Sunday Sermon for July 1, 2012, the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Readings: Wis 1:13-15, 2:23-24; 2Cor 8:7, 9. 13-15; Mk 5:21-43
In the first reading we are told that God did not create death nor does He rejoice in the destruction of the living. Instead, the reading goes on, God made man to be imperishable, but through the envy of the devil death entered into the world. We know, as the reading also tells us, that God made us in His image and likeness. One aspect of this fact that we do not often consider is that this includes the immortality with which we were created.
Our souls are immortal and always have been, but in the beginning Adam and Eve were created with the grace to never die physically. They squandered this grace for themselves and for their offspring by reaching out to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil instead of reaching out to the tree of life.
The devil had chosen death from before the world began. The Church does not teach exactly what occurred, but the most commonly held idea suggests that before the angels were admitted into paradise God tested them by showing them a woman and her baby. The Baby, Who is God, became lower than the angels by taking a human nature to Himself. The woman, who was lower than the angels by nature, was elevated to a position higher than the angels. To Satan the humility of God and the exaltation of humanity seemed illogical and, therefore, unacceptable.
He chose death and would spend the rest of eternity apart from God. Still angry that we could have what he had given up through his pride, Satan became envious and wanted the destruction of the human race by the same means he chose: reject the gift of God.
The ultimate gift of God is Jesus. What is most remarkable is that if God does not rejoice in the destruction of the living, He chose to become one of us so that He could die, or be destroyed, so that we could live. God actually rejoices in this because it was done purely in love so that the life we had lost could be restored. God does not rejoice in the death of His human creatures, but He rejoices in the death of His own Son so that His human creatures might live.
This is the gracious act of which St. Paul writes in the second reading when he reminds us that Jesus, though He was rich became poor for our sake, so that by His poverty we might become rich. This richness is not understood in monetary terms, but must be understood spiritually. He chose to share our human nature so that He could have the capacity to die. In turn, He gives us a share in His divine nature so that we could have the capacity for eternal life.
We marvel at the works of our Lord, such as the healing of the woman with the hemorrhage or the raising of the little girl from the dead that are contained in today’s Gospel reading. While these are wonderful events, we must remember that they were only for this lifetime and that both of these women would still have to enter into death. Through His death and resurrection, Jesus has destroyed the power of death forever.
This means that we have the ability to live, even now, in the manner God intended at the beginning. Obviously we can not be like Adam and Eve before they sinned, but it does mean that we can live in accordance with our true dignity, we can treat others with charity and respect, and we can have the faith and confidence in God that allow us to reject the lies of the evil one who wishes to take us away from God. We no longer need to fear death nor the devil because neither of them has any ultimate power over us.
The devil is still envious and wants to take away our peace, our confidence and our trust. He cannot have what we have so he wants to take it away from us so that we will become like him. We need to reject him and all of his lies. We have been given life and truth the One Who is Life and Truth Himself. Adam and Eve rejected the gifts of God because something else seemed to provide more immediate benefits.
In a pleasure oriented, immediate gratification society like our own, it would be very easy to trade in what is spiritual for what is material and eternal life with God for the “good life” during our time on earth. What the devil is offering does not bring happiness, fulfillment or contentment. The devil would not be envious unless we had something beyond what he could provide. Reject his lies and choose the gifts of God.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.