Homilies

July 2, 2024

13th Sunday of Ordinary Time, 6/20/24

Abbot Placid Solari

The passage from today’s gospel that always jumped out for me is the one containing Jesus’ words. Just after the people had told Jairus, “your daughter has died. Why troubles the teacher any longer?” The gospel tells us that Jesus disregarded the message and told Jairus, “Do not be afraid. Just have faith.”

It is those words—”do not be afraid. Just have faith.”—that I propose for our consideration this morning. The text doesn’t tell us what Jairus’ reaction to the message of his daughter’s death was, though we can probably imagine it. We don’t know whether he was afraid or devastated or both. There is every reason he should have been. Jairus had come begging Jesus to come and lay his hands on his daughter, that she may get well and live. He was distraught over his daughter’s illness, but now she was dead.

Jairus must have thought it was useless now, and possibly agreed that there was no sense in bothering Jesus further, because what could he possibly do now? From this point on, the text focuses on Jesus. Now through Jairus, it shows us how Jesus continues on the errand Jairus had asked of him.

The result is indeed that Jairus’ daughter gets well, but certainly in a manner far different than what her parents could have hoped, expected, or even imagined. Thus it was that Jesus told him, “Just have faith,” because what Jesus was going to do was beyond Jairus.

What of us when we bring Jesus our urgent requests? Do we have sufficient faith simply to leave our request with him, trusting that Jesus will arrange what is best for all concerned? For example, in the account of the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin, when Mary asks, “How can this possibly be?” the angel Gabriel tells her simply that nothing will be impossible for God. Mary had faith in those words, and because she trusted she is the mother of God.

Do we have faith? In short, do we believe that Jesus is the Son of God, the Savior of the world and the Lord? That level of faith is difficult, for it means we have to step away from our illusion that we are actually in control of things. We can all think of instances where we have prayed most fervently for something which did not work out as we asked. The temptation is to believe that God doesn’t care, or worse, there’s nothing God can do about it. We forget that when Jesus was in his agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, when he prayed most insistently that this cup passed him by, God’s answer to his own beloved son was “no.”

It was not because the Father did not care or that he was impotent to help. It was because God had a greater good and purpose in mind. Jesus trusted his father. He had faith and became obedient even unto death, death on a cross, and thus destroyed forever the power of sin and death. Does our faith survive when God’s answer to us is “no”? I think we find it difficult.

We are, of course, confident when we ask for whatever we ask for that we have figured out the best possible outcome for what we ask for in prayer. We know what we want and what ought to happen. When that outcome is not realized we tend to be certain there can be no better option when we despair or become cynical. Jairus at least allowed Jesus to continue on the journey to his home, even though he likely felt that it was all useless now because his daughter was obviously beyond help.

 

But Jesus brought his daughter to life again. We’re gathered here this morning because we say we believe that Jesus himself, having died on the cross for our sins, was raised to life, never to die again. We believe that he offers to share that life with us and restore God’s plan for us, as it was in the beginning.

We were instructed on that and our first reading today:

God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living. For God formed man to be imperishable in the image of his own, which he made.

Do we believe that these words of the scriptures are divinely inspired and given up to us precisely to help us discern the meaning of our lives and meanings of whole world? Or do we think they’re just a nice sounding sentimental phrase, such as we might choose on a greeting card at the drugstore? Certainly, we should pay attention to the final words of our first reading: “But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world, and they who belong to his company experience it.”

We have been so immersed, I’m afraid, in a culture of death, a culture without hope, that we’ve become numb to it. We are seemingly resigned to endless unjust wars, to terrorist lawlessness. We no longer recognize every human being as a direct creation of the good God, the image of his own nature.

Instead of a search for the truth of things that we ought to follow, we make our individual wants, and human wills are tainted inevitably by the effects of sin. We make our individual wants the foundation of our pretended rights. Our individual will, with its desire for power and control, has become supreme and without a reverence for truth. Without God, the will, with its desire for power, will inevitably spiral down into violence.

But we are here today to renew our faith in Jesus Christ, our risen Lord. If we believe that, then when things do not work out as we think they should in our lives, we ought perhaps to stop for a moment and recall that God’s goodness and wisdom is not bound by our brief lifespan, that God’s love and wisdom is infinite, and that ultimately our life, each of our lives, has an eternal destiny.

This knowledge can ease the sufferings of this life and assure that the good things of this life will endure forever. However, if we are not convinced of the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come, we will not think in terms of eternal life. We will simply be afraid to die and thus be convinced that everything must work out well now, or else it’s hopeless. We will feel like Jairus must have felt after the message is told him that his daughter had already died.

Jesus fortunately disregarded that message. But if we do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which is the very heart of the good news, the Gospel, if we do not believe his words, that his body and blood, which we are here to receive, are the food of imperishable life, then we will ultimately have to live in fear of death.

And driven by this fear, we will feel that everything is up to us to manage for a good outcome. But if there is no resurrection, there is no good outcome. The only good is to maximize my control, to assure my own pleasure and comfort however I want to define it. Forget everybody else! Actions based solely on fear are never good.

The woman in today’s Gospel suffering from a hemorrhage was afraid because of her bleeding. She was ritually unclean and made anyone whom she touched unclean. Should it become known that she, an unclean woman, had dared not only to come into the crowd, but even to reach out and touch Jesus, the result would have been outrage, anger, humiliation, and quite possibly bodily harm for her.

However, she had heard about Jesus and she believed that God was present in him and could heal her, and that faith gave her courage to act. Courage to act, even though she had not received yet the news of his resurrection from the dead, because that hadn’t occurred.

When she knew that she had been healed, she could have slipped away quietly. Instead, even though the text tells us that it was in fear and trembling, she came forward at peril to herself and confessed the truth of what Jesus had done for her. This woman believed, as I said, even before Jesus’ death and glorious resurrection from the dead.

Would we, who have heard the good news that God has raised Jesus, have the same courage to come forward and witness to the truth in the face of shame, humiliation, or danger?

As we celebrate the Sunday resurrection of our Lord and Savior from the dead, let us ask for the gift of that faith, that his resurrection may be the guide for all our decisions and our actions.

Let us ask that we not be afraid, but simply have the trust the Gospel exemplifies.

Let us ask to grow in trust that Jesus does care for me and will provide for my welfare beyond my imagination, knowing that that welfare can be truly judged only in relation to our eternal life.

If we can do that, we would then have the fulfillment of our prayer at the beginning of this Mass, namely, that we “may not be wrapped in the darkness of error, but always be seen to stand in the bright light of truth.”

Likewise, by following Saint Paul’s instruction to us today to share generously the good things God has provided for us, we will have a treasure in heaven and receive what we will pray for after receiving the Lord’s body and blood today, namely, that through God’s lasting charity, we may bear fruit that lasts forever.

And then we will in fact have peace in this life, and even in the face of life’s many challenges, even in the face of our own death, we will guide our choices in light of that promise of the Apostle: “What eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him.”

That’s what Jesus revealed to Jairus and his wife today.

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