Thirteenth Sunday, Year B

This homily is not for the feast of St. Peter and St. Paul but for Sunday 13th

If God is good, if he loves human beings, how can he tolerate the death of these creatures to whom he has given life? Whence does this seed of death come that everyone carries from the moment of conception? And why does he cause us to be born with this deep desire to see life continue on and on forever? This is what constitutes our torment: we want to live forever, but we know that we are going to die. The author of the Book of Wisdom ponders these grave questions, aided by traditions that have been recorded in the narratives of the creation in the Book of Genesis, and witness to a long reflection guided by experience. As we look at ourselves, we are struck by human frailty and the precarious human condition. Such observations lead to a certain pessimism that finds frequent expression in the Scriptures. But at the same time, they attest to another experience; that death is an abnormal phenomenon. God did not make it. 

‘Because God did not make death, neither does he rejoice in the destruction of the living. For he fashioned all things that they might have being. For God formed man to be imperishable. For justice is undying.’ This conviction, based on experience, is expressed in the opening narrative of Genesis. Everything that exists came out of the creator’s hands good, very good and beautiful. God has made of man and woman together an image of what he is himself, ‘a living being’ who was not supposed to know death. However, death has appeared in the world. Satan bears the responsibility for this upheaval, having seduced the human couple into spurning God’s command, assurance of immortality. The creator’s plan has been thwarted by sin. A day will come when Christ, (The Son of God) a human being who is the perfect image of God, whom Satan’s assaults will not be able to lead away from the Father’s plan, will, through his obedience, redeem the sin of the world and will conquer death. It is through faith in God’s promises and belief in His messiah, that salvation and reconciliation will come, through Christ’s death and resurrection and victory over death, and that Satan is utterly vanquished: he is tied; his domain plundered.

In today’s gospel reading we see Jesus performing two miraculous cures. One for a woman, who, for twelve years had suffered from a painful hemorrhage: the other a twelve-year-old girl who had died and was restored to life. Jesus as usual, is moved to compassion in the face of such suffering and grief. For by healing the sick and restoring to life Jairus’ daughter, Jesus reminds us that ‘God did not make death’

We should remember that all the wonderful things that Jesus did and His miraculous cures; while they record historical facts, they are, also lessons in how God works and invites us to enter, with gratitude, into His work of grace in our own lives and in the world today, and to continue the apostles mission of evangelization given to them by the Lord himself. It sometimes happens that we help people without realizing it: some word we say, some gesture we make; and they are deeply touched. This is God working through us, despite of ourselves. What we should also do, is always, try to be keenly aware of those times when God is giving us a nudge, and is leading us into an opportunity to help our neighbour. We should be aware of those who are searching for a relationship with God, and looking for that free gift of faith and lead them as best we can to God.

If we study a stained-glass window from the outside of a Church or a Cathedral, the window seems dead, leaden, and uninspiring. We may hardly be able to work out even the figures or the scene it represents. Consequently, if we do not know from experience, it could be hard to believe that this same window could be filled with richness, colour and beauty — when seen from the inside. From the outside, it is difficult to imagine how splendid this window can be. Yet from within the building, it can be breathtaking, as the sunlight passes through it and depicts the smallest detail. And, to truly experience this loveliness, we know we must open the doors of the Church and walk in.

This comparison of the extreme difference between seeing a stained-glass window from within or without can be experienced and applied to our faith, and to the faith of others who are searching.

So, through ’Evangelisation’ — we are asked to encourage others to know God’s love for them, by inviting them into the Church community, to pray, and to encounter Christ. To encounter Christ from the inside of the Church, where, like the stained-glass window, the light can shine through and they can see the beauty, and richness of our faith — to see the beauty and love of our God.

There is an enormous difference between having the God given gift of faith and being without it. (Even a lapsed faith). We can all be looking at the same life experiences, but we see it in a totally different way when it is seen it through the eyes of faith.

Today’s gospel reading is an illustration of this contrast. Both the concerned father (Jairus) and the suffering woman, have faith; they clearly see who Christ is, understand His significance, and commit themselves to Him.

Those who do not appreciate Christ’s meaning and purpose, however; laugh. They do not see with eyes of faith, so it seems ridiculous to them that our Lord’s healing power could be real. This is similar to the stained-glass window. Were we to describe the magnificence of the windows to someone standing outside, we might be subject to derision and disbelief, too. Seen only from the outside, the windows understandably appear drab and meaningless to them. Far better to take a look from the inside.

Of course, the times we live in and the country that we live in are different from the gospel stories. The times change and countries change, but the basic conditions in approaching Christ remain the same:

‘Come to me all you who labour and are overburdened and I will give you rest’ 

(Mt. 11:28). Jesus welcomes everybody saint or sinner. He gave His life for us all and conquered death by rising again, that we might all of us: [mankind ] through all time, might be saved, or at least have the opportunity to be saved.

The characters in the gospel today recognized this, and committed themselves to Him. So too, we on the one hand can believe and commit ourselves, and in doing so, wondrous things can then emerge in our faith, things that we are sure of, and can rely on. This was the choice facing both, Jairus and the suffering woman in today’s gospel. And we know that Christ welcomed them and responded to their commitment and their faith.

It’s evident then, if we never really commit ourselves to follow the Master, totally, then of course we will never experience the rich fulfilment of our faith. We will be like people standing outside looking up at the dark leadened windows: 

But we are not these people, we know better than that don’t we? —We know Our Blessed Lord is waiting for us, to walk through the door so He can shower his blessings and graces upon us, and so that the light we have been given in our baptism may shine for those people we meet, and they will know we are God’s children 

This light of Christ has already shone on us many times since we received it along with the gift of faith at baptism. Now God wants His light to shine through us,’ He wants us to take someone by the hand, someone who stands on the outside looking in, so that they too may have the opportunity to experience the indescribable richness of our faith. So that His light may also shine on them.

‘Your words are spirit Lord, and they are life: You have the message of eternal life.’