13th Sun [B] 2006

Fr. Charles Irvin

Wisdom 1:13-15,2:23-24; 2 Corinthians 8:7,9,13-15; Mark 5:21-43

I’m going to begin this homily with a warning. The things I am about to share with you are depressing.

-         The war against terrorism is long and will continue for quite some time. If you are at all familiar with history you recognize that we are in a clash of civilizations that extends back some fourteen hundred years in time. The toll for fighting against Islamic terrorists will result in many more dead and maimed American soldiers over the years ahead, whether in Iraq or elsewhere.

-         Globalization is also taking its toll on us in the form of loss of jobs and in the shifting of our American economy away from being industrial based and into other economic bases.

-         Immigration problems will continue to confront us into the distant future. There are no quick fix solutions to these problems.

-         New strains of disease will face us as our globalized populations continue to intermingle at an ever-increasing rate. Avian flu is but one example. There will be more.

-         What we know of as the traditional family and our traditional understanding of marriage will continue to be challenged as alternative life-styles and relationships gain momentum by force of law.

Given this list of things, a list that is by no means complete, is it any wonder that many of us are depressed? Is it any wonder that having faith is seemingly more difficult? Extensive waves of bad news wash over us like the tsunami that swept through southeast Asia a year and a half ago. These waves of news can sweep away the psychological and spiritual internal structures that, in the past, have protected us and sustained us.

How can we have faith in the face of all of these things? How can we withstand the withering sarcasm and ridicule of those who laugh at us for being believing Christians and for belonging to the Catholic Church?

It is in this context that the Church puts before us today’s first reading and Gospel reading we just heard. We need to step away from all that’s happening in our world and take a few moments to reflect on the big picture. Things too specific can capture our attention and take our eyes away from the greater reality that’s out there in our world.

In the first reading we are confronted with the problem of evil and reminded that evil does not come from the heart of God, it comes from the heart of darkness. Evil finds its origins in hearts far removed from God’s light and love. The Book of Wisdom reminds us that: 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; and the creatures of the world are wholesome, and there is not a destructive drug among them nor any domain of the netherworld on earth, for justice is undying. For God formed man to be imperishable;
the image of his own nature he made him. But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world, and they who belong to his company experience it.

God was not willing to tolerate the miseries and evils that beset the human soul, nor is he willing to tolerate them now. But to take a hold of God’s power and love for us we must first recognize that death, debilitating illnesses, and all that besets us in our world shatter the illusion that we have control over life. Technology and political power cannot save us. We only have a tenuous hold on life and have little control over it. We simply must turn to the Lord of life.

To encounter Jesus’ power over life we have to place ourselves in the shoes of the hemorrhaging woman. We must also recognize ourselves in the daughter of Jairus. Both were hidden, little people. In the eyes of the world they were small and insignificant – just like we are. Like the hemorrhaging woman our faith, our trust, and our hopes are being drained out of us. Years of seeking cures from professionals have availed us nothing. Like the woman in today’s gospel, our condition has only been made worse. 

We need to notice, too, that when Jesus approached the little girl, declaring that she was not dead, there were people around him who laughed at him. They ridiculed him.

Sound familiar? Are not there those around you who in your lives laugh at you and ridicule you for having faith? For being a Catholic? Those whose opinions are broadcast and published in the media have little that’s good to say about Christianity and about the Catholic Church as well.

Ask yourselves this question: Are those who mock you for having faith in Jesus Christ living successful lives? Are they sacrificing themselves for the sake of others, or are they living only to grasp, acquire, and have those things they think will make them happy? Who has a better chance at overcoming the evil and all that’s wrong in our world, you or those who mock you?

Both of these healings are not just physical healings, at a much deeper level they are spiritual healings. Overcoming fear and approaching God in faith leads not only to being cured but also to being saved. Notice Jesus’ final words to the woman were “Daughter, your faith has saved you.”

We, too, need to be saved. Doubt, disappointment, disillusionment, depression, defeat, despair, and spiritual death bedevil us. They are the “sacraments” of the devil, his weapons to attack us. To overcome them we need to draw close to Jesus, let him touch us, and there, because of our faith, find our cure and our salvation. God and God alone is the One who can save us. Human experience gives ample testimony that we cannot.

About Charles Irvin

Fr. Charlie was ordained a priest June 3, 1967 and has served as pastor of St. Mary Student Chapel in Ann Arbor, founded Holy Spirit parish in Hamburg, MI, served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Ann Arbor and was pastor of St. Mary parish in Manchester, MI when he entered Senior Priest status in 2001. In 1999 he was appointed Founding Editor of FAITH Magazine which has grown into Faith Catholic Publishing located in Lansing, MI. He is now very active in his “retirement.”