“Everyone wants to go to heaven but, no one wants to die”. This statement of a wit brings out the fear that many have of death. However, the readings of today, though they speak about death, regard death as something that is not to be feared if one believes in a God who is the giver and sustainer of life.
The first reading, from the Book of Wisdom, makes this point emphatically when it states that death cannot be part of God’s plan because God does not act only to see his work end in corruption. The purpose of creation is not death, but life, and the natural orientation of all created things is life. This is true especially of humans who alone are created in the image and likeness of God. Thus, death is not natural and comes about when one stifles the life that God gives.
That God gives life and sustains it is brought out even more powerfully in the Gospel text of today. Mark uses here what is known as “sandwich construction”. He introduces the incident about Jairus’ daughter being ill and even at the point of death but, he interrupts it with the cure of the woman with the flow of blood. Then, he continues the incident of Jairus’ daughter, who is now dead, whom Jesus raises from the dead. The reason for the sandwich construction seems to be to heighten the suspense for the reader. Since Jairus’ daughter is at the “point of death”, Jesus must not tarry, but hurry, if she is to be saved. Yet, Jesus tarries because he knows that the basic orientation of the human is not death, but life, and that God’s power over death will prevail. Jesus tarries, confident in the knowledge that he can, indeed, raise the dead. Jesus tarries because he knows that he is the giver of life. This gift of life is given, not only to Jairus’ daughter but, also to the woman with the flow of blood who, though not dead, had reached a stage when she was tempted to give up on life. She had reached the end of her tether; her last hope was the Lord. She was not disappointed. She received healing. She received life.
The Psalmist sings the words that the woman, Jairus, and his daughter, would have wanted to sing. They have indeed been rescued by the Lord. He has liberated them from all bondage. He has saved them from death.
What is responsible for this turn of events? Is it the power of God alone? Is it God acting of his own accord and solely according to his will? The answer is an emphatic “NO”. It is evident, in both the first reading and in the Gospel, that it is faith in God’s life giving and sustaining power, and in the action of God, which is responsible. This is made so clear in the Gospel when Jesus attributes the healing of the woman to her faith and exhorts Jairus not to fear but, to believe.
That the force of faith and the power of God become manifest in the life of Christians is narrated in the second reading of today. Indeed, thanks to the power of faith, they were able to overcome ethnic and cultural barriers and express their fraternal charity to others. They were able to reach out and take concrete action to address other’s material needs in imitation of Jesus. It is a faith that manifested itself, not only in words but in action.
The challenge of the readings of today may be summed up in the words “persevering faith”. This means that there may be numerous times when we are faced with death-like situations. These are situations when, like the woman in the gospel story, we have done all that is required of us and there seems to be nothing more that we can do. These are situations when, like Jairus, we have nowhere to turn. It is at times like these when we may tend to give up and give in. However, like the woman, and like Jairus, we are called never to give up or give in because the God we believe in is a God of everything that is positive, a God who never gives up on us, a God of life. Since he is also a God who gives and does not hold anything back, we who are created in his image and likeness cannot live selfish, self-centered lives. Like Paul invited the Corinthians, we, too, are invited to live lives filled with faith, a faith which is shown in action.