13th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Ages 3-6): Little Lamb, Arise!
(Adults, for the 3-6 year old, I am considering simply the raising of Jairus' daughter to life. You could begin by reading the Gospel aloud to the child. Alternatively, you could read the first paragraph of the reflection to the child, then read the Gospel, and then continue with the reflection.)
In the Gospel for this Sunday, when Jesus and his friends return from their trip out on the lake, a man is there to meet them. He wants Jesus to do something for him.
“My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.”
This man is a father. His daughter is very sick and he is afraid she may die. He must be very worried. He thinks death is the end.
Why does he come to Jesus? Jesus is not a doctor. What does the girl's father know about Jesus?
So Jesus went with him.
Jesus wants to be with this man when he is afraid for his little girl.
Some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.”
The people tell the girl's father that she has died. When someone dies, they do not need a doctor any longer. They do not need their body any longer. But Jesus is not a doctor, and he stays with the girl's father. He does not leave him alone. Instead, he tells him not to be afraid. Jesus knows that some people are afraid of death because they think it is the end. But the man does not need to be afraid; Jesus is with him.
When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, Jesus...said to them, “...The child is not dead but sleeping.”
This is confusing. The people say that the girl is dead. Jesus says she is only sleeping. Is Jesus wrong? Or does Jesus know something about death?
We know that death is not the same as sleep. After we sleep, we wake up again. After someone dies, they do not get up again. They do not need their body anymore and it is buried. We do not see that person anymore.
But who does see that person? Who sees that person forever more?
Jesus knows the girl is dead. He knows that her parents are afraid of death because they think it is the end. But Jesus knows something more about death. He is trying to show the girl's father what he knows.
He takes the girl's father and her mother with him into the room where her body is. What does Jesus do next?
He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum” which means, “Little girl, get up!”
When Jesus holds the girl's hand he says words that the girl's father and mother know. He says words that the little girl knows, too. We do not know these words, but we are told that they mean, "Little girl, get up!" But actually, this is not exactly what they mean. "Talitha cum" means,
"Little lamb, arise!"*
Jesus calls the girl a little lamb. Why does he do that?
A lamb is a baby sheep. We know that Jesus is the Good Shepherd who calls his sheep, and the sheep follow him because,
they know his voice (John 10:4b)
Does the little girl know his voice?
And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about for she was twelve years of age.
She does know his voice! The little girl is no longer dead, but alive! She can keep living her life. We wonder: what might she do now?
Was the little girl only sleeping? No. People are not afraid when someone is sleeping. When Jesus says she is sleeping, he means something more. What more could he mean? What does Jesus know about death? Is death the end?
Everybody dies. We do not need to be afraid of death. Jesus is with us. Jesus knows this and we know it, too. One day, when this little girl has grown old, she will die again. Jesus will come again and call to her,
"Little lamb, arise!"
But this time, she will not have to get up into her same old life. This time, Jesus will give her his Risen Life so that she will never die again.
* John R. Donahue, S.J. and Daniel J. Harrington, S.J. The Gospel of Mark. Sacra Pagina Series, Volume 2. The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN, 2002, p. 178