Central idea: The resurrection of the dead. Doctrine: The Christian meaning of death. Practical application: Preparation for death.
Written as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline (1) provides insights into the Lectionary readings, (2) explicates a doctrine of Catholic Faith or morals from them, and (3) shows specific ways lay persons can live these truths. (To read more about this approach, click here.)
This outline is written to be in accord with the Homiletic Directory issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (2014). (To read an excellent summary of the Homiletic Directory, click here.)
To view Lectionary 98, click here.
Central idea: The resurrection of the dead
Reading 1 Wis 1:13-15; 2:23-24
God did not make death,
nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living.
For he fashioned all things that they might have being;
and the creatures of the world are wholesome,
and there is not a destructive drug among them
nor any domain of the netherworld on earth,
for justice is undying.
For God formed man to be imperishable;
the image of his own nature he made him.
But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world,
and they who belong to his company experience it.
- These words are hard to interpret; in fact, they look crazy! There is no evil on earth?
- In the natural world, living things come into being and then pass away. The natural birth and death of all living things is part of God’s plan.
- Ancient people knew this perfectly well by experience.
- But man was made for eternal life, which means he was to be immune from any natural evil on earth that could harm him. Adam and Eve and their descendants were to be preserved from death. This immunity was removed by Original Sin. Nevertheless, our souls—but not our bodies—are naturally imperishable.
- So what the author of Wisdom is really talking about is the death which results from sin, which is eternal separation from God. The author of sin and death is the devil, and when we sin we cooperate in the devil’s plan for our own destruction.
- This reading is also a portrait of life in the Heavenly Jerusalem, the new creation where, after our resurrection in Christ, we will be safe and imperishable. For this we glorify God. The food we receive to make this journey is the Eucharist.
- In the natural world, living things come into being and then pass away. The natural birth and death of all living things is part of God’s plan.
Responsorial Psalm Ps 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11, 12, 13
R. I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.
I will extol you, O LORD, for you drew me clear
and did not let my enemies rejoice over me.
O LORD, you brought me up from the netherworld;
you preserved me from among those going down into the pit.
Sing praise to the LORD, you his faithful ones,
and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger lasts but a moment;
a lifetime, his good will.
At nightfall, weeping enters in,
but with the dawn, rejoicing.
Hear, O LORD, and have pity on me;
O LORD, be my helper.
You changed my mourning into dancing;
O LORD, my God, forever will I give you thanks.
- When a person of faith realizes he is in danger, he calls on God’s help. And when the danger passes, he thanks God for preserving his life.
- It is a grave sin that some people plot the destruction of others and rejoice when they can harm them. This is an example of a “domain of the netherworld on earth” that the Book of Wisdom speaks of. Christ experienced this when the scribes and the Pharisees met together to plot how to put him to death. May God deliver us from such persons!
- We should continually thank God now for his many blessings, but the greatest thanks we will give him will begin the moment of our resurrection from the dead when we stand in his presence:
I will extol you, O LORD, for you drew me clear and did not let my enemies rejoice over me. . . . You changed my mourning into dancing; O LORD, my God, forever will I give you thanks.
Reading 2 2 Cor 8:7, 9, 13-15
Brothers and sisters:
As you excel in every respect, in faith, discourse,
knowledge, all earnestness, and in the love we have for you,
may you excel in this gracious act also.
For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that though he was rich, for your sake he became poor,
so that by his poverty you might become rich.
Not that others should have relief while you are burdened,
but that as a matter of equality
your abundance at the present time should supply their needs,
so that their abundance may also supply your needs,
that there may be equality.
As it is written:
Whoever had much did not have more,
and whoever had little did not have less.
- Our Lord Jesus Christ, in his preexistence as the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, was incomprehensibly “rich,” yet he put all that aside in his Incarnation and even suffered the desolation of death in order to make us rich by sharing his divine life with us.
