Sunday, June 28, 2015

a parent's love

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

One would hardly be human, I think, if one did not both sympathise and empathise at the plight of Jairus with which our Gospel reading begins today: his young daughter, only 12 years old, is seriously ill and at the point of death. On the cusp of woman-hood, instead of thinking about who she might marry in a few years, and the grandchildren she might bear to fill her life and his life with joy, instead is seems as if instead he will be planning her funeral, and that within only a few hours. But then he hears that Jesus is nearby. As a leader of the synagogue he most likely had no time for this wandering rabbi usually, thinking him a fraud stirring up the people with false claims to be the Messiah of God, blasphemously even claiming to have the power to forgive sins, a power limited only to God himself, and to be the Son of God, making himself equal with God … someone to be shunned for the most part, shamed if one could by catching him out with a trick question, or even stoned if it could be done without arousing the fury of the simple peasant folk who believed in him … but his is no ordinary time. His little girl is dying. And he runs to the person he has heard has healed so many.

He finds him in the crowds by the lake, pleads with him to save his daughter, and to his great relief Jesus agrees to come. Straight away they set off for his house. They are briefly delayed by a woman and, while they are speaking with her, word comes that they are too late – the child is dead. But Jesus tells Jairus not to fear, only believe. And they go to the house, where the women are already filling the air with their wails of grief and Jesus brings the child back to life and restores her to her parents.

It is not difficult I think to imagine the joy Jairus and his wife felt that day. The death of a child is every parent's worst nightmare. So even as if is impossible not to feel for those parents when their child dies, it is equally impossible not to rejoice with them when she is restored to them, even though we know that this is an event that took place many centuries ago, and that Jairus and his daughter have long returned to the dust from which they came. Because everyone, whether they are a parent themselves or not, understands how a mother and father loves their child, and how devastating it is for them to lose one.

Our Lord clearly understood the pain of Jairus and his wife; hence his compassionate intervention. But it raises the question, does it not, of why has created a world that has pain, and suffering, and death in it? That is not an easy question to answer. The reaction of Jesus to such things make it obvious that God is not indifferent to our suffering; indeed, it causes him great distress. Remember how he wept at the tomb of Lazarus? So even if it is something that is difficult for us to understand, we have to trust that in the context of God's overall plan for the universe, our suffering serves some purpose, even if we do not always see why.

But knowing that death may take someone at any moment means, I think, that a parents love must express itself more than doing all it can to protect their children from all that they may suffer in this life. Because they time will come when they will not be able to. Even if they live into ripe old age, the time will come when the child they brought into this world will leave it. And then all that will matter will be did the parents do all they could to prepare the child they loved to enter into eternal life? Parents worry so much about getting their children safely through this life; is it not of at least equal importance that they should worry about getting them safely into the next? In fact, is what eternal not of greater importance than what will pass?

For in a sense, all parents face the pain of Jairus, for they bring their children into this world knowing that their children will one day die. They hope they will live long and fruitful lives; and if the parent is an atheist that is the best they can hope for. But the Christian parent hopes for so much more for their child. And it is their duty to do their best to see that their child may achieve that hope by raising them in the faith, and the example they give them of their own Christian living. Even those whose children are now adults may speak to them with a parent's loving concern and remind them of the need to live out the faith. Because a mother or a father never ceases loving their child, wanting the best for them, and hoping that at the end of this life they may enter into their eternal home in heaven. Amen

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