Life & Soul

Word this week

The Raising of the Daughter of Jairus, by Gabriel von Max (1840–1915)

The 13th Sunday of the Year
Wis 1:13-15 & 2:23-24; 2 Cor 8:7, 9 & 13-15; Mk 5:21-43 (Year B)

“Death was not God’s doing, he takes no pleasure in the extinction of the living.” Like the author of the Book of Wisdom, we sometimes struggle with tragedies that seem to contradict our understanding of God as a loving and caring Father. The first anniversary of the Grenfell Tower disaster reminded us that we are never far from innocent suffering and death.

However strong our faith, the death of a loved one overwhelms us with an unimaginable emptiness, an emptiness that cries out to God and that cannot make sense of life’s cruelty.

The Book of Wisdom searched for answers in an understanding of God’s original creation, and the purpose for which it was intended. The Book of Genesis concluded its first creation narrative with God looking on all that he had created, and judging that “indeed it was very good”. Wisdom expands this further to explain that disease and death were no part of this original creation: “For he created all things that they might exist, and the origins of the world are wholesome, and there is no destructive power in them.”

Instinct, even in the darkest moments, believes that death cannot be the end of everything. The heart clings to the hope that love and goodness can never die.

The Book of Wisdom takes this thought further, stating clearly that we were not created for death: “God made man
imperishable, he made him in the image of his own nature; it was the Devil’s envy that brought death into the world.” In ways that we cannot understand, sin has undermined the beauty and harmony of God’s creation. What had been intended for life became suffering and death.

The life and death of the Son of God were nothing less than a new creation. It is for this reason that the Gospels emphasise that in his miracles of healing and raising the dead, Jesus was inaugurating a kingdom in which there would be no more suffering, no more death. Thus Mark’s detailed account of the healing of the woman suffering from a
longstanding illness, and the raising of Jairus’s daughter, are aimed directly at ourselves.

As sinners, we struggle with the frailties that cling to us like chronic illness. We are not unlike the woman who had spent her substance seeking for a cure. As Jairus mourned for the death of his daughter, so we mourn for all that sin has destroyed within us.

We, no less than Jairus, long for what has died within us. In dying, Jesus took our death and frailty to himself, making the death we share with him the beginning of a new creation.