Homily, Delivered at St. Mary’s and the Missions Parish
July 1, 2012, 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Unless we are very young, there isn’t one of us here today who has never had an experience of death – the death of a loved one, the death of a friend, or even an acquaintance. Death is part of the human condition. Death is part of who we are.
Or is it?
Because today’s readings offer us a different point of view. In our first reading from the Book of Wisdom, we heard that “God did not make death… He does not delight in the death of the living, for he created all things that they might exist.”… And again: “God created man for incorruption, and made him in the image of his own eternity”.
The raising of Jairus’s daughter
Now of course there is a reason for the difference between our universal experience of death and God’s desire for our life. And the human author of the Book of Wisdom doesn’t waste any time giving it to us. He continues: “Through the devil’s envy, death entered the world, and those who are of his company experience it.”
Not exactly comforting words. As Christians, the idea that devil, and our own sinfulness, have something to do with death’s presence in our lives, is probably something we’re familiar with. But everyone experiences death – so is the book of Wisdom telling us that we are all in the company of the devil?
In one sense yes. We are all sinners. We are all imperfect creatures, desiring – to a greater or lesser extent depending our our closeness to the Lord – desiring to satisfy our own selfish passions.
And we have many passions. It might be something that can pass for innocent — for example, the passion for a large chocolate milkshake… At the Dairy Queen… In Meaford….
But it also can be – and it too often is – a much darker kind of passion. The passion that leads us to sin and separates us from the Lord and from one another; the passion that causes a goodly portion of the pain and suffering we see in our world: the pain of broken marriages and friendships; the suffering of abused children; the violence of crime, of bullying; and the selfishness that leads us to ignore the loneliness of so many of our elderly.
Our sinful passions come in many varieties. So yes, in one sense as the book of Wisdom says — we are all in the company of the devil.
But of course the devil isn’t our only company, we have our Lord as well. Our Lord, who made us not for death, not for corruption, but for life — as the book of Wisdom tells us and as our Gospel today makes clear.
In the gospel we see that Jesus, the Son of God, has power over death – power over death and over sin. Jesus has the power to give new life – just as he gave new life to the daughter of Jairus. Jesus has the power to heal our pain, just as he healed the woman with the hemmorhage.
In fact, if we look at the gospel story of the healing of the woman, it seems that Jesus doesn’t just HAVE the power to conquer death and heal illness – he IS that power – Jesus IS life. Remember, the woman was healed not by anything Jesus said, but merely by touching the hem of his garment. As we read in Gospel of John, Jesus IS the way, the truth and the life.
And just like Jairus’ daughter, just like the woman in the crowd. We too can touch and be touched by Jesus – by the one who is life. In fact we already have. In our baptism our God has come to us, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He has marked us forever as his own. It’s like a tattoo on our soul. God is in us and we are in him. Forever.
The question is what do we do with that gift. We know we can throw it away through sin. We know that death can still be our destiny if that’s what we choose. But as the book of Wisdom reminds us, and as Jesus proclaims in the gospel – death is not our call; death is not our Lord’s desire for us. Like the woman in the gospel story, He wants our faith make us well – to allow Him to continue give us life and to call us to eternal life.
And the place that he has promised us that he will do that – the place where Jesus touches us, where he heals us, where he strengthens us is right here – at Mass. Because this is the place where Jesus has promised us he will pour out his life into our life. Where he will pour out the saving power of his sacrifice on the Cross. This is the place where he will touch us and allow us to touch him, the place where we will receive new life.
But there is more. The Mass is the also the place where the world can be changed. The place where we can begin to build God’s Kingdom. Because Mass is the place where he gives us the job we have to do as Christians.
At the last supper Jesus said to his apostles: “Do this in memory of me”. He is talking about the celebration of the Eucharist – of the Mass. But he is also talking about the gift of life. Because just as Jesus gave us life by his sacrifice on the cross — we too are called to give life to others by sacrificing for them.
We are called to do that in big ways, like Mother Teresa offering her life to the poor in India. Or in small ways, by giving our time to those in need; by giving our patience to the annoying, or to the boring – even to homilists! – We’re called to give life by offering our prayers here at mass for all those in need.
Jesus Christ is the life of the world, he is the life of every person who has ever been born. He has given himself to us in our baptism. “Freely you have received, “ Jesus says to his apostles elsewhere in the gospels — “give freely”. And so in Jesus, and with Jesus — and only with Him — as we give our lives for others, we do our part to conquer death.
And so we are sent out at the end of the Mass, having been given life by the one who is life. But we must always return to the source. Like the woman in the gospel we must always struggle to draw near to our Lord.
So as we prepare for the liturgy of the Eucharist, we can ask ourselves: Do I feel that same urgency as the woman in the gospel? Do I have her desire to draw near to the Lord, and do I have her confidence in what He will do for me if I do? Let us all pray today for a strengthening of that desire, for a strengthening of our faith. Let us pray to receive the gift of life from the one who IS life.