As With the Apostles, Jesus Sends Us All on Mission

Saints Peter and Paul: Models for Christian Life

Facing the Storms of Life with Faith 

God Shows Us the Way to Life

Jesus Saves

The Eucharist Strengthens Us to Live the Life of Love

Msgr. Joseph Prior

Winston Churchill was once asked about his readiness to die. He humorously replied, “I’m ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the ordeal of meeting me is another matter.”

An aging French comedian was once asked how he felt about aging. His reply, “I prefer it to the alternative.”

I once had a conversation with a young adult about the life of faith. The person had no religious upbringing but started to become aware of God in his life. A friend of his had given him a copy of the New Testament suggesting he might want to learn more about Jesus. It was a long and winding conversation. At some point he brought up the topic of death. When I explained the Christian understanding of death it was as if an unarticulated fear was lifted.

Just recently I came across a statement that reads, “The Church is the only society on earth that has never lost a member to death.” All this to say that the good news today and everyday is that God wants us to live forever, and through His Son, He makes that happen.

The Book of Wisdom reminds us “God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living. For he fashioned all things that they might have being…” (Wisdom 1:13-14a). The author continues, “For God formed man to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made him.” (Wisdom 2:23) God gave us life, and life is good. He does not want that goodness to end but to flower and grow, never to die. Now when sin entered the world, so did death. Yet God does not want us to die, so He forgives and offers us ways to move from sin to mercy, from death to life.

The movement is all part of the Kingdom of God. God’s kingdom is eternal and he wants all of us to be citizens of that Kingdom. Jesus is sent from the Father to teach us about His Kingdom and He opens the doors so we can enter. He does this definitively through His passion, death and resurrection. Prior to that, he shows us what life in the Kingdom is like through His living among us. In today’s Gospel passage, we have a powerful witness to the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Love, the Kingdom of Mercy, the Kingdom of Life.

Two healing accounts are recalled tied together by the journey from death to life. In both accounts the person ill, whether it be Jairus’ daughter or the woman with the hemorrhages, is sick to the point of death. Jairus’ daughter is on her death bed. The woman with hemorrhages has been slowly bleeding to death. Death is all around, so much so that eventually word reaches Jairus, as he is speaking with Jesus, that his daughter has died. Hearing that news, as any parent who has had to face this knows, is a dying unto itself. While death abounds, with Jesus it has no power.

The journey starts when Jairus asks Jesus to heal his dying daughter. While they are on the way the sick woman approaches Jesus from within a crowd. I recently saw a painting of this scene. The artist’s focus was on the outstretched hand touching the cloak so much so that the rest of the scene was hardly visible. In fact, it took me a few minutes to realize what scene was being depicted. Age was clearly present in the hand but so was determination. Despite the weakness of body, the woman stretching that hand was resolute and full of purpose. Jesus’ cloak was everyday, nothing unusual about it for it was not the cloak that mattered but the person wearing it. As we know, the woman touches the cloak in a profound gesture of faith. Jesus does not even see her at first but knows what happened. When He finally does see her, she falls down and tells Him everything. At this point He responds, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.” Jesus moves her from death to life. Her faith opened the door for that movement.

The scene quickly returns to death as word has arrived of Jairus’ daughter’s death. Yet this is not the end. Jesus is present and with Him Life. The people are incredulous. The unbelief, which parallels death in the account, only grows as they enter the Jairus’ home. Jesus is met with ridicule. He, however, responds with resolute determination asking to be taken with the parents to the young girl’s room. He prays over her and says to simple words: “Talitha koum,” and at his command she gets up and walks around. He has moved her from death to life.

The two stories woven into this one account, witness God’s desire that we have healing and life. Through Jesus, He heals us and leads us on the path to life eternal. The final and most important witness to this is Jesus’ own embrace of death. He undergoes death and three days latter deprives it of power; not only for Himself, but for each one of us who put our faith in Him – like the woman with the hemorrhages or the synagogue official Jairus. Faith opens the door for us to life. Faith robs death of its sting (cf. 2 Corinthians 15:55-57 “O death where is your victory? O death where is your sting?”). Jesus lives and so do we.

Death is something we all face. We face it when we lose a loved one, no matter how old they may be. We face it when we suddenly lose a young person, or a child. We face it during sickness. We face it when a loved one is ill and suffering. Some may face it in the torment of mental illness or a spiritual vacuum. We face it when the days quickly turn to years.

What do we do in the face of death? Where do we turn? Jesus invites us to turn away from death, to Him who is life. He wants us to share in the life He offers. The path is through faith. He invites us to believe and to trust. To believe in Him who can deliver and to trust Him to deliver us from death to life.

God has created us for life. He gives us the gift. Though we had rejected that gift through sin, He Himself restored it in Christ Jesus.

God is life and He shares that life with us in love. Jesus invites us to believe, to put our faith in Him and to share in the life He offers.

***

Msgr. Joseph Prior is pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish, Penndel, and a former professor of Sacred Scripture and rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.

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