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July 1, 2018 - Allying with Jesus

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Every time the first scripture reading for our liturgy it taken from the book of Wisdom, we want to sit back and let the words sink in. This is because Wisdom addresses the deepest longings of the human soul. Right at the outset, though, let me provide a caution. Today’s first reading is an excerpt from Wisdom Chapters 1 & 2. Out of the forty verses that make up these two chapters, only four verses are read today. I strongly recommend, then, that this week we take the time to reflect on Chapters 1 and 2 in their entirety. I am choosing to focus on three thoughts that are contained in our very short reading.  

a) “God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living.” We know from the book of Genesis, that at the end of the six days of creation, God looked at what God created and “God saw that it was good!” However, there is an enduring human question that often makes human beings have. If Creation is inherently good, where does death, destruction, evil, and suffering come from? Wisdom tells us that “God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living” (Wis 1:13). Rather, Wisdom suggests that, “By the envy of the Devil, death entered the world” (Wis 2: 23). Wisdom does not tell us where the Devil came from, but She tells us that was is the Devil’s envy that brought death and destruction into the world. Who and what was the Devil envious of? The Devil became envious of Adam and Eve because God made them in God’s image and likeness. Adam and Eve also had control over all of creation. The Devil became envious of the privileged position of the human race. In this way Wisdom tells us two things: a) that death and destruction came from outside of God; and b) that very tragically, the Devil, by his envy, would ruin God’s plan for creation and humanity.  

b)   A word about humanity, their origin and destiny. Wisdom says, “For God formed man to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made him” (Wis 2:23). Human beings are not immortal by nature. Only God is immortal. God chose to gift immortality to human being. Perhaps, this is a reference to the soul.  Wisdom tells us yet another significant truth about the human race – that we have the freedom to make choices. The most significant choice we make is to either ally with God or with the Devil. Just as an aside, take the letter ‘D’ away from Devil and we have Evil. Wisdom says, “By the envy of the Devil, death entered the world, and they who are allied with him experience it” (Wis 2:24). In other words, those who experience eternal death and destruction are those who chose to ally with the Devil [Evil]. Wisdom calls such people “the wicked.” In this way, Wisdom is also telling us that allying with Evil has consequences. The consequences are not something God intends, but rather, the consequences of allying with the Devil or Evil lies within the realm of human freedom.  

c)    Jesus, the Wisdom of God. In light of the first reading from Wisdom, today’s gospel reading becomes unparallelly significant. Jesus is out and about in the towns and villages of Palestine.  Jesus was sent by the same God who created humanity. Jesus came to set us free from the Evil that the Devil had inflicted on humanity. How did he do this? Jesus allies unconditionally and irrevocably with God. He was often tempted by the Devil to ally with him, but, unlike the first human beings, Jesus refused. Instead he brought life and restoration to those around him. Jesus only did good. The gospel stories of the woman healed of her long-standing illness, and the young girl being raised to are very important stories. They tell us of God’s intention in sending us Jesus. In and through Jesus, God planned to restore the world to its original goodness before the Devil gave into his envy. Jesus did not only DO good. He WAS God and Goodness itself! He was so good that people could touch the hem of his garment and experience healing. Because he was the goodness of God, he was able to raise the dead girl to life. Everywhere he went he raised up people. Just as to the little girl in today’s story, he extended his hands to all the he met people and said, “Arise!” Where the Devil brought death and destruction Jesus brought life and restoration.  

Here is the only practical implication that I would like to offer. Wisdom invites to live an intentional life like Jesus. Allied with Jesus, our mission in life is extend our hands to people and, like Jesus, say, “Arise!” We are extensions of the goodness of God. We are not a people who push people down. We are not a people who kick down those who down and out. We are not a people who withdraw our hands from those who come to us in desperation. We are not a people to are uncaring about those affected by tragedies, war, violence, and despair. We are not a people turn helpless people away. We are a people that only, yes, ONLY offer life, hope, and goodness!  

Today, Wisdom has spoken to us through the life of Jesus. Having heard these stories, we also will receive Jesus himself in the bread and wine. Will we continue Jesus’ story this week? Of course, after having received Jesus, we still have the choice to ally with the Devil. May that not be our story. 

- Fr. Satish Joseph