Saturday, June 26, 2021

Why are You Afraid?


 Why are You Afraid?

Based on the readings for the Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B, which are Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24; Psalm: 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11, 12, 13; 2 Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13-15; Mark 5:21-24, 35b-43

The readings for this weekend tell us that God does not  delight in death of the living because  we were created for incorruption. And as the psalm says, even those who have died, God extends a hand to draw them out of Sheol or the place of death. All of this is graphically illustrated when Jesus dismisses the crowd who are making a commotion and weeping, and raises a 12 year old girl from the dead.

To understand these three readings we must consider them in light of what we have learned from scripture since Easter, where Jesus himself was raised from the dead by God, his Father. As Saint Paul would later write. “Where O death is your sting now?”( 1 Cor. 15.5)

So what have we heard. What lessons were contained in the scripture passages we read since Easter? As you will recall, immediately after a series of gospels confirm Jesus’ resurrection by reporting his appearances to his disciples, the Church sets aside four Sundays, which invites us to reflect on some pretty heavy duty theology about Jesus’ identity: Ascension Sunday, Trinity Sunday, Pentecost, Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.

If we look beyond the theology that scholars spend time analyzing, we see Jesus' essential message to us, which is as follows:  Jesus promised before he ascended back to heaven, “I will be with you always.” Then he gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit, which we all receive in baptism  and confirmation, and finally the gift of his incorruptible physical presence that we receive in the Eucharist. As you can see, Jesus did not leave us alone to fend for ourselves.

Since there is a chance we might overlook this message that Jesus is with us always, the three Sundays, culminating with today’s scripture passages, give us  three practical illustrations to help see how to live that knowledge.

This recent cycle of readings, which began on the Eleventh Sunday of Ordinary Time, recalls the parable of the mustard seed. Here we can hear the words of Saint Paul who explained to the people in Corinth, now that you excel in faith, you must also excel in imitating Jesus, who became poor so that by his poverty we might be rich. In other words, the faith given to us in baptism will grow into something exceptional only if we imitate Jesus, who gives himself fully to us.

How we give growth to the mustard seed is illustrated in the Mark's gospel from the Twelfth Sunday of Ordinary Time.  In this passage Jesus and his disciples are in a boat and when a windstorm came up threatening their lives, his disciples call on Jesus to save them. Jesus responds to them by asking: “Why are you afraid?” It is a question that is directed to all future generations because Jesus wants everyone to know that if I am with you always, there is nothing to fear. An idea that moved Saint Pope John Paul II to repeat often throughout his pontificate: "Be not afraid for the Lord is with us."

Then today, when Jesus’ raises this young girl from death, he is illustrating how his resurrection is not a single incident in history, but that God who does not delight in death, will raise up from the dead all who believe in him.

As you can see when we view these readings in light of Easter and the scripture passages that follow, we are told there is never any reason to lose hope or panic. Jesus never does. Jesus is with us. We may at times think he is asleep, but he is with us through the rough times and dark passages and even in those days of great loss.

Knowing Jesus is with us always is the cornerstone of our faith, but it only excels when we express our faith by choosing to imitate Jesus by helping others from our abundance and gifts so that they never have to fear when trouble and even death threatens them.

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