Mark 5:21-43, 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
“God did not make death.”
A reminder, not even gentle, with a terrible eeriness about it, is what we get from the very first line of Wisdom today.
Death is not dealt by God. God is the maker of life. And he does not rejoice over the ruin of what he has made. “For he fashioned all things that they might have being; and the creatures of the world are wholesome, and there is not a destructive drug among them.”
This too is Eden’s reminder. God is the genesis of all life. The end of all life is God.
“For God formed man to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made him.” God meant us to live forever. And not just for the sake of forever. We are meant to live with God forever.
We tend to forget these reminders whenever we deceive ourselves into believing that our existence in this universe is necessary and deserved. Why are we here at all? We did not have to be here. Empirically, evolution points to us and to consciousness as consequences of the rich interplay of life in the universe. But why should there even be life that evolves in the first place? The philosopher in us asks, why should there be something rather than nothing? We can be forgetful and dismissive of this our radical contingency, the utter unnecessariness of us.
We do not have to be here and yet here we are. We can go on supposing we are an accident in a mindless universe, a cold consequence of aimless probabilities. Or we can open ourselves to the possibility that we are here because of God’s intention and love.
Intention and love. Love intends. Love chooses. Love decides. Because love is free.
This is the whole point of that “apple” and that troublesome talking snake that likes to hang on a tree in the middle of Paradise. We would rather that these annoyances go away, but we realize, while standing now outside the garden, that perhaps perfection is nothing without purpose and participation. Paradise does not grow without freedom and commitment. Eden is empty without intention and love.
Indeed, God could very well have commanded creation to stop on the fifth day. There would have been less heartbreak. The planets and the stars would have been perfect enough. Day and night, they go about their orbits faithfully, giving glory to their Creator. They follow preordained paths and they most probably will never go off on a tangent. The obedience of the constellations is enviable and exemplary.
By making us, by shaping our heart to be free as his is, God ran the risk of our rebellion and betrayal. When we finally left the garden, our heart was not the only one that was broken.
And yet God chose not to give up on us. He could have. Love is free. Thankfully, love is indeed free and mercy is never a matter of parity. And so freely and willingly, he chose to love us still. He so loved us that in the fullness of time, he sent his only Son to redeem us and forgive us our fallen choices.
The cross itself is a terrifying symbol of our choice for rebellion and betrayal and death. And yet by this same cross, we are saved. We are redeemed by the love of Christ that hangs crucified on a tree in the middle of another garden quite unlike the first. Nothing on the cross compels us to love God again. The cross of Christ can only draw us (never forcibly) to himself. There is nothing there to stupefy us to submission. Instead, all that we see is God’s own vulnerability when he chooses to love us, when he chooses to run the risk of staying with us to the very end.
We know that the very end is not death. We used to think it was so and we can choose to believe it will always be so. But because Christ is risen, we shall choose life. We shall entrust our lives to God and pattern our lives after him who is not the maker and dealer of death.
In the Gospel today, when Jesus tells the daughter of Jairus, “Talitha koum” (little girl, get up), he is reminding us that God did not make death, that we are meant to live with God forever, and that we are here because of God’s intention and love. Intention and love. We choose to get up because we choose to hope, having seen for ourselves and in countless lives of discipleship and oblation, that not even fear or regret or death can destroy intention and love.