13th Sun [B] 2009

Fr. Charles Irvin

Wisdom 1:13-15,2:23-24; 2 Corinthians 8:7-15; Mark 5:21-43
 
What happened to the twelve year old girl who was raised by Jesus from the dead? What happened in the life of the woman who was cured? And what happened to those who knew them? Surely the woman told the story of her healing to her children and grandchildren. Surely the girl’s teenage friends heard of her story and shared her story among their friends. We can only speculate about the impact these miracles had in the lives of those who knew the girl and the woman.
 
Was there an effect of Christ’s miracles in the spiritual lives of the relatives and friends of the girl and the woman? The marvelous love God has shown us in our lives is intended to effect not simply ourselves alone but those around us as well. Our religion is communal, not just individual.
 
Events make their impact on us. When we look around us we see that the war against terrorism is long and it 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 terrorists will bleed us for years to come.
 
The events in Iran certainly come to mind. Those events will have a significant impact on people living all over the world. Why? Because the story of Iran’s people is a human story, one in which people anywhere can see themselves, particularly in terms of freedom, human dignity, and the idea that we all have a stake in human rights. Every human being has value and that value needs to be respect by any and all governments.
 
Those who promote materialistic life styles will continue in their efforts to ridicule and demean those who pay attention to living spiritual lives. The entertainment business drowns us with television and movie shows filled with sex and violence, hardly ever giving us images of heroes and heroines who uplift our human spirits. Ask yourself this question: How is the Church portrayed in movies and in television shows? How are priests portrayed, in positive images or in negative?
 
Given this list of forces that effect us, a list that is by no means complete, is it any wonder that many of us feel depressed and spiritually drained? Is it any wonder that having faith is seemingly more difficult these days? Floods of bad news wash over us sweeping away the psychological and spiritual internal structures that, in the past, have protected us and sustained us. Many people find their spiritual lives are bleeding away or have died.
 
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 or for belonging to the Catholic Church?
 
It is in this context that the Church puts before us today’s first reading along with the 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.
 
Sacred Scripture reveals that God has not been 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 saviors 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 us for having faith in Jesus Christ living successful lives? Are they sacrificing themselves for the sake of others, or are they living only to greedily grasp and acquire 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 healed and 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 in that, because of our faith, find our cures and our salvation. God and God alone is the One who can save us. Human experience gives ample testimony that we cannot. Like the little girl and the woman in today’s gospel account, we need Christ’s saving power and love.
 
Will we seek Him as did those we heard about in today’s Gospel account?

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.”