In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.
Today's Gospel is not only about miracles and the mercy of God; to me it
is about hope beyond hope. In the story of the daughter of Jairus we see
a child already dead; everyone knows about it; there is such certainty
that when the Son of God, become the Son of Man, says, No! This child
has not died, it is fallen asleep, everyone contradicts Him: No, this
child has died. And then Christ, with a word of power, but in an act of
love calls the child to earthly life again.
Isn't this, - apart from being a true event of our human history, -
isn't this also a parable, and an image of so many human situations? How
often we would say, There is no point in doing anything about this
person, this person is lost anyhow; there is nothing to do about
redeeming a given situation, this situation is beyond redemption. And
we must remember the words which were spoken by Christ to Peter when he
said, Who then can be saved? and the Lord said to him, What is
impossible to man, is possible unto God.
Hope beyond hope: not because we have got good reasons to hope, but
because we can be possessed of a passionate certainty that not only love
divine but human love can bring back to life what was lost. People who
have fallen into the deepest dereliction, people who seem to us to be
hopelessly evil, if they are met by the sacrificial love, - and the word
sacrificial is essential, - the sacrificial love of God and the same
sacrificial love in us, can be redeemed.
In the case of this child it happened immediately. In our relation to
one another and to people it may take years, years of patient love,
years during which we will give ourselves, but also endure, endure
endlessly the most unendurable things; and in the end there can be
redemption. There can be redemption on this earth, in the form of a
person who was thought to be hopeless, beyond help, and who begins to
change, and then we see a miracle, and we are elated, and hope becomes
complete and real, and joy fills our heart.
But there is also another way in which this sacrificial love can be
redemption. A western theologian has said around the time of the last
war, when feelings were deep and pain acute, he said that suffering is
the meeting place between evil and humanity; suffering is always caused
by human agency or human agency turns away from it and does not
alleviate it. And suffering always cuts into the soul or into the body
of people. But when it has happened, the victim acquires divine power to
forgive, and by forgiveness to undo the evil, and to redeem those who
have done the evil.
Let us reflect on this; this thought has come to me not out of
reflection, and indeed not out of my life that has always been too easy
for me to be able to speak such words. But after the war a document was
found in one of the concentration camps. It was written on a torn sheet
of wrapping paper by a man who died in this camp. And the substance of
his message was a prayer in which he said, Lord, when you come as a
Judge of the earth, do not condemn the people who have done such
atrocious things to us; do not hold against them their cruelty and our
suffering, their violence and our despair, but look at the fruit which
we have borne in patience, in humility, in fortitude, in forgiveness, in
loyalty, in solidarity; and may these fruits be accounted unto their
salvation. Do not allow the memory of us to be in eternity horror to
them; may it be their salvation.
This is also hope beyond hope. And to me it is connected with this
contrast between the sinful, the false, the blind knowledge expressed by
the people in the house: they laugh at Christ, they know that the
child is dead, hope is superfluous, it is drowned in despair, - and the
victory of love and of mercy which is shown in the event but which can
extend in so many ways into our personal lives on the simplest level,
and on the most heroic ones.
Let us therefore give thought to it, and choose for hope beyond hope,
for that love and that faith that conquer. Amen.