- Thankfulness for the goodness we receive overflows in our graciousness toward other persons, especially other Christians in need. In Catholic social teachings, this is the principle of solidarity: it is the truth that we are all in this life together, and so we look out for one another, especially those in need. This is what the Gentile churches were doing in regard to the mother church in Jerusalem.
- This solidarity is “the love we have for you.” The love St. Paul has for the Corinthians is charity, in Greek agape, the sacrificial love Christ brought into the world. In this liturgy, God again reveals his immense love in the crucified and risen Christ.
- Agape can be define in many ways. One particularly good one is provided by Robert Spitzer, S.J.:
agape is a gift of self which is frequently expressed in self-sacrifice. It is grounded in empathy with the other which makes transparent the unique and intrinsic goodness, worthiness, and lovability of that other, which creates a unity with that other whereby doing the good for the other is just as easy, if not easier, than doing the good for oneself. As such, agape arises out of a desire to give life to the intrinsically valuable and lovable other. That other could be a stranger or a friend. Furthermore, agape seeks no reward – neither the reward of romantic feelings intrinsic to eros (romantic love), nor the reward of reciprocal commitment and care intrinsic to philia (friendship), nor even the feelings of love and delight intrinsic to storge (affection). In agape, it is sufficient to see the other as valuable and lovable in him or herself. The well-being of the other (in him or herself) is a sufficient reward for the commitment of one’s time, future, psychic energy, physical energy, resources, and even self-sacrifice. The well-being of the other in him or herself is its own reward.
Alleluia Cf. 2 Tm 1:10
Our Savior Jesus Christ destroyed death
and brought life to light through the Gospel.
- Our Lord “brought life to light through the Gospel.” In his preaching, in his miracles, in his passion, and in his resurrection, Christ revealed what life really is. Life is union with God and charity toward other human beings.
Gospel Mk 5:21-43
When Jesus had crossed again in the boat
to the other side,
a large crowd gathered around him, and he stayed close to the sea.
One of the synagogue officials, named Jairus, came forward.
Seeing him he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, saying,
“My daughter is at the point of death.
Please, come lay your hands on her
that she may get well and live.”
He went off with him,
and a large crowd followed him and pressed upon him.
There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years.
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.
She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd
and touched his cloak.
She said, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.”
Immediately her flow of blood dried up.
She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction.
Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him,
turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who has touched my clothes?”
But his disciples said to Jesus,
“You see how the crowd is pressing upon you,
and yet you ask, ‘Who touched me?’”
And he looked around to see who had done it.
The woman, realizing what had happened to her,
approached in fear and trembling.
She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth.
He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you.
Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”
While he was still speaking,
people from the synagogue official’s house arrived and said,
“Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?”
Disregarding the message that was reported,
Jesus said to the synagogue official,
“Do not be afraid; just have faith.”
He did not allow anyone to accompany him inside
except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James.
When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official,
he caught sight of a commotion,
people weeping and wailing loudly.
So he went in and said to them,
“Why this commotion and weeping?
The child is not dead but asleep.”
And they ridiculed him.
Then he put them all out.
He took along the child’s father and mother
and those who were with him
and entered the room where the child was.
He took the child by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum,”
which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!”
The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around.
At that they were utterly astounded.
He gave strict orders that no one should know this
and said that she should be given something to eat.
- In this Gospel, two miracles are recounted. The first is the old woman with the chronic hemorrhage who is healed just by touching Jesus’ cloak. The second is the raising of Jairus’ daughter from the dead.
- I think when Jesus said that the twelve-year-old girl was “not dead but asleep,” he was teaching us what death would mean from then on to those who belong to him. In this life, we fall asleep each night and then we wake up again each morning. In Christ, when we fall into death we wake up again into eternal life.
Doctrine: The Christian meaning of death
- The Vatican II document Gaudium and spes provides a sobering yet ultimate joyful exposition of the meaning of death.
