Vasily Polenov, The Raising of Jairus' Daughter, 1871 Public domain

God's word on Sunday: Life-giving God works on several levels

  • June 30, 2018

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

The first “existential” type of questions asked by a child often concern death. The occasion might be the death of a pet. Why do we die? Does everyone die? 

The question and the mystery of death haunts us for our entire lives and we do everything possible to flee from it. But the mortality rate in life is 100 per cent — sooner or later it comes to us all, even though we might hope that an exception will be made in our case. 

We might wonder how a good and loving God could create death, allowing the innocent, even little children, to die. In his reflection on death, the author of Wisdom attempts to set the record straight. God did not create death, for God is the author of life and the God of the living. All created things are good, and our death and extinction of consciousness is not hard-wired into the cosmos. We were created for incorruption and immortality. 

So, what happened? Wisdom blames the envy of the devil, but that is not really a satisfying answer — there must be something more. We get a hint from the statement that righteousness is immortal. When humans are truly righteous — that is, living according to divine law — they are living in harmony with the life-giving and eternal Creator, who then shares these qualities with us. 

This closeness and harmony was ruptured long ago by fear, selfishness and sin. In addition to physical death, many humans experience a spiritual death that is the illusion of separation from God. As humanity falls away from its divine source, it is affected by actions, attitudes, behaviour and lifestyles that are negative and at times death-dealing. 

We create and build both the world that we experience and the bodies we inhabit. The closer we draw to God, the more we will experience God’s life-giving Spirit.

Paul’s appeal to the Corinthians community echoes those of fundraisers throughout the centuries. He flattered them at first, appealing to their abundance in knowledge, faith, love, speech and eagerness. Then he gently applied the pressure, insisting that these qualities should open their hearts for generosity and sharing, for no one should be without the necessities of life. 

It seems as if today every charity and non-profit institution is on the hunt for donations, and it is easy to become irritated and cynical. Discernment, prudence and balance is certainly called for and we want to see that the money is used wisely. 

But we should not allow true human needs to be ignored. Sharing is not charity. It is a biblical commandment and our call as followers of Jesus.

Jesus demonstrated the life-giving nature of God in two very dramatic incidents. In the first, a woman suffering from a flow of blood for many years approached Jesus. 

Managing to work her way through the crowd, she touched the hem of His robe. She firmly believed that this would be sufficient and indeed it was. Jesus did not see her, nor did she make any direct request, but He felt power go out of Him. 

When she finally confessed that she was the one that touched Him, He sent her on her way with an acknowledgement that her faith had made her whole. Mere contact with the divine source in Jesus brought healing, and it was her faith that bridged the gap between humanity and God. 

The second display of divine power was a bit more complicated. When Jesus arrived at the synagogue leader’s house, his little daughter was already dead. People were weeping and wailing, despite the admonition of Jesus not to fear but believe. 

When Jesus announced that the girl was not dead but sleeping, He was answered with bitter and cynical laughter. Jesus closed the door on the naysayers and, grasping the girl by the hand, He commanded her to get up. 

That’s all. No magic words or rituals, no long prayers. Even faith on the part of the family was shaky. Simple contact with the life-giving Spirit of God was enough. 

We should not be surprised, for life in all its dimensions is what God is about. God gives life on many different levels, both physical and spiritual, and it is in this that God delights. 

Let us walk ever more closely with God. 

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