July 1, 2012 – Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
The idea of spending any length of time contemplating death seems morbid. It is scary. And rightly so, for even the scriptures tell us that death is not of God.
“God did not make death, nor does He rejoice in the destruction of the living. For He fashioned all things that they might have being …” (first reading).
Yet, today’s readings highlight some of the wonderful aspects of the reality of death. While we recognize that God did not intend for us to die, nor does he delight in the death of any living thing, we are made aware of a remarkable reality — God brings good out of evil. In the case of death, he has brought unfathomable good out of something that entered the world by Satan’s actions: “But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world…” (first reading); “The child is not dead but asleep…” (Gospel). It is in that which we rejoice. It is upon that which we contemplate.
God in His infinite goodness, through Christ’s death and resurrection, made death — something that was brought about by sin and destruction — into something that serves as a point of departure for our complete glorification. Death is the beginning of our life in eternity, perfectly united to the Trinity. He sanctified death in a glorious way.
In the gospel today, we hear Christ encourage those mourning the death of the young girl. He assures them, “she is not dead. She is just asleep.” and while this gospel reading culminates in the miracle of the girl’s resurrection from the dead, “’Little girl I say to you, arise!’ The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around”; it speaks to us about the reality of death after Christ. It is not an end to life. We fall asleep as it were and awake refreshed in a life of glory.
Contemplating the subject of death, and the way in which Christ’s death and resurrection has transformed the reality of our own, brings to light the purpose of our life here and now.
We are made for God. We are made to live in perfect unity with Him. We will not experience such perfect unity until we reach the eternal kingdom, because we live in a fallen world wrought with sin, and sin is not of God. Yet, in many ways, we are able to experience unity with Him — imperfect though it may be – here and now.
As we pray, we are united to the Lord. When we celebrate Mass together, and participate in all of the sacraments, we are mystically united to God in a very real very strong way. When we love and serve others in His name, we are united to Him. Through these and many other ways, we are closely bound to God here and now. He gives us strength and the grace we need to live a life of goodness, and He calls us to bear witness to the beauty of Christian living.
Indeed, in contemplating death, we see so many ways in which God has blessed us. We recognize his infinite goodness and his unconditional self-giving love, and we marvel at the gift He has given us in life everlasting.
Contemplating death ought not make us afraid. After all, Christ took the sting and the victory out of death (1 Cor. 15:55). He has won the victory, and He invites us to share it with Him in a life of eternal glory.
It is now our responsibility to live our lives for Him here and now so that we show Him our undying gratitude for all He has done for us and so that we show others the beauty in this life we call Christian discipleship.