Do not be Afraid; Just have Faith

Editor’s Note: Reflection on the Mass readings for the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) – Wisdom 1:13-15, 2:23-24; Psalms 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11, 12, 13; Second Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13-15; Mark 5:21-43 or 5:21-24, 35-43. This series appears each Wednesday.

Photography © by Andy Coan

One of the great questions which confront each of us is the existence of suffering and death. The apparent inevitability that death will come to each of us, which looms larger as we grow older, can become the cause of much doubt and fear within us.

But this Sunday’s first reading from the Book of Wisdom tells a different story.

“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;” (Wisdom 1:13-14a).

Few among us have not experienced the death or suffering of a loved one. My father died when I was only 16 years old. My whole life seemed to be like a rudderless ship tossed on a violent sea as a result of his death. He was gone, but I could not imagine a life – my life – in which he would not be present. Such anguish I had never experienced.

And now there was a new-found fear – a fear of my own mortality and that of my mother and sister. If he could die, so could we. Friends and family sought to comfort me by explaining that God had called my father home to heaven. They said much more, but that is what I heard… and in those words I found no comfort.

Yet the Book of Wisdom proclaims a message of hope and comfort… “For God formed man to be imperishable (Wisdom 2:23a).”

According to our nature, God made us imperishable – He made us for being. That means that we would never cease to be. But, He also gave man and woman what we call preternatural gifts. One of these gifts was bodily immortality.  We were not made for paradise (Eden), we were made for heaven, but death was not the means by which God intended us to arrive in heaven. Death (and suffering) came from our sin.

After the Fall of Man, death became the norm and suffering its companion. People, then and now, often question God, blame Him, even doubt Him because of the Problem of Suffering and Death.

But then we hear these words proclaimed again…

“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;” (Wisdom 1:13-14a).

It is with these thoughts in mind that this Sunday’s gospel, taken from Mark, sheds light on both our plight and our hope.

To the woman whose affliction had caused her to bleed for twelve years, Jesus said:

“Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction (Mark5:34).”

And to Jairus, an official of the synagogue, who had just heard that his twelve year old daughter had died, Jesus said:

“Do not be afraid; just have faith (Mark 5:36b).”

God is not the cause of suffering and death. This world in which we find ourselves is broken by our sin; suffering and death are thus a part of our existence.

But, God has not abandoned us, even though we abandoned Him. He remains in control and He has made us for something far greater than this place of pilgrimage. He sent His Son to suffer and die as we do, and raised Him on the Third Day in order that we may live. Death is now defeated.

Each day we journey one day nearer to our eternal life to come and death has no claim on us, for Jesus has redeemed us. No matter the affliction, no matter the bodily death we will experience, we are God’s own children and He has not left us as orphans… if only we trust in Him and surrender our will to His.

This is no easy thing to do, but by His grace we can. Jairus, as an official of the synagogue, risked all he had built up on earth for his daughter. The afflicted woman, long-suffering for twelve years, did not lose hope. Neither cared more for the acclaim of man than they did for healing of God. Desperation, yes, but more so humility allowed them to receive the gift of faith and thus healing.

God did not make death. He will lead you to life if you only trust in Him.

Into the Deep…

Deacon Mike Bickerstaff, Editor-in-Chief for The Integrated Catholic Life™, is the Director of Adult Education and Evangelization at his parish and a deacon of the Roman Rite for the Archdiocese of Atlanta.

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About the Author

Deacon Mike Bickerstaff Editor-In-Chief, ICL

Deacon Michael Bickerstaff is the Editor in chief and co-founder of the The Integrated Catholic Life.™ A Catholic Deacon of the Roman Rite for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, Deacon Bickerstaff is assigned to St. Peter Chanel Catholic Church where he is the Director of Adult Education and Evangelization.

He is also the Founder and President of Virtue@Work, where he provides Executive and Personal Coaching, Mentoring and Organizational Consulting. Deacon Mike has 30+ years management consulting experience in senior executive leadership positions providing organizational planning and implementation services with a focus on human resource strategy and tax qualified retirement plan design, administration and compliance.

He is a co-founder of the successful annual Atlanta Catholic Business Conference; the Chaplain of the Atlanta Chapter of the Woodstock Theological Center’s Business Conference; and Chaplain of the St. Peter Chanel Faith at Work Business Association and co-founder and Chaplain of the Marriages Are Covenants Ministry, both of which serve as models for similar parish-based ministries.

He and his wife have two married children and three grandchildren.

NB: The views I express on this site are my own. I am not an official spokesman for either my parish or diocese.

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