Sunday, July 1, is the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B). July 4 is Independence Day, the completion of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ “Fortnight for Freedom.”
2 Kings 22:8-13, 23:1-3; Psalm 119:33-37, 40; Matthew 7:15-20
Today’s readings are highly appropriate for the Fortnight for Freedom. That’s the special two-week period of prayer, fasting and reflection the Church is undergoing to promote religious freedom in America in light of several recent federal challenges to Catholics’ rights.
The fortnight started on June 21, the vigil of the feast of Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher. It ends on July 4. For EWTN coverage and specials for the fortnight, click here. At the Gregorian Institute at Benedictine College, Tom has been providing daily “Catholic living” resources throughout the fortnight, including “Seven Reasons to Return to Confession” and “Five Things Daily Rosaries Do.” Find all of them here.
This Sunday, the readings show the danger of a culture of death and show how Jesus Christ was a perfect exemplar of a culture of life.
Christians can sometimes forget how terrible death is. We use euphemistic language to comfort those whose loved ones have died. It’s good that we do that, but we need to remember just how terrible death is.“
God did not make death,” says the first reading. Rather, “by the envy of the devil, death entered the world.”
Death is quite literally Satanic. It is anti-Christian. It’s true that God can bring great good out of this evil — but don’t forget that it took the death of the Second Person of the Trinity in order for even God to save mankind from the utter wickedness of death.
This is why the acceptance in our society of abortion and other attacks on life is so corroding. To accept abortion doesn’t just kill our children — it kills our consciences.
Jesus in the Gospel shows the very opposite of this culture-of- death mentality. When he hears of the death of a little girl, he pushes through the crowds of people to go to her side.
This is an interesting Gospel in that it tells two stories: the story of the restoration to life of the little girl and the story of the woman with a hemorrhage who he meets on the way to her.
In that way, it is also instructive of the culture of life. Like Christ, the Church is not just worried about the death of little children; we also want to alleviate the suffering of women.
The woman here knew all about suffering. It’s significant that the Gospel says, “She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors and had spent all that she had. Yet she was not helped, but only grew worse.”
So many men and women in our culture of death have suffered greatly at the hands of the experts of our day, the ideologies that tell us one thing or another will bring us happiness and end our suffering. These just leave us exhausted and worse off than we started.
What really heals is to bring our suffering to Jesus. All those ideologies are part of the passing world. Jesus is true God and true man, and as the first reading explains, “God formed man to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made him.” Jesus is the true expert on what we need.
He proves that to be the case when he at last gets to the house of Jairus and is ready to bring back his daughter. He tells her: “Do not be afraid; just have faith.”
That is a very difficult command for a man to obey when his daughter has died. No one but God could give it.
But God can overcome death. He is stronger than Satan, stronger than sin. He can raise a dead little girl to life, and he can raise the dead consciences of our time to life, too. We just need to follow the advice he gives to Jairus: “Do not be afraid; just have faith.”
We should pray for religious freedom this fortnight with confidence in the Lord of Life. We should also act to build a better world, even as we pray.
St. Paul in today’s second reading tells Christians how to behave in a just society. “As a matter of equality,” he says, “your abundance at the present time should supply their needs so that their abundance may also supply your needs, that there may be equality.”
We owe fidelity to God and to our fellow man. The more we insist on both, the more freedom will flourish in America.