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The word this week

The relentless march of our own mortality is the greatest threat to faith

Thirteenth Sunday of the Year: 2 Kgs 17:5-8, 13-15a, 18; Ps 60; 2 Cor 8:7, 9, 13-15; Mk 5:21-43

By on Friday, 29 June 2012

Death, more than anything else, tests the faith of sinful humanity. We cherish life. Every human instinct longs for life, the fullness of life that satisfies every longing, every hunger. Death seems to mock such hopes. The passing years deny the hopes of our youth. Death finally overwhelms our declining strength. It is hardly surprising that the relentless march of our own mortality should become, for many, the greatest threat to faith.

The author of the Book of Wisdom struggled with this question. He had no hesitation in asserting that God created us for life rather than disintegration and death. Death he ascribed to the fatal poison of sin, a poison whose power reigned over sinful humanity. “Yet God did make man imperishable, he made him in the image of his own nature: it was the Devil’s envy that brought death into the world, as those who are his partners will discover.”

Salvation and redemption, if they are to address this fundamental longing for life, must restore humanity to the intended pattern of God’s creation. Wisdom described this quite simply: God created us for life, to live in wholeness and health.

It is against this background that we should understand the emphasis given in the gospels to the miracles and wonders worked by Jesus. Jesus came to restore a broken humanity to its original integrity. He became incarnate in our broken humanity, so that, in his death and Resurrection, he might raise that humanity to the immortality intended by his Father. This immortality would not be mere survival; it would be, in the words of Isaiah, a world in which death is destroyed forever, a world without tears and shame. Throughout the gospels Jesus is revealed as the one who heals the sick, and whose forgiveness binds the wounds of sin and shame. Together these miracles of healing and forgiveness became a proclamation to the whole world. In the ministry of Jesus the Kingdom of God was begun, and in his miracles battle was joined with the powers of sin and death.

Today’s Gospel, with its detailed account of the raising of Jairus’s daughter linked to the healing of the woman with a haemorrhage, continues this pattern to a new stage. The crowds instinctively sensed in Jesus the presence of God’s power to heal. Thus Jairus turned to Jesus for the healing of his sick daughter.

As Jesus made his way to the house of Jairus he was overwhelmed by the weight of the pressing crowd. It was as if the pain and the suffering of the whole world rested on him. No plea escaped his attention. Overwhelming though the crowd was, he sensed and responded to the pain of the woman: “If I can touch even his clothes, I shall be well again.”

Like the woman, we long for Christ’s healing touch. For us, as for the woman, that healing begins as we encounter Jesus in the dialogue of prayer. The woman fell at the feet of Jesus and told him the truth about herself. This is the beginning of all healing.

The conclusion of the narrative, as the dead daughter of Jairus was raised to life, pointed to the fullness of Christ’s redemption. Sinful though we are, we long for life. Christ’s death and resurrection affirms that longing, destroying death’s power and mockery.