FROM A READING FOR JULY 1, 13TH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
'As it is written, "The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little.'" - 2 Cor 8:15


Historians have always had problems pinpointing the forces behind Judaism's first-century-BCE leap into a belief in an afterlife. Before then, the Israelites presumed we'd be rewarded or punished in this life for what we do in this life. It's the only life we'll ever have.

Past scholars presumed some sacred authors had read the works of Greek philosophers who believed in an afterlife - but there was no smoking gun. No one could be certain who had read whom, or when.

About 25 years ago, experts in Wisdom literature like the late Rev. Roland Murphy began to realize the smoking gun had always been before their eyes: In Sunday's first reading (Wis 1:13-15; 2:23-24), the Wisdom author mentions, "Justice is undying."

"Justice" is the biblical word describing the relationship we're to have with God and those around us. These words help us understand how Jews came up with the insight that we can live forever.

Continued connection
Our sacred writer presumes God is eternal, then reasons that if we have a correct relationship with God, God will continue that relationship after we die. In that case, we'll also live into eternity.

Pagan Greeks had no input into the biblical idea of an afterlife. Jews figured it out all by themselves, based on their own faith.

Faith, not philosophy, is the force behind our belief in an afterlife. Technically, faith is the force behind everything we do. Mark demonstrates this in Sunday's Gospel (Mark 5:21-43).

The evangelist employs a literary device to show a passage of time: He introduces one story, interrupts it with another, then returns to the first. In both stories, the subject matter is the same: Jesus' family sets out to take Him under control because they think He's out of His mind. Mark inserts a narrative about other people thinking Jesus has a demon in Him; then he returns to the first story, mentioning that Jesus' mother and brothers finally arrived.

In Sunday's passage, the topic is faith. It took lots of faith for Jairus, a synagogue official, to ask a radical, itinerant preacher for a favor - even more when he discovers his daughter has already died before Jesus' arrival.

Life of faith
In a parallel way, though a mob is "pressing" upon Jesus, only one person touches Him with faith. Jesus tells the healed woman, "Your faith has saved you," and encourages the distraught father, "Do not be afraid. Just have faith!"

Following Jesus always revolves around faith. Only those who can use faith to reach beyond the present and move toward a world yet to be experienced can be His disciples.

Perhaps one of the most overlooked parts of the hemorrhaging woman miracle is Mark's comment that Jesus realized "power had gone out of Him." Most of us think Jesus worked miracles by snapping His fingers or saying a few words; we don't appreciate that miraculous actions drained Jesus of His physical strength.

If we are to imitate Jesus' faith, we can expect some of our strength also to be drained. Paul, in II Corinthians (8:7,9,13-15), carries that over into draining some of his community's financial strength: "As a matter of equality, your abundance at the present time should supply [others'] needs."

We who work at achieving eternal justice must be willing to drain ourselves for the sake of God and those around us.