Sunday Sermon for June 27, 2021, the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Readings: Wis 1:13-15, 2:23-24; 2 Cor 8:7, 9, 13-15; Mk 5:21-43
The first reading today contains a profound insight for us as we consider our own dignity and our immortality. The writer of the Book of Wisdom reminds us that God created us to be imperishable; He made us in the image of His own nature. Beyond this, we are told God did not create death, nor does He rejoice in the destruction of the living. Rather, it is through the envy of the devil that death came into the world and those who belong to the company of the vile creature experience death.
We must be careful on this last point not to think that because every person has died, with the exception of Enoch and Elijah, that all these people are in the company of Satan. No, Jesus died, too. We can certainly not say He was in the company of the evil one. More than likely our Lady died as well, and she was not in league with the enemy of our souls for even one second in her life. Of course, all the Saints have also died, but their canonization proclaims infallibly that they are in Heaven. Clearly, then, at the time of their death none of them was in any way a friend to the foul fiend.
It is true that we all will die because of the sin of our first parents and the vast multitude of our own personal sins. But we recall the words of our Lord when He told Martha that those who live and believe in Him will never die. This gives us a clue that death has more than one meaning. We see this also in the Book of Revelation where there is a second death which is eternity in Hell with Satan and all his disgusting minions. So, in Christ, we die in order to enter into eternal life while those in league with the devil die in this world and enter into eternal death.
In the Gospel reading we hear about a man named Jairus, a Synagogue official, coming to Jesus and pleading with our Lord to heal his daughter who lay ill at home. Along the way, a woman with a hemorrhage surreptitiously came up to our Lord and touched the tassel of His garment. Because of her faith she was healed. Her faith serves as the preparation of what our Lord would tell Jairus, and us as well: “Do not be afraid; just have faith.” The woman provides the example of one who believes, even though she is very discrete about it.
The scene moves from the crowd pushing upon Jesus, the crowd through which the woman with the hemorrhage moved to approach our Lord, to a crowd of mourners at the home of Jairus. The crowd outside all wanted to be near our Lord; the crowd inside ridiculed Him and wanted nothing to do with Him. It was in the face of this ridicule that Jairus and His wife (and the Apostles) had to make an act of faith in Jesus. Going into the room where the girl was lying in death, Jesus spoke to her and brought her back to life.
Clearly, the girl did not do anything on her own to bring about this miracle. It was the power of God, but that power was operative only because of the faith expressed by her parents. Obviously, Jesus had the power to do whatever He wanted, but He will normally use that power only when true faith is expressed. Sometimes our Lord will work a miracle for those without faith, but this is to bring them to faith. For those who profess to believe in Him, He is going to require true faith, not just lip service, before He will intervene for them. We will receive from Him only to the degree of our faith.
Of course, He will also test our faith, sometimes severely. In the second reading we hear about the collection being taken up by St. Paul to aid the Christians in Jerusalem. In other words, the faith of the very first Christians was being tested. St. Paul’s encouragement to the Corinthians to be generous, however, is the point we need to consider. He reminds them that our Lord became poor so we could be rich. While this can have many applications, for us it can also mean He gave His life to save us from death. We still have to die, but we have His life in us, a life over which Satan has no power. This is divine life; through the love of God this life came into the world, and those in company with Jesus experience it now and forever.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.