Sunday, June 16, 2013

Undefiled by death (Late posting of meditation on the 10th Sunday in Ordinary Time)

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

The sight will never fail to strike a sensitive chord in the human heart: a mother burying her son. It is easier to look at a son burying his mother (for is this not supposed to be: that the mother dies before her son?) The huge crowd in the funeral procession was a show of sympathy for the mother. The sight definitely touched the heart of the Lord: When the Lord saw her, he was moved with pity for her. Out of pity, the Lord touched the coffin. What he did was a no-no for anyone who touches a corpse is defiled by the corpse. In the Mosaic law, contact with a dead body renders an Israelite unclean for a week (Numbers 19:11-19).  Jesus’ touch and word reverses that; instead of being defiled by contact with death, he gave life. The Lord could not be defiled by a corpse. He is God –he is not defiled by death. He conquers death and subjects it to himself. Notice that in the 1st reading, Elijah called out to the Lord: “O Lord, my God, let the life breath return to the body of this child.” Jesus, however, commands the corpse: “Young man, I tell you, arise!” He resurrects the dead by his own authority: “The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of man, and they shall rise out of their tombs.” He is Lord of life.

Death defiles man. “The Church’s Magisterium…teaches that death entered the world on account of man’s sin. Even though man’s nature is mortal, God has destined him not to die. Death was therefore contrary to the plans of God the Creator, and entered the world as a consequence of sin.” (CCC1008) Christ allowed himself to be touched by death itself. “Jesus, the Son of God, also himself suffered the death that is part of the human condition. Yet, despite his anguish as he faced death, he accepted it in an act of complete and free submission to his Father’s will. The obedience of Jesus has transformed the curse of death into a blessing.” (CCC 1009) Though he was touched by death, Jesus was not defiled by death. His obedience, his loving and absolute submission to the Father took away the sting of death. “Through Baptism, the Christian has already died with Christ sacramentally in order to live a new life; and if we die in Christ’s grace, physical death completes this ‘dying with Christ’ and so completes our incorporation into him in this redeeming act.” (CCC1010)

Because Christ obediently accepted death on a Cross, he transformed death. Following the example of Christ, we can transform our own death into an act of obedience and love towards the Father (cf. CCC 1011) In this transformation, death does not become a sad end to existence. Rather, it becomes an entrance into life. Death no longer becomes a violent separation from those we love. Rather, it becomes a joyful reunion with the Father who loves us and calls us to himself. At her death bed, St. Therese of the Child Jesus said, “I am not dying; I am entering life!”

Jesus, I trust in you! O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

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