Sickness, suffering, death—where did they originate? Who brought them? The author of the Book of Wisdom makes the case for God, stating that they are not God’s doing. It was, however, left for the Wisdom of God—Jesus Himself to demonstrate this beyond doubt. As proof, he went about curing the sick, lifting up the downtrodden and raising the dead. Two of such wonderful works are reported in today’s gospel reading.
Yet, the question as to who brought sickness remains unanswered. The Book of Wisdom states the answer unmistakably—“it was the devil’s envy.” The sage goes on to argue that God created all things “to be;” for the One whose essence is “to be” cannot beget nothingness. The metaphysical principle “agere sequitur esse” (as a being is, so does it act) suggests that non-being, sickness, suffering and death cannot emanate from God, because He is “purus actus” (pure act) and His very essence is to be. His nature is to give life, not to destroy it; to give health, not to weaken it; to make things and people prosper, not to destroy them. The author of the Book of Wisdom makes a turn-around to enlighten us about evil. He excoriates the devil and his partners as providing the environment in which evil, sickness, suffering, and death thrive: “It was the wicked who with hands and words invited death, considered it a friend, pined for it, and made a covenant with it” (Wisdom 1:16).
Evil, therefore, is a deprivation of the good that should be there. This was engineered by the devil who infected humanity with it. Human living becomes a constant struggle with sin, suffering, sickness, and death. This, in essence, explains why the Church and our faith in Jesus should mean more to us than an exercise of convenience because we are always vulnerable to the malice of the evil one. We do not overgrow it nor do we get too sophisticated and civilized to annul its effects. Satan hides behind our so-called civilization to unleash his terror. He hides behind our politics to promote thievery of public property and lies to cover them up; he hides behind the Mass-media to promote the propaganda masked as progressive ideologies; he hides behind the flattery of immoral behavior, the fanning of unnatural desires, and the entire apparatus dedicated to the destruction of marriage and the family; he hides behind our educational systems to promote today’s gravest destabilizing axiom of contemporary education—that it is alright to transmit knowledge without concern for the moral and character formation of the recipient. The devil hides behind today’s booming porn industry, the compelling pseudo-reality of commercial advertisements, the flattery of cruelty and eroticism in films and movies, and the pride marches that beguile social and emotional stability.
Jesus invites us to develop a living faith and an attitude of ‘alert wakefulness’ as we search for the one who alone can deliver us from evil, sickness and death. The synagogue official, Jairus, and the woman with the issue of blood manifested this attitude. They received faith healing at its best. Many have been led to believe that all religious healings happen on the center stage of large auditoriums and televisions and through orchestrated shouting marches by expert religious healers. But through the sacraments the Church reaches out to heal us in the power of Christ. Notice in the Gospel how only the woman with the issue of blood knew that she had been cured, and how Jesus put out the crowd before He went in to bless Jairus’ daughter with new life. Unlike the commercial healers of today, He did not seek public applause.
It is not His clothes that we touch today; rather it is His life that we receive—Jesus himself—body, blood, soul, and divinity. If the mere touching of His cloth would effect a miraculous healing, how much more would receiving Him worthily in the Eucharist today rid us of evil habits and the deadweight of sin and disorder. We may not be worthy to approach Him, but He urges us to come.
Fr. Chukwudi Jo Okonkwo