13th Sunday of Ordinary Time (June 28, 2015)
Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24
One thing that has always impressed me about the Catholic faith is that, no matter how long you live on this earth, you will never know everything there is to know about the faith. What I mean is that our faith is very rich and not boring at all. There is always something that you can learn. If you ever think that Catholicism is boring, well then, you are not even trying! Studying the Mass and the Eucharist has led me to some of the most mind-blowing teachings I have ever come across. These teachings have literally changed my life forever and I still haven’t come to a complete understanding of them.
I’ve also always been impressed by all the “stuff” our faith has that can help us grow our prayer life and become closer to God. Some of this “stuff” I’m referring to are things like the Rosary, Chaplet of Divine Mercy, veneration of the Saints, veils, holy oils, Stations of the Cross, novenas, candles, Eucharistic Adoration, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Immaculate Heart of Mary, incense, Icons and going on pilgrimages. We have so many prayers and practices that I can’t even come close to naming them all. I mean, who hasn’t lost their keys or cell phone and shot up a quick prayer to St. Anthony for help? Need to sell your house? Bury a St. Joseph statue in your yard! Think your house is haunted? Call your local crucifix carrying, holy water sprinkling, bible in hand priest who’s ready to pounce on the devil! These things are not superstitions, but devotions and sacramentals that help us stay connected to God and His Church.
One practice that I have been doing for a few years now is wearing a Brown Scapular. In the year 1251, Our Lady appeared to St. Simon Stock, a Carmelite. She handed him a brown woolen scapular and said, “This shall be a privilege for you and all Carmelites, that anyone dying in this habit shall not suffer eternal fire.”
In time, the Church extended this to all the laity who are willing to be invested in the Brown Scapular of the Carmelites and any priest can enroll them into the Confraternity. Fr. Noel enrolled my family. The three things you agree to do after being enrolled are: wear the scapular continuously, recite daily the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary or pray a daily Rosary, and to observe chastity. So this Scapular is my “yes” to those conditions. It is also a symbol that represents my belief that God allowed Our Lady to appear to St. Simon Stock in 1251 and that the promise she gave was real. The Scapular I wear around my neck is not superstition; it represents my faith that God is not a liar and that there is indeed life after death.
I then take this one step farther. Every time I visit a church or shrine that has a saint’s relic (a bone chip, piece of hair, a piece of clothing they wore, etc), I touch my scapular to the relic. I do that so I can keep the Saints closer to my heart and I ask them to pray for me. You see…our Catholic faith teaches us that the Saints are in heaven with God and can pray for us. I believe this with my whole heart and that inspires me to live better. Many of the men and women we refer to as Saints lived a not so perfect life on earth. But they eventually turned their life around and lived a life pleasing to God… some even laid down their life for God. Their reward for being faithful = HEAