Paternal Love, Death and Life, 4th Tuesday (II), January 30, 2018

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Tuesday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
February 4, 2014
2 Sam 18:9-10.14.24-25.30-19:3, Ps 86, Mk 5:21-43


To listen to an audio recording of this homily, please click below: 


The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Today we encounter several instances of paternal love that can help us to appreciate the love God has for us and the type of love we’re called to have for others.
  • In the Gospel, we meet Jairus, the synagogue official who comes to Jesus to beg him to come quickly to heal his 12 year old daughter who was at the point of death. By this point, Jesus was already persona non grata at the synagogue because he dared to do good and heal on the Lord’s day. For a synagogue official to approach him under any circumstances would have been viewed by many in the synagogue as an act of betrayal, almost consorting with an enemy. Yet Jairus didn’t just approach Jesus, but fell down at his feet and begged him to come to lay his hands on his daughter. So great was the love this dad had for his little girl that he was willing to humiliate himself, if that’s what it took, to cry to save his girl’s life. That love was stronger than his reputation, than his desire to maintain his position, than almost everything other thing he valued.
  • We see a similar love in the first reading. When David saw the Cushite messenger running alone, he anticipated that it would be good news. The news he wanted was that Absalom’s troops had been defeated but that Absalom was safe. He had instructed his army, “Be gentle with young Absalom for my sake.” When the messenger arrived, however, and told him, ““Let my lord the king receive the good news that this day the Lord has taken your part, freeing you from the grasp of all who rebelled against you,” David immediately asked, “Is young Absalom safe?” That was far more important than the details of a victory on the battlefield. When the emissary indicated that he was dead, the King went away from the crowd to weep, crying out, ““My son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you, Absalom, my son, my son!” The victory was turned into mourning for everyone as the army saw how much the king was grieving for his son.
  • Both of these episodes show us what paternal love is and give us an indication of the type of love, the type of weeping, the type of lengths to which God with even greater love acts and weeps for us. David cried out, “If only I had died instead of you, my son!,” and God, through David’s 28th generation grandson according to the flesh, actually did. God so loved the world, he so loved each of us, that he sent his only Son [to die for us] so that we might not perish but might have eternal life. He went so much further than Jairus. He gave his Son up to be brutally murdered — yes, he raised him from the dead, but this shouldn’t lessen the sacrifice made — so that we might live. God the Father loves us like the Father of the Prodigal Son; even after we’ve squandered half of his goods, even if we have turned on him like Absalom against David, he wants to show us that he loves us so much more than those goods.
  • We see one other example of this fatherhood in the middle of the Gospel. So many of the early saintly theologians in the Church — especially Melito of Sardis — pondered the paternity of Jesus, the one who learned the essence of fatherhood from God the Father and became the incarnate image of the invisible God the Father. Jesus is a father, they taught, insofar as he is the one who gives life by the power of his resurrection in the Sacrament of Baptism. He wants to enter into that type of relationship with us, which we see in the healing of the woman with a hemorrhage for a dozen years. As Jesus was hastily going with the crowd to Jairus’ house, jostling with all the people on the way as always happens in the Middle East where “personal space” doesn’t really exist, someone touched him differently than the way everyone else was bumping into him. And Jesus stopped to ask who touched him. The people with him must have thought he was losing perspective. It would be like an ambulance on the way to the emergency room with a patient about to die stopped to investigate a paper cup on the road it had just run over. Someone was about to die and Jesus seemed more interested in who had touched him. But that person wasn’t just a stranger! When the woman finally came up, with “fear and trembling,” and fell down before Jesus to tell him the whole truth, he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. God in peace and be cured!” Daughter! Notice the word! Jesus stopped for his own little girl on the way to cure Jairus’ little girl. And Jesus loved the woman with the hemorrhage even more than Jairus loved his daughter.
  • That’s the love that Jesus has for us. That’s the love that God the Father has for us. There’s nothing he wouldn’t do for us. He’ll suffer any inconvenience. He’ll pause for us even in the midst of a true emergency. Our response to this love is meant to be two-fold. First, we need to let God love us in this way. Second, we need to learn from his love a similar love for others, a love like David’s for Absalom, a love like Jairus’ for his daughter, something that far exceeds normal paternal affection but is a real spiritual participation in God’s love for his beloved sons and daughters whom God has entrusted to an earthly mom’s or dad’s particular care.
  • And the greatest example of that love for God for us, a love that transforms us, happens here at Mass, where we, Jesus’ beloved sons and daughters, have the privilege to do far more than touch the outermost part of his garment. We do far more than touch his actual body on the outside. We touch him and our touched by him on the inside. And not only does a hemorrhage of death dry up, but a font of life is renewed. Jesus’ words to Jairus’ daughter are highly significant. He grasped her by the hand and said, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!” That word “arise” is actually the word for the resurrection. Holding her hand, Jesus told her, “Be risen from the dead” And that’s what Jesus says to us as we come into communion with his risen body and blood. Holding far more than our hands, but holding our whole body and soul on the inside, he says to us “Little girl, little Son, be raised from the dead!” That’s how his paternal love comes to its fulfillment! That’s the way that his paternal tears are dried and his tears — and ours — are turned into joy!

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1
2 SM 18:9-10, 14B, 24-25A, 30-19:3

Absalom unexpectedly came up against David’s servants.
He was mounted on a mule,
and, as the mule passed under the branches of a large terebinth,
his hair caught fast in the tree.
He hung between heaven and earth
while the mule he had been riding ran off.
Someone saw this and reported to Joab
that he had seen Absalom hanging from a terebinth.
And taking three pikes in hand,
he thrust for the heart of Absalom,
still hanging from the tree alive.
Now David was sitting between the two gates,
and a lookout went up to the roof of the gate above the city wall,
where he looked about and saw a man running all alone.
The lookout shouted to inform the king, who said,
“If he is alone, he has good news to report.”
The king said, “Step aside and remain in attendance here.”
So he stepped aside and remained there.
When the Cushite messenger came in, he said,
“Let my lord the king receive the good news
that this day the LORD has taken your part,
freeing you from the grasp of all who rebelled against you.”
But the king asked the Cushite,
“Is young Absalom safe?”
The Cushite replied,
“May the enemies of my lord the king
and all who rebel against you with evil intent
be as that young man!”The king was shaken,
and went up to the room over the city gate to weep.
He said as he wept,
“My son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom!
If only I had died instead of you,
Absalom, my son, my son!”
Joab was told that the king was weeping and mourning for Absalom;
and that day’s victory was turned into mourning for the whole army
when they heard that the king was grieving for his son.

Responsorial Psalm
PS 86:1-2, 3-4, 5-6

R. (1a) Listen, Lord, and answer me.
Incline your ear, O LORD; answer me,
for I am afflicted and poor.
Keep my life, for I am devoted to you;
save your servant who trusts in you.
You are my God.
R. Listen, Lord, and answer me.
Have mercy on me, O Lord,
for to you I call all the day.
Gladden the soul of your servant,
for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
R. Listen, Lord, and answer me.
For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
abounding in kindness to all who call upon you.
Hearken, O LORD, to my prayer
and attend to the sound of my pleading.
R. Listen, Lord, and answer me.

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.
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 him,
“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.