The Readings for the 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time (B2)
God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living.
The man, Jairus, corners Jesus in a crowd and says, “Come, heal my daughter.” But even before he can get home, the news reaches him: the girl is dead. Why did God let that happen?
There’s no more powerful question, really, for trying to refute any person of faith. It’s a question that demands an answer. Why did God allow Amazon to take over the retail market? Why does God allow WalMart to ruin downtowns all over the nation, or Tesco and Loblaws to do the same in the UK and Canada? Why does God allow Facebook? Why did God allow the second Nixon administration? Why does God allow fake news? Why does God allow my parents to get a divorce? There are many noxious things in the world, some taste like hairspray and people add them to soup. Why, God?
Now, certainly, this question usually gets asked regarding larger events… why did God allow the Tsunami on Christmas day 2004? Why does God allow war? Why does God allow the Trump administration to rip children like Elian Gonzalez away from their families? Why does God allow gun violence like like in Waco Texas in 1993? Why does God allow mass murder like American business allies committed in Mexico in the 1920s or throughout Latin America in the Reagan years?
We might as well ask why God allows your dad to wear over the calf socks and plaid shorts with a striped shirt.
Why does God allow anyone at all to die? The reading from Wisdom brings this home.
God “created all things that they might exist, and the generative forces of the world are wholesome, and there is no destructive poison in them; and the dominion of Hades is not on earth.” but… verse 16 (which is left out of our reading) says “ungodly men by their words and deeds summoned death; considering him a friend, they pined away, and they made a covenant with him, because they are fit to belong to his party.”
We do this to ourselves. The entire second chapter of Wisdom is a catalog of sentiments from our modern culture. These few lines alone are basically #LifeinSF
Let none of us fail to share in our revelry, everywhere let us leave signs of enjoyment, because this is our portion, and this our lot. Let us oppress the righteous poor man; let us not spare the widow nor regard the gray hairs of the aged. But let our might be our law of right, for what is weak proves itself to be useless.
This is basically a description of our culture’s MO from the get go:
Let us lie in wait for the righteous man, because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions…
The text rejoins our reading at the end:
God created man for incorruption, and made him in the image of his own eternity, but through the devil’s envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his party experience it.
In short, God made the world good, but humanity grew tired of all that boring goodness and went looking for something else. And the Devil, all too happy to help, provided the options we’ve all come to know and love.
The answer to all our questions is the same: God’s will is to give us the freedom to choose to do his will, which is also the freedom to ignore his will. And most of us enjoy our freedom too much to let God intervene. Equally important questions: Why did God allow me to have all that sex? Why did God allow me to cheat on my taxes? Why did God allow me to sneak out of the office without my boss noticing? Why did God allow them to vote for Trump? Why did God allow them to vote for Obama? Why did God allow…
Because we’re free. God does not micromanage. Mutually assured destruction is an option we all have. God would call us home. But we have to listen… and have to respond. He will not force us.
Why did God allow Jairus daughter to die? Because death is now a part of this world: woven in – by man – on the weft God gave us, the warp of death is from the craft basket of Satan. But it’s part of the deal now.
See, the thing is… the thing is… Jesus has taken that warp and weft, and sewn a new garment of life for us. Death is no longer the slamming shut of the final door, but rather the turning of the first key, the dawn of a new day. Jesus did this as God, by dying the death we all die. But he’s God, and it was remade. God can’t undo the patterns we’ve woven, but he can remake them, repurpose them, and even incorporate our tiny, miswoven patterns into a glorious story of his own design that is far more than we can imagine. Death is now only sleep. Life is eternity. Our lives cross over and touch so many things: we only see ourselves. We can be selfish and insist on seeing only in the first person. So life is nasty, brutish, and short. But God sees it all, the big picture, the whole megillah. There is no destructive poison in any of it… except cilantro.
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