St. John Fisher Roman Catholic Church

30 Jones Hollow Road, Marlborough, CT 06447

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time B21

“God did not make death nor does rejoice in the destruction of the living. “[1]

That statement should put to rest one thing I sometimes hear at wakes/funerals, “It’s God’s will”. That statement makes God a scapegoat, responsible for anything we consider evil. (Act of God story)

One thing Scripture shouts to us is that God does not see physical infirmity, illness or death as part of God’s plan for us. The author of Genesis believed in a life-giving, creative, good God. Notice that God didn’t forbid the man and the woman from eating of the tree of immortality. Yet, they were faced with the reality of pain and death. Where did it come from? Not from God, but from the couple and their sin of disobedience. And so, God had to alter the plan of immortality, not abandon it.  Throughout the Old Testament we find a caring God who continually offers life, who cures, heals and even raises from the dead particularly  through the prophets. This is further emphasized in the New Testament ministry of Jesus who went about doing good, healing, touching the lepers, reaching out to people shunned because of physical and/or spiritual illness, and even restoring people to wholeness in the case of the woman and to life in the case of the young girl as we heard in today’s Gospel. In doing so, Jesus was showing us that God abhors illness and death more than we do.

Where does death come from then? The Wisdom author says it’s the result of the envy of the devil (Wisdom 2:23-24).But, the devil only has power because we can sin. In our free will, we can choose spiritual death over life, separation from God instead of union. Does this mean that illness or death is the direct result of sins I or you commit? NO! That view would picture God as some vindictive power just waiting around for us to mess up so He could swoop down to nail us. I can’t accept that. Instead, illness and death are the result of the overall state of Sin with a capital “S” in our world, the sinfulness that pervades it and causes its imperfections.

Finally, however, we are faced with a mystery. If God can heal and overcome death in individual cases, why doesn’t he do it for all? Why are some people healed, and others are not? Some would say it’s the result of their personal faith. After all in today’s Gospel (Mk 5:21-43) Jesus did say to the woman that it was her faith that cured her. But, unfortunately some would conclude that if a person is not healed, it is because he/she doesn’t have enough faith. I cannot accept that as well. There are some very faith-filled people, even some of whom the Church recognizes as saints, who suffer with illness. Why? We just don’t know. I certainly don’t. I wish I did, but I don’t. And that makes it at times all the harder for people who are grieving and those trying to console them. When the 3 friends went to console Job and saw how great he was suffering, they only sat with him, not saying a word. Their presence spoke loudly enough.

What I and all of us must finally believe is that our God is not capricious or vindictive. God is a God of life and love. I believe that totally and deeply. All we can do is listen to and live Christ’s counsel in today’s Gospel:  "Do not be afraid; just have faith.” (Mk 5: 36), or in previous translation: “Fear is useless. What is needed is trust.”

 

[1] Wisdom 1: 13

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