

How do the miracles of Jesus relate to the fundamental gospel message?

What in particular strikes you about the raising of Jairus’ daughter?

Pray for a deeper understanding of the gospel.

Pray for those who are fearful of sickness and death.

INT-IMG_5349 Fr Adrian Graffy (3)Rev Dr Adrian Graffy is a member of the Vatican Commission that takes a lead in Bible scholarship, interpretation and promotion in the Catholic Church.

Rev Dr Graffy said of his five-year appointment by Pope Francis in 2014: “It is an honour to be nominated by Pope Francis as a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission. I feel humbled and very much look forward to being of service to His Holiness and the Church.”

He added: “A great deal has been achieved in England and Wales in recent years by many co-workers to advance Biblical scholarship and the provision of easy-to-use resources. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them and the Bishops’ Conference Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis for their efforts to promote understanding and love of the Bible, particularly through the publication of the teaching documents, The Gift of Scripture and the study guide to Verbum Domini, The Word of the Lord.”

Rev Dr Graffy received his doctorate in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome in 1983. He taught for over 20 years in St John’s Seminary in Wonersh, and is Chair of the National Scripture Working Group, which is an instrument of the Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. Fr Graffy is a past director of Brentwood’s Commission for Evangelisation and Formation and parish priest of Christ the Eternal High Priest in Gidea Park, Essex. Among his publications are the Gospel of Mark and the Letter to the Romans (Alive Publishing).

Listen to BBC Essex interview with Fr Adrian Graffy