Our Scriptures this week focus on the most uncomfortable of topics---death, the most dreaded of all realities. That is why it is important to listen carefully to the reading from Wisdom and apply it to today’s Gospel story. From the Book of Wisdom we hear: “God formed humankind to be imperishable.” This belief came to life in the person of Jesus. Through his death and resurrection, he ended the finality of death and gave us hope that death is not the end of life, but passage to life everlasting.
Jesus’ power to defeat death and reclaim life is powerfully illustrated by Mark’s account of the raising to life of the daughter of Jairus, the synagogue official. Because Jairus believed that Jesus had the power to confront and defeat death, his daughter was returned to life. “Little Girl, I say to you, arise” was Jesus’ command, and that is what Jesus is saying to each of us. We are to hear our own name and the names of all who have gone before us. Church of the world, arise---Church of Kenosha, arise---Assembly of St. Mary, arise! It is that faith and confidence that allows us to celebrate life even in the face of death.
The basis of that belief is grounded in the life and actions of Jesus himself. From the meditations of Hildegard of Bingen, we hear these words of assurance: “I am that supreme and fiery force that sends forth all living sparks. Death has no part in me…I am that living and fiery essence of the divine that glows in the beauty of the fields, and in the shining water and in the burning sun and moon and stars and in the force of the invisible wind, the breath of all living things. …All these live and do not die because I am in them…I am the source of the thundered Word by which all creatures were made. I permeate all things that they may not die. I am life.”
We, as followers of Jesus, represent life when we speak out against all the ways that life is challenged: against poverty, class conflict, unequal opportunity, abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, racism, and irresponsible use of genetic resources and prejudice of every kind. That’s the Gospel message today. Arise from hatred! Arise from blindness! Arise from smallness! Arise from prejudice! And arise from fear!
Jesus is Lord of life at every moment along its spectrum. He exists within all life and sustains life forever. As Pope Francis reminds us, God is not only the creator of life, but through him “the divine and human meet in the slightest detail in the seamless garment of God’s creation and that everything in the world is connected.”
Yet death remains a difficult focus for us so we come Sunday after Sunday to remember and rehearse those Gospel hopes that will make death a more comfortable reality. Jesus, who told the crowd there was nothing to mourn, would soon not be free to take a child’s hand and raise her up. His sacrifice generates our hope. Thomas Merton reminded us “until we love God perfectly, everything in the world will be able to hurt us…the things he has created attract us to him and yet keep us away from him.” We come in hope to be fed at the Table of the One who not only said, “I say to you, arise,” but also said to the crowd, “Give her something to eat.” Until we return to our Father, that is our task.
----Deacon Wilson Shierk