June 28, 2009

Not Just a Big Human

Today's first reading (Wis 1:13-15; 2:23-24) reminds us that God is something greater than us, something beyond us. As Fr. Serpa at Catholic Answers likes to put it, God is not just a big version of us. I suspect many of our misunderstandings about God stem from imagining that he's a big, powerful human.

This is not the way in which we're an image of God, however. God didn't give us bodies as a mirror of Him. Before the Incarnation, God never had a physical body. Physical bodies, as we've all discovered at one point or other, are limited. God is not limited.

The built-in desire to live, the attachment to these physical bodies, did not come from God either. God loves and desires life, yes, but as we see in the Gospel reading (Mk 5:21-43) God has a different perspective on suffering and death. Notice that he never said anything about how terrible the suffering was. In fact, you could say that Jesus took His time getting to the dying girl. He didn't force through the crowd like a celebrity through a crowd of photographers. He took His time with them while a girl died. I'm sure the girl's family wondered at this - where is God while our child is dying? Why would God let this happen?

We see from a top-down view here, this one time, that God does, in fact, let it happen. We see just where God is when a child is dying - He is outside with the crowd. Why?

Jesus never said we shouldn't hurt or suffer or die; Jesus hurt and suffered and died Himself, in fact. He accepted it as part of the great plan, as part of what needs to happen for our greater good.

I don't believe the girl is raised just to show off Jesus' power. It wasn't a parlor trick to impress the crowd. How often Jesus was told to "do a trick" - by the devil in the desert, by the mocking crowd at Golgotha - and He never showed off. Why raise a girl from the dead? Why take His time getting there, then raise a girl from the dead? To show us God's perspective on suffering and death.

Where is God when children suffer? Where is He when they die? He is chastizing us, just as He did to that girl's family. He is asking us why we make such a commotion when they're just sleeping, when they will be raised up from sleep to eternal life with Him. As Mother Theresa once put it: "In light of heaven, the worst suffering earth, a life full of the most atrocious tortures earth, will be seen to be no more serious than one night in an inconvenient hotel."

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