Readings at Mass
|Wisdom 1:13-15,2:23-24 ©|
|2 Corinthians 8:7,9,13-15 ©|
|Gospel||Mark 5:21-43 ©|
Transcript Of “Requiem Aeternam – Concerning Death” – 13th Sunday OT 2015:
today too, there is this couple of episodes, this long story that articulates why Jesus came into the world. And it also asks and answers, I would say, a deep questions that all of us ask, but sometimes we don’t know what’s here preached about, at least not in the church except for maybe at a funeral. And it’s a question that all of you have asked and every person at the world has asked: If there is God, why is there death? Why did God, if He did, did He create death?So we look around first of all and we see in the world examples of death all around us, whether it’s from animals or pets or whether we see even in the growth of life. You see seeds, they die, the trees, there’s seasons and there is death. And we say, death is natural. But deep down as human beings when we see the death of our loved ones, we know it to be anything but natural. And we have perhaps an answer in the wisdom literature of the first reading that I just to want to start with.And we hear the answer and this is the truth. We hear God did not make death and He does not delight in the death of the living. So what kind of death are we speaking of here? What we’re saying is, God did not create humans, there in the image and likeness of Him, He didn’t create us to die. What kind of death are we speaking of? The human death, the death that we look at and we see the pain, the darkness of suffering, the darkness of isolation from God.
That sort of death came into the world how? We hear in scriptures, we know from our theology, our tradition. We hear that God created men for incorruption and made him in the image of His own eternity. St. Thomas Aquinas or the theologians we say, yes, there’s death in the world, there’s death in human material things, there is disintegration, deterioration. But before the fall of Adam and Eve, humanity was preserved from the corruption of death by a special grace, a sanctifying grace.And while we were communion with God, our bodies did not see incorruption. We didn’t see the deterioration. We were held in communion and life with God. And we hear then in wisdom it says, but through the devil’s envy, death entered the world. This is speaking of course human death.So when we severed our relation with God, we started to endure many of the pains, the sufferings that come about in the natural world. We have division and violence between humanity, man and woman. We have the pains, the extreme pains of child-birth. We have also corruptibility, we have even physical death. That’s important to know. God created us to live, to be incorruptible, to be always with Him in this life and also in the beatific vision of the life to come in Heaven. That’s deep theology, I know it’s kind of complicated, but you have to know that. God created us to live.
We might start to ponder, we might start to ask ourselves, what would it look like if, for example, Adam and Eve did not sin? If we were without sin in our lives, what would our completion of our life look like? It would be quite different from the despair, the darkness that happens in death. That feeling and fear we have as human persons that we may be alone or we may not exist anymore. What would death look like or what would the completion of our earthly life look like if we were without sin?
And then we start to remember our dogma, I believe on the life of the blessed Virgin Mary. That the dogma of the Assumption, which we celebrate in a month’s time, on August 15th. The Assumption of the Virgin Mary says this as Catholics: That at the completion of her earthly life – notice that we’re very careful with Catholics, we don’t say, at her death, we say, at the completion of her earthly life, Mary was assumed not just soul, but body and soul already into eternal life.
And the story of the early Church goes that, the apostles or the disciples with Mary after a long life, she went to sleep one night and when they came to her house, she was gone and there was roses growing there. There is a tradition in the Eastern Rites, lots of Ukrainians you’ll see churches named The Dormition of Mary. This is not exactly the dogma of the Roman Catholics but it’s possible. It’s one way of understanding this. And dormition means the sleep. So if it wasn’t for sin what would the completion of our life look like? It would be one not of fear but of peace, of complete trust that when we went to sleep that evening, that night we would wake in the hands of our beloved Lord. And this happened with Mary, and this also is what God reminds us. Not to be fearful of death but to trust in Him.
So now with that context let’s go to the Gospel today. And there is two stories but it’s really one story. And there’s a few details that even just stood out to me today in proclaiming the Gospel this morning in a special way. Notice there’s these two women, there is a young and there is an older woman. But both, the girl is 12 years old, right? And the woman has been suffering from this sickness for 12 years, this bleeding. And both come to Jesus. Jesus is on the way to see the young daughter of Jairus, one of the Pharisees at the synagogue in the city. And on the way a woman who is in writhing pain. She’s been obviously also isolated from the whole community because when someone was sick, men and women or especially when bleeding and blood is there, the Jewish people would never want to touch them. They were isolated just like lepers.
She comes and she just touches. She reaches out her hand as Jesus is walking by and she touches his cloak, his clothing and she is healed. And Jesus says, because of your faith, because of her great trust in him of reaching out in fear and isolation to Him, she is healed.
And then the second story, we have Jesus arrives and Jairus’ daughter, the young girl has died. And there’s an interesting little engagement here. What happens? Jesus says, do not fear. This is death, remember what I just said. Do not fear, she is not dead, she is only asleep. For those that are in the hands of God, we can rightly say even of death, that it’s not the great darkness and despair that the world will see in death, in human death. But when we trust in God, in a way it is even as peaceful as sleep, that God will raise her up, the resurrection to come.
What’s the reaction of the world? What’s the reaction of the people there when Jesus says, she’s not dead, she’s only asleep. They laugh. And don’t we have that too also in our world? When we speak of the resurrection to come to life of heaven, people can either respond with great trust and say, I wish they were here with me now, our loved ones, those children we’ve lost or those spouses we’ve lost, our parents, grandparents. We wish they were with us now, but I know I will see them again. I know that they’re at peace. I know there’s those tombstones we spell RIP, Requiem in Pace, Rest In Peace, rest. For those that are faithfuls, death then as Christ says, she is asleep. Trust that I will raise her, awake her from that sleep.
And then just like the first woman reached out and trusted in Jesus and touched his cloak and was healed by that holy garment, the garment foreshadowing baptism and life into Christ? Well now it’s Jesus that reaches out His hand and says, Rise up. ‘Talitha koum’ in Aramaic. And He reaches out His hand and the girl takes it and is raised up.
So in the spite of death, in spite of fear and wondering all these tribulations that come in our life, we are to reach out to God. And more importantly Christ our Lord reaches to us and He will lift up or raise up those who have fallen.
Friends, I hope this helps us to just understand something of the mystery of life and death. That despite the great sadness of death that for the Christian, those baptized and who trust in God daily, that at the moment of our death, life will be changed not ended. They will sleep in peace and be raised on the last day.
And finally there is a little note at the end that I never really thought about too much before, I thought it was a little strange. But she was asleep, Jesus raises her from death and then he says, Give her something to eat. And that’s how the story ends. That’s what God does for us here and now. Despite our fears, despite the darkness of our life and even when we separate ourselves from God. God heals us, He raises us and also He nourishes us with the sustenance, the food of eternal life that one day will have also in Heaven. So as we continue this Mass, we draw close to Him. We allow Him to heal us, to strengthen us and we hope that we will have a peaceful death and one day be raised to the eternal banquet in Heaven.