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God's Word on Sunday: Do not fear God, but believe in Him

  • June 20, 2021

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) June 27 (Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24; Psalm 30; 2 Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13-15; Mark 5:21-43)

Death was not part of God’s plan, and God takes no delight in it. We need to hear that repeatedly, for fearsome and negative images of God have taken their toll over the centuries. God is the God of the living and the giver of life itself.

There were various religious groups in the ancient world, even some claiming Christian inspiration, that insisted that an evil or lesser God had created the world. In their view, matter and creation were tinged with evil and something to flee from as quickly as possible. Wisdom insists that the world is good and wholesome, as are the generative forces of the world. There is nothing negative or destructive in creation itself, and the Earth itself is not under the control of Hades (death).

Righteousness is immortal, as are those who walk in righteousness. Counter to some theologies that picture human beings as depraved, evil and worthy of damnation, Wisdom portrays humans as made for incorruption and in the image of God’s eternity. Then where does suffering and death come from? There is a rather enigmatic allusion to the disobedience in Eden — what the author calls the “envy of the devil.” The important thing is that it was not God’s doing.

It is interesting that the ones who experience death are those who belong to the devil’s company — that is, persist in evil ways. It does not describe a curse or inherited guilt. Taken as a whole, it is a very positive and hopeful presentation of the goodness and beauty of creation and the basic goodness of human beings. Again, it is a message that we need to hear repeatedly.

Despite an incredible amount of posturing, humanity has a rather negative self-image. Sometimes it is far more difficult to convince people of human goodness than it is of human evil. But with the recognition of the exalted status for which God created us goes the invitation — and even the obligation — to strive a bit more to live up to it. The uneasy and sometimes unconscious awareness that we are fighting against our own nature is the cause of much of negative human behaviour.

Paul really knew how to put the squeeze on people for money. Any organization would be glad to have him as a fundraiser. Addressing the Corinthian community, he enumerated the many things in which they excelled. This was with a tinge of sarcasm, for it was their belief of their superiority in speech and knowledge that earned them a tongue-lashing in the first letter that Paul wrote to them. But he let it pass and went on to urge them towards greater perfection, the perfection that comes from kindness and generosity.

They had much, while the community in Jerusalem had little. He appealed to their sense of fairness and their cherished principles of generosity, unity and sharing. His conclusion was an exhortation to do the right thing. It is in kindness and generosity that we truly imitate God.

The two miracles related in Mark was more than a sign of Jesus exercising compassion on two people in need. They were a revelation of who Jesus is and a continuation of the image of God portrayed in the reading from Wisdom.

The woman approached Jesus but without His knowledge. She was convinced that by merely touching His clothes she would be healed from her hemorrhage. And indeed, she was. She did not ask Him directly for healing, and He did not grant it, but He felt power go out of Him. God is only life and wholeness, and her faith called forth that power from Him.

When Jesus arrived at Jairus’ house, the little girl was already dead. Jesus urged them not to be afraid, but to believe. Faced with their weeping and wailing, He insisted that the girl was merely sleeping. They laughed at Him, probably thinking that He was either stupid, insensitive or both. Jesus made the naysayers leave, taking only the girl’s parents and His disciples with Him. Grasping the girl’s hand, He simply said, “Little girl, get up!” No long prayers, no incantations, no magic — just the divine life force that was in Jesus restored her life.  

In both of these cases, drawing near to Jesus was drawing near to life and wholeness. Perhaps we need to fear less and believe more.

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