Sunday Sermon for June 28, 2015, 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
“Do not be afraid; just have faith.” These are the words our Lord spoke to the parents of the little girl when they had been told that their daughter had just died. In the context of the passage, our Lord was going to raise the little girl from death and restore her to her parents. However, the phrase has many other applications in our day to day life.
There are so many people dealing with a multitude of fears today. Perhaps the greatest is the fear of death. The first reading tells us that death came into the world through the envy of the devil. In other words, God did not create death nor was it intended to be part of the natural state of the human person. However, just because God did not create death does not imply that He cannot use it for a greater good. For instance, death becomes the means to eternal life. Knowing this, one would think that anyone with faith would not be afraid of death; rather, one would expect Christian people to embrace it as the passage that leads to Heaven.
Even with this in mind, there are many who are afraid to die. We have to consider why that would be. The easy answer is that we are lacking in faith, but I do not think that is a sufficient answer. I think we have to look at two other aspects of the equation that tend to cause us a fair amount of trouble. First of all, death is entry into the unknown. True, we know some things about what happens during and after death, but because we have not experienced it before, it is basically unknown.
Another way to put this is that we are very vulnerable at that point; most of us do not like being vulnerable. In order to have peace while being placed in a vulnerable position, it requires that we have to trust another person to walk us through the situation. Beyond having to trust in the goodness of the person, that is, that the person will not hurt us or abandon us, it really does not require much else. We can see, hear, and touch the person.
When Jesus tells us to have faith it is more difficult in the sense that we cannot see Him, hear Him, or touch Him. Thankfully, we know who He is and we know that He is worthy of all trust, but the lack of sensory connection with Him can make this difficult. I think that the way we live today has made this even more problematic because our ability to communicate. When I was young, if someone was late in arriving, all we could do is wait and pray. Now, if someone is late, a cell phone can be used to call from almost anywhere at any time.
While this ease of communication is wonderful for our peace of mind, it has taken away any need for waiting, praying, trusting, etc. We know that we can communicate with God anywhere and at any time, but we would sure feel more at peace if He would answer or call us instead of us feeling like we are leaving a voicemail message. God requires trusting, waiting, praying, etc.
The other reason death is frightening for many people is the prospect of judgment. We know that we will all have to stand before God and be judged. However, if we really love Him, would we be afraid of Him? One who loves another will be careful not to offend the beloved. Perhaps we love our Lord now, but what about the past when we did many things to offend Him? All we have to do is go to confession and trust in His mercy that He will remove our sins. With the sins gone, we will have nothing to fear on Judgment Day.
If there is concern because the love of God is not where it should be in your life, I would suggest a few things. First of all, make prayer a central part of your daily life. Second, receive the Sacraments of Confession and Holy Communion often. Third, do as St. Paul suggests in the second reading and practice charity toward others. All of these things help us to overcome our selfish ways which, in turn, help us to be more trusting in God’s providence and allows us to be more comfortable when we are vulnerable with the Lord.
When we can achieve this state, which is possible only by the grace of God, we will not be afraid because we will have learned to let go and to trust the Lord completely. This will result in great peace both in life and in death. Do not be afraid; just have faith.
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.