Scripture Readings: Book of Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24; Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians 8:7,9,13-15; Mark 5:21-43
The first reading for this Sunday, from the Book of Wisdom, was written about 100 years before the birth of Christ and expresses a developed thinking about life, death and the afterlife, which prepared for the fuller teachings of Jesus a century later. The passage today emphasizes that God created all things good and that death entered the world because of the devil. The devil and sinful ways associated with the influence of the devil on humanity upsets God’s plan for creation.
God’s intention always has been and always will be for life. Even physical death, which all humans must undergo, is not the last word, for God’s righteousness is immortal, and humans partake of that immortality, understood as the possibility for humans to participate in everlasting life with God in heaven after this life.
For followers of Christ, who believe that the Lord came from heaven and returned there as well, the partaking of Jesus in our human condition was the supreme expression of God’s desire to draw us to life immortal. Christ’s self-emptying (in Greek the word is kenosis), is the hope of our being filled by God, to a degree in this life and perfectly in the life to come. Saint Paul speaks of this in today’s passage in terms of taking place, “so that you might be rich,” but not in material goods, rather, in spiritual riches. Christ having given himself for us means that we can share in the unbounded riches of God’s life.
These are fundamental Christian truths which are always worth hearing over and again.
In this Sunday’s Gospel text the idea of the reading from the Book of Wisdom is taken up when Jesus is shown to be the victor over death which came into the world by the work of the devil. The return to life of the daughter of Jairus should be seen in the light of Jesus’ own resurrection from the dead, and by extension, something that all people are invited to share in, as a result of being created in the image and likeness of God, a constant teaching in Sacred Scripture.
The cures recounted in today’s Gospel passage are met with astonishment by the people who witness them. Keep in mind that the Gospels were written down after the resurrection of Jesus, for Christian believers who were experiencing and worshiping the Risen Savior. The written Gospels were to strengthen and nourish the faith of believers. Contemplating the activities of Jesus in his earthly ministry is meant to lead believers to Jesus Christ in all their difficulties and through faith allow them to experience the saving power of Christ, which extends beyond mortal existence, into life eternal.
As the old time religious hymn put it, “What a friend we have in Jesus.” And while the phrase might sound a bit trite (especially with the melody I associate with the lyrics), the statement is true enough.
We are always invited and challenged to approach the Lord in faith, like the woman in the Gospel today, who said, “If I just touch his clothing I shall get well.” Or like the official of the synagogue, Jairus, who said, “Please come and lay your hands on my little daughter, so that she may get well and live.” Jesus constantly tells his followers, “Do not fear, only believe.” Jesus is asking that we too continue to believe, even in the face of difficulties, setbacks and death.
The miracles of Jesus recounted in the Gospels challenge us today to be willing and ready to approach the Lord with deep faith and to experience God’s power in our lives. The more we are aware of our own weakness, frailty and need, the more ready we should be to go the Lord and believe in God’s saving help. “Do not fear, continue to believe,” the Lord is asking of each of us.
Abbot Christian Leisy, OSB