It is in the face of death that the riddle a human existence grows most acute. Not only is man tormented by pain and by the advancing deterioration of his body, but even more so by a dread of perpetual extinction. He rightly follows the intuition of his heart when he abhors and repudiates the utter ruin and total disappearance of his own person. He rebels against death because he bears in himself an eternal seed which cannot be reduced to sheer matter. All the endeavors of technology, though useful in the extreme, cannot calm his anxiety; for prolongation of biological life is unable to satisfy that desire for higher life which is inescapably lodged in his breast.
Although the mystery of death utterly beggars the imagination, the Church has been taught by divine revelation and firmly teaches that man has been created by God for a blissful purpose beyond the reach of earthly misery. In addition, that bodily death from which man would have been immune had he not sinned will be vanquished, according to the Christian faith, when man who was ruined by his own doing is restored to wholeness by an almighty and merciful Saviour. For God has called man and still calls him so that with his entire being he might be joined to Him in an endless sharing of a divine life beyond all corruption. Christ won this victory when He rose to life, for by His death He freed man from death. Hence to every thoughtful man a solidly established faith provides the answer to his anxiety about what the future holds for him. At the same time faith gives him the power to be united in Christ with his loved ones who have already been snatched away by death; faith arouses the hope that they have found true life with God. (GS 18)
- Jesus raises the dead.
- Jesus’ earthly miracles are signs he is the messiah. To those who do not yet believe in him, miracles invite faith. To those who already believe, they strengthen faith. Yet, they are offensive to some (CCC 548).
- Our Lord did not come, however, “to abolish all evils here below.” Rather, he came “to free men from the gravest slavery, sin.” Sin thwarts us “in our vocation as God’s sons [and daughters] and causes all forms of human bondage.” (CCC 549)
- Those Christ raised from the dead during his public life would still, later, experience natural death.
- However, in his own resurrection, Our Lord “passes from the state of death to another life beyond time and space. At Jesus’ Resurrection his body is filled with the power of the Holy Spirit: he shares the divine life in his glorious state” (CCC 646).
- On the last day, he will raise up those who belong to him and they will share in his glorious divine life (CCC 994).
- Christ transforms death.
- Through his obedience to the father, “Jesus has transformed the curse of death into a blessing” (CCC 1009).
- “[T]hrough 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 his redeeming act” (CCC 1010).
- Christian life is a dying to our sinful desires and a living according to what is truly good. This is the case from its very beginning in Baptism until we take our last breath.
- When we make this struggle, we are co-redeeming with Christ. This is possible because of the graces God showers upon us.
- Because “[i]n death, God calls man to himself,” we can make our “own death into an act of obedience and love toward the Father after the example of Christ” (CCC 1011). We can even desire and welcome death, for as the Church prays in the funeral liturgy:
Lord, for your faithful people life is changed, not ended.
When the body of our earthly dwelling lies in death
we gain an everlasting dwelling place in heaven. (quoted in CCC 1012)
- Christ gives us hope for a new heaven and a new earth.
- “At the end of time, the Kingdom of God will come in its fullness. Then the just will reign with Christ for ever, glorified in body and soul, and the material universe itself will be transformed. God will then be ‘all in all’ (1 Cor 15:28), in eternal life.” (CCC 1060)
Practical application: Preparation for death
- How can we be ready for death?
- One way is the nightly examination of conscience and frequent sacramental Confession.
- Another is to pray from time to time a prayer for the acceptance of death.
- Here is one example:
Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, I accept from your hands, whatever kind of death it may please you to send me today (tonight), with all its pains, penalties and sorrows, in reparation for my sins, for the souls in purgatory, for the conversion of sinners, for all those who will die today (tonight), and for your greater glory. Amen.
- Another is to stay close to Our Lady and St. Joseph.
- Recall that in every Hail Mary, we ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to “pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.”
- Joseph is the patron of a happy death because he died in the presence of Jesus and Mary.
The Homiletic Directory offers the following Catechism points and themes for the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time:
- CCC 548-549, 646, 994: Jesus raises the dead
- CCC 1009-1014: death transformed by Christ
- CCC 1042-1050: hope for a new heaven and a new earth