June 28, 2009
Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24 (from the Apocrypha, see text below)
Psalm 30:2-13 (I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me)
2 Corinthians 8:7-15 (For the sake of equality, share from your abundance to assist those in need)
Mark 5:21-43 (Jesus heals two people based on their faith and that of their loved ones)
Note: The Book of Wisdom is one of the books of the Old Testament accepted into the Catholic canon of Scripture but not found in most Bibles used in other Christian denominations. As such, I am posting this reading as it is proclaimed at this weekend's Catholic services.
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. (Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24, New American Bible)
There were several sad stories that hit this last week in a relentless fashion. One story after another - sometimes without even enough time for one story to sink in before the next set in. To summarize:
Sunday 6/21 - It is announced that Walter Cronkite (the "Most Trusted Man in America") is gravely ill.
Monday 6/22 - Jon & Kate Gosselin (parents to 8 kids, chronicled on TLC) announce that they are separating; Kate files for divorce. TLC announces that their TV show is going on hiatus until August.
Tuesday 6/23 - Ed McMahon, longtime sidekick to Johnny Carson, host of the TV show Star Search and assisting master of ceremonies to Jerry Lewis' fundraising Muscular Dystrophy telethon dies at age 86.
Wednesday 6/24 - Chicago news anchor John Calloway (longtime host of WTTW's Chicago Tonight) dies in Racine, Wisconsin; of a heart attack, at age 72.
Thursday 6/25 - Actress Farah Fawcett, long remembered for her role in the 1970s series Charlie's Angels, dies at age 62 after a nearly three-year battle with breast cancer. This is eclipsed that afternoon with news of the death of pop music icon Michael Jackson at age 50, of cardiac arrest.
Of course, there are many who suffer losses, and many more who die, on a daily basis. In the chronicles American history, the natural disaster of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the loss of life on September 11, 2001 far outweigh what's happened in the last week. Still, that this has all happened in a relatively short timeframe when other weeks had nothing this notable was enough to prompt me to bring out the "Dead End" sign.
There are two distinct things about this particular sign. The obvious meaning, along with its partner, "No Outlet", should remind us that we may find ourselves stuck in a situation where there is no way out other than to retrace our steps, or acknowledge our failures. To keep traveling where there is no roadway is usually futile and dangerous.
But the "Dead End" sign, in the light of the passage from the Book of Wisdom and in the context of the noted events of the last week, acts as a reminder that one day we will all face that sign.
Now wait a minute...didn't Jesus Christ conquer and vanquish death? Why yes, that is what Christians believe.
But we still die, don't we? Yes, we do...at least the human body which is the temple, the dwelling place of the spirit, will one day cease to exist.
Christ conquered death and turned it into the bridge between a life veiled from God's presence - although God is most certainly here - to a life where the veil is removed and all wisdom and understanding is brought to light. The sacred author writes that God does not rejoice in the destruction of the living. But in receiving the gift of free choice, humanity chose that very thing. God's love and protection wasn't enough; humanity chose to play God. Through the greed and dissatisfaction of many came suffering. We have proven in so many ways that we are often our own worst enemy.
When the ultimate end comes for people we know and have admired, be it the famous or our own friends and family, we recall what these people gave us and pray that God has indeed gathered them unto Himself. We try to peer into that veil and silently wonder what it is like just beyond it. Ask ten people among the living and you'll likely get ten different answers.
Life, no matter how long or short yours or mine will be, is a precious gift. Each day is filled with potential. Carpe diem. Take the day, and find the sacred in it.
Prayer: O Lord, my God, you are with me always. May your presence reassure me in difficult times, and may I never forget you in happy moments. May I rest assured that you will meet me at the only "dead end" that I must traverse.