2Sm 18:9,10,14b,24,25a,30-19:3; Ps 86:1-6; Mk 5:21-43
The Lord Jesus is the only one who gladdens the souls of his servants. Indeed, the LORD is good and forgiving; he abounds in kindness to all who call upon him. In our first reading King David wanted to die instead of his son, Absalom. David would have gladly offered his spirit in place of his beloved and unfaithful son. Such love is startling and unspeakable. How is this love like our Father’s love for his beloved and faithful Son? The Lord Jesus grasps the hand of Jairus’s daughter to raise her up. Christ our God reaches out to us in this Liturgy to lift us up for the glory of the Father and in the power of the Holy Spirit.
This edited version of the death of Absalom manages to capture some of the story’s high tension and sad grieving. Absalom the third son of David, whose name means father of peace, was far from his father and far from any peace. Perhaps this son of David had a justified grievance against his father, however, no such grievance could justify such betrayal and rebellion. So often we feel justified and entitled to our sinful rebellion against our Father in Heaven. Indeed, we grieve that life has treated us so unfairly. We have been given little or no respect from those around us; we have every good excuse for just this little sin or rebellion. This story of Absalom continues to reveal our story. It was Joab, the mighty general who had sworn to save the life of David’s son, who seems to take such delight in thrusting three pikes through the rebel’s heart. Such violence pierces the heart of the king. David is slow to recover from such grief. His weeping and mourning still echo in our liturgy, “My son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you, Absalom, my son, my son!” Such heart felt loss is not unfamiliar to any parent who looses a child, especially those ripped away by war. Indeed, the death of a son is a burden too heavy for any father’s heart. The death of Absalom was too much for David, even though this son betrayed his father and sought to kill him. Psalm 116 captures a little of this drama in these words, “Precious in the eyes of the LORD is the death of his faithful one.” Indeed, all too costly to the heart of the Father is the death of his Only Begotten Son. The haunting cry of David for Absalom is only a drop in the well in comparison to the Father’s love for his Eternal Son. Every year we will hear the liturgical echo of such precious love in the Good Friday Reproaches. Then it will be the voice of the faithful Son to his unfaithful friends and spouse, “Tell me, my people, how have I offended you? What more could I have done for you?” The Father’s love for each of us in Christ moves his heart to compassion, to give us the Holy Spirit who will drive us out into the desert of yet another lent. Indeed, we are precious in our Father’s eyes, and that’s why he gives us every year another season of grace and glory, Ash Wednesday to Pentecost, Ashes to Fire.
It is the Father-Son relationship that dominates the first reading and in the gospel we hear about a father-daughter relationship. The love Jairus has for his daughter attracts the heart of our Savior who immediately follows the synagogue official to his home. Saint Peter Chrysologus recalls that this learned man certainly remembered that it was by the word that God created all things, but it was with his own divine hands that he made Adam and Eve. So Jairus asks the Lord Jesus to come and “lay your hands upon my daughter”. While on the way they encounter a crowd that slows down their urgent errand. In this pressing mass of people the Lord Jesus asks, “Who touched me?” Saint Ephrem the Syrian sings of the hidden suffering and the public revelation of this afflicted daughter of the LORD. It is the glory of Christ that is hidden from the crowd that is revealed through the hidden suffering of the woman. It is Christ who proclaims her hidden faith even as she gives testimony to his healing power. Like the daughter of Jairus and the woman in the crowd the Lord Jesus lives and moves and has his being among us. Christ is near and his power invites our faith and strengthens our faith so that we might be utterly astounded by his passionate death and glorious resurrection at the center of our liturgy and our life. It is Christ Our God who leads us from glory to glory, from love to love, from ashes to flames! Alleluia!