Sunday, June 30, 2024

13th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B: Death Does Not Win

The readings for the 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B offer a profound depth of spiritual insight and reflection. 

The first reading from the Book of Wisdom (Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24) contemplates the nature of life and death, emphasizing that God did not create death, but rather, it entered the world through the devil's envy. This passage invites us to reflect on the sanctity of life and God's intention for creation to exist in harmony and immortality. It reminds us that the devil is the cause of death. People often blame God for evil and death when in reality it is the devil's fault. Out of envy for humanity, the devil brought about death via sin.

The Responsorial Psalm, Psalm 30, is a heartfelt expression of gratitude towards God for deliverance and rescue. It is a reminder of God's mercy and the transformative power of thanksgiving, turning mourning into dancing and sorrow into joy.

In the second reading, Paul's letter to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 8:7,9,13-15) calls on the community to live in generosity and equality. It highlights the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, though rich, became poor for our sake, setting an example of selflessness and solidarity with the needy.  Jesus became one of us in all things except sin.

The Gospel reading from Mark (Mark 5:21-43) presents two miraculous healings performed by Jesus. The first is the healing of a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years, and the second is the raising of Jairus's daughter saying "Talita Cumi" or Little girl child get up. Both stories are united by themes of faith, desperation, and the transformative touch of Jesus. They show that Jesus' power to heal and to give life transcends all barriers, offering hope and new life to all who reach out to him in faith.

Death is not the end. Jesus conquered it. We all have to die one day. There is no way around it. It is the wage of sin. However, Jesus conquered it in His resurrection. He became the lord of death if you will. We all lose people all the time. Recently I lost my sister and my dad before her as well as a host of cousins, an aunt, and a brother-in-law. It is not something we all anticipate or enjoy.  Even when you think you got used to having lost someone, the next death still hits hard. We never get used to it. We never adapt to it. It hurts a lot. What hurts a lot is the absence, seeing the things and people they left behind, and going to spots where memories were shared. After someone dies, we feel a part of us goes. We feel incomplete. Right now, I feel like I am not myself and possibly will never be. There is just a surreal feeling or sensation in the air, so to speak. It is hard to describe but is just dreadful. At one moment you feel fine and the next you just melt into yourself and memories. 

This is the human side of things. We cannot escape it. We are finite creatures that can only process the here and now. We can only process space-time and matter.  We are attached to this material universe so when a part of it goes missing, we freak out.  It can be difficult to ascertain eternity and that things do not truly disappear like we think. Even this universe's energy cannot be created nor destroyed, it transforms. On the spiritual level, it is even more spectacular, so spectacular that we cannot fathom it now completely.  Jesus' resurrection reminds us that we too will rise at the end of time. When Jesus returns in all His glory the dead shall rise. We will see our lost loved ones again. It is ok and normal to miss our deceased loved ones. This shows we love them and their detachment from us in the physical realm hurts.  However, death is not the end.  

Many of us wonder why our deceased ones never come back to say hi. If they live on, why are they not allowed to visit us? Well, there are many answers to this, but I will use the one my friend and pastor the late Bishop Francisco Garmendia told a child once who asked something similar. The bishop said that our deceased loved ones seem to move on and not contact us because they saw God. They saw absolute goodness, beauty, power, and the overall awesomeness of the Creator, the I AM or being that was always in existence and from which all derives existence.  Once our souls sees this beatific vision, why would it go back to earth? Why would it desire the physical realm again?  God is greater than what we leave behind. God is love. Once we connect fully with God, nothing else is needed so the soul is stuck in ecstasy.  This does not mean our loved ones forget us or do not care, it just means that they made it. They connected with God and await our turn. 

Think of it this way, suppose you lived in a poor area and won the lottery. You then purchase a mansion in a beautiful area. Are you going to return to the poor area?  The answer is most likely not. This is why we see celebrities like Jennifer Lopez who prides herself as "Jenny from the block," but never bought a house in that block in the Bronx. We seldom see these "famous" and rich people return to their stomping grounds. This is because they found something "better" from their perspective. Similarly, when we die and see God, what else is there? God is the absolute.  We will not miss the past or anything from the physical realm because we have the absolute or God.  So when you are down and out like I am and members of my family, think of this. Think of Jesus' power to raise the death and rise Himself from the death. Death is not the end.  We will suffer the loss of course, but death is not the end. We belong to God. We are the breath of God. That breath has to return eventually. The people we lose in life do not belong to us. They are God's breath and were called home.  We will join them eventually when it is our time. 

These readings collectively challenge us to consider our own attitudes toward life, death, and our responsibilities toward others. They encourage us to trust in God's saving power and to act with compassion and generosity, following the example of Christ. As we meditate on these scriptures, we are invited to deepen our understanding of God's love and to carry that love into our daily interactions with others.

Lastly, on a side note, we want to address today's event: Pride.  Today in New York City there will be the annual Gay Pride March. This is an event or parade commemorating the raid by the NYPD on the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar.  Regardless of how we feel about homosexuals, we must love them, respect them, and pray for them. We must also protect them. These people glorify pride and sin and this often upsets Christians. However, we must pray for them and their conversion. Jesus on the Cross prayed to His Father to forgive the people for they know not what they do.  While gay people choose to do sinful things with full knowledge, they deep down do not know what they are doing. They do not know the spiritual aspect of the evil they commit. To them, they see it as an evolution of self-expression. They are being their "true selves." This is what they process their sins as. Again, they are deluded by satan.  Remember the first reading about the devil being envious of us.  Homosexuals are lied to by the devil. Like with Eve, he tells them all these lies about "living their truth" and all these sweet enticing terms and jargon meant to deceive.  

In Genesis, we read the story of Sodom and Gomorrah.  Many Christians often focus on the destruction of the cities via flames from the sky.  On YouTube, I have seen some preachers proselytize at pride events instigating gay participants to display themselves in feral ways. The preachers then promote the content as "devils coming out," or in some other demeaning manner meant to portray the gays as some demons that manifest when the preachers preach. This is vanity and wrong on the preacher's part. The Gospel is an invitation to Christ's love, not a weapon to beat people with. In light of this, we should not be going to pride to harass gay people. Instead, we should witness to Christ by showing love and mercy.  Back to Sodom and Gomorrah, Christians forget the other part of the story where Abraham pleads for the people before God. He asks if 30, 20, and 10 are good, would God spare the cities?  God says that He would. We see the Divine Mercy here.  We should focus more on this part when dealing with pride and any homosexual event or gathering. We should ask God to spare them, to forgive them, to destroy their sin, not them.  This is what it means to be a Christian.  This is how we show that it is not "Love is love," but "God is love."  

So let us pray for these people marching today.  They are victims of the devil's deception and our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. They are victims, not our enemies.  Pray for them. Witness to them with Christ's love until we all share in pride as sons and daughters of God, not of sin.  


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