God is life

  • June 22, 2009
13th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) June 28 (Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24; Psalm 30; 2 Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13-15; Mark 5:21-43)

Don’t blame God for death, it wasn’t His idea! Or so the author of Wisdom claims. It’s a very strange statement, for all that lives eventually dies. Living organisms experience entropy and finally return to the dust of the earth.

But rather than giving us a biology lesson, Wisdom is revealing something important about God and about human beings. The first issue is the great mystery — death — and the negative impact that it has on our consciousness. Why are some lives so painful and short? Is there anything beyond death? Is the world a cruel and senseless place? Does life even have a point?

Wisdom insists that God is about life and only life. We should not think of God in terms of death nor should we look upon the created world in a negative or fearful fashion. All creation, including human beings, is good. Death is not something created by God to inflict suffering and pain on us. The death that we experience is not God’s intended state for us nor is it something that God delights in. God’s intention is that human beings share in divine qualities, especially that of immortality. To achieve this end God created human in the divine image and likeness. True immortality is to live in the constant presence and awareness of God.

The “devil” is the adversary that prevents this: our fear, selfishness, desire for power and sense of separation from others and from God. We are prevented from realizing our true nature and God’s intended end for us so we still live in dread of biological death and extinction. Wisdom invites us to look beyond our own immediate experience to the far horizon where only life — God — is to be found. God has planned far greater things for us than death.

There is nothing new about the ecclesiastical fundraising that Paul is so skillfully engaged in. He is raising money from the community in Corinth to support the church in Jerusalem. It is interesting though that he is using spiritual principles to loosen the purse strings of his audience. It is about balance and sharing, he insists, and the perfect example of such generosity is Jesus Himself. He was willing to lay aside everything for the well-being of others and so should His followers. The willingness to share with others out of generosity and love is the way that we imitate and reflect God. In the midst of our own economic difficulties it is a good spiritual ideal to follow. The difficulties of our time are at the same time a spiritual challenge and test.

The Gospel stories demonstrate clearly the life-giving qualities of God and they are powerfully manifested in the person and ministry of Jesus. As Jesus embarked on a healing mission to the home of Jairus, His journey is interrupted by an encounter with a woman suffering from chronic bleeding. She would have been considered ritually impure and this impurity would have been transferred to anything she touched. But she is undeterred by the fear of the disapproval of her culture, social and religious taboos, and the fear of rejection by Jesus. Filled with hope and faith she strives only to touch the hem of His cloak — that will be sufficient for healing. There is nothing magic about Jesus’ robe, it is her faith in the power of God that made her whole. Persistence, hope and faith are a powerful array.

He arrives at the home of Jairus too late for the little girl has already died. Jesus is surrounded by wailing and weeping. His insistence that she is merely sleeping is greeted with jeers and laughter. They have no faith and the girl is in no position to display faith so Jesus has to demonstrate in a dramatic way that God is only about life. A grasped hand and a simple command is enough to draw her back to the land of the living.

The mere presence of God is enough to alleviate suffering and brush aside the veil of death. Human misery is not the will of God. Faith and fearlessness can connect us with the life of God while gnawing doubt, cynicism and lack of faith are guarantees of failure.