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 d i e d’ … 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 p o s s i b l e 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, c a n 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 of ourselves, but also endure, endure e n d l e s s l y the most u n e n d u r a b l e things; and in the end there can be redemption. There can be redemption in 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 souls 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 fruits 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 a 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.