Pain. Suffering. Death. Ever since the fall of Adam and Eve, it’s been part of life on earth. What is death? Quite simply, it is an absence of life. It is separation from the Source of Life. Try as we might, humans cannot generate life from nothing – we can manipulate it in a lab, but we cannot create it. Only God can create life. We learn in the first reading of Sunday from the book of Wisdom 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…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.
Most of us know first-hand the feeling of death. For death does not just mean physical decay and death of the body. We can be spiritually dead. We have restless hearts, says St. Augustine, and they remain restless until the rest in God. But we seek to be our own masters, our own judges of good and evil. We want to make the rules. We are people in denial, for we realize we are subject to God’s rules in the physical world all around us – objectively we know that “what goes up, must come down”, that an object in motion tends to stay at motion and one at rest tends to stay at rest, and so on. We cannot control the rising or setting of the sun. If we cannot write and change the laws of nature, why should we think that we can write the rules for our moral and spiritual life? But, instead of seeking God, the source of all life, we seek pleasure, money, power…and we remain separated from God: the walking dead, spiritually speaking.
I will extol you, O Lord, for you drew me clear
and did not let my enemies rejoice over me.
O Lord, you brought me up from the netherworld;
you preserved me from among those going down into the pit.
– Psalm 30
But God loves us madly. “As I live,” says the Lord, I swear I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked man, but rather in the wicked man’s conversion, that he may live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! Why should you die, O house of Israel?” It is our choice whether we stay in death until we destroy ourselves, or turn to God and regain true life. God showed us the ultimate act of love when His son, Jesus, became poor, that is, became a man, suffered, died and rose again, so that we might be made rich, that is, have life.
The Gospel reading illustrates this turning, this transformation, with the story of the hemorrhaging woman and the daughter of the synagogue official. The hemorrhaging woman had suffered for 12 years. It is interesting to note two things: 1) in ancient Jewish tradition, blood contained the life of a person – this woman’s life was leaving her; and 2) she had suffered this way for 12 years – again, in Jewish tradition, “12” is a number representing wholeness, completion. So, in a sense, her dying was complete. And there was nothing the doctors could do for her. So she turned to Jesus with faith that He could heal her, if she could just touch Him. He didn’t even need to speak to her or recognize her existence. She just needed to touch the hem of His garment. And we learn that she was healed by her faith.
This remarkable event took place while Jesus was on his way to a synagogue official’s home to see his 12-year old daughter (there’s the number “12” again). On their way, they are told that they are too late; she’s dead. Jesus comforts the man and they continue on to his house. When they arrive, Jesus takes the girl’s hand and tells her to rise, which she does, much to the astonishment of those present. Jesus is not only a healer, He brings the dead back to life.
We all have dark places in our lives where darkness still holds dominion. Places we have not turned over to Jesus and His healing touch. Sins and vices we still commit without realizing the full import of what we are doing. When we choose death over life, when we commit sin, we may think it’s not a big deal or doesn’t affect others, but we are snuffing out a little of the light of life God wants to give to us and those around us. On the other hand, when we choose life, when we seek to know God’s will and humble ourselves to learn His teachings, when we choose to love God and love our neighbors with kindness and truth, we are set free, brought to life, and the light of God shines more brightly.
So what do we do when we seem to be surrounded by darkness? Turn to God. Pray and seek Him more fervently. Practice the virtues more readily and keep a holy fear of contributing to the darkness by falling into sin. Trust in God’s infinite love and mercy when you do fall – take refuge in the sacraments, especially the Blessed Sacrament and the sacrament of confession. And, sharing in Jesus’ thirst for the salvation of souls, proclaim to others by word and deed the reason you have hope – give them Jesus and tell them the good news of the Gospel. Sin and Death does not have the last word. For after the death of Friday, comes the triumph of life on Sunday.