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Monday, July 2, 2018

God Did Not Make Death (13th Sunday, Cycle B)

To listen to this homily, click here.

 “God did not make death” we hear in the first reading. Ok, that is comforting, but if God didn’t make death, where did it come from? The Book of Wisdom goes on to tell us that it entered the world through the devil’s envy. This is an interesting thought, which deserves our attention and reflection. First of all, let’s talk about envy, what it is and how it might bring about death. Each us, at some moment in our lives, have certainly desired what another person possesses. Our greedy eyes have looked at wealth or power or good looks or talent or strength or any number of other things. The success of others might sting and make us insecure. We might feel anger, fear, panic, and who knows what else.

Satan says. “Evil, be thou my good”! He choses envy, which brings death. Multiply that by a million. Now you see how the devil felt. He had been an archangel, perhaps the greatest being in God's creation, second only to God himself. But even the greatest angels had the possibility of rebelling against God. Lucifer (meaning “light-bearer”), as he was called before his sin, was dazzled by God's infinite greatness. However Lucifer did not like being second fiddle in comparison to the infinite God! So he developed an envy of God! An envy, which turned into a hatred of God’s goodness. A bottomless hatred. Like opposing poles of magnets, his opposition to God propelled him straight out of heaven, which the Book of Revelation describes as an epic battle between Lucifer and his forces against St. Michael and the angels who remained obedient to God.

He landed on earth with a thud. Shame, bitterness and rage propelled him through the Garden of beauty God had created. This former light-bearer now walked in stunned darkness amidst shimmering beauty, intricacy and innocence. He came upon the most touching sight of all and it froze him in his tracks. He looked upon the first human beings, pure, innocent, and marked by God’s own loving hand. They were “imperishable, and made in God’s own image,” the First Reading says. 

The father of lies, in his woundedness, must have been filled with anger and jealous rage at the mere sight of Adam and Eve. Instead of loving them, as he was created to do, he wanted them to be as unhappy as he was (and still is). He was about to introduce death to the world by turning our first parents against God, just as he had turned against God. This “Original Sin” would create a broken world, a wounded relationship between humanity and God. We know how the story goes. And we gather here each and every week to thank God for not giving up on them or on us. We adore Him for redeeming our envious, prideful hearts through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.

Creating life is very different from fostering envy of God or his reflection as we see it in other people. Jesus shows us what a human life looks like without jealousy and envy. St. John tells us in the beginning of his gospel that what came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race. 

Jesus, even though he was Divine, was humble and content to be himself. He was not hostile or insecure in any way. He grieved for others instead of for himself. In today’s Gospel, Jairus’ daughter is just “asleep,” he says. The crowd laughs. Asleep! What is this guy talking about? He must be crazy!” But, He had been united forever in the loving community of the Holy Trinity, Jesus knew that love is stronger than death. And so he walked through their ridicule, woke the dead girl, and nestled her into the deep rich love that had created her at the first moment of her existence. That is what a love, completely free of envy is capable of doing.

To go back to where we started in the first reading, we recall that Satan saw the goodness and love of God and instead of rejoicing and humbly adoring Him in awe and wonder, he was filled with envy. He didn't’’t want to serve God, he wanted to be God. Satan choses envy, which ends up bringing death and suffering not only to himself but to the human race as well. Compare that to the person of Jesus, who rejoices in the goodness and love of God and humbly shares it with the whole world. His Love brings life!

Take time this weekend to contemplate which side I choose to belong. Am I a grateful, gracious, generous person, who thanks God constantly for the blessings showered upon me? Do I also rejoice in the goodness he shares with others around me? Can I be happy when others succeed, become rich, or experience good fortune? Or am I filled with envy, sadness, bitterness, and rage? The path of gratitude and rejoicing will always bring life, peace, and joy. Choosing envy will only end in the same destruction and unhappiness experienced by Satan and his army. May our hearts echo the words of the Psalm today, “I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me. O LORD, my God, forever will I give you thanks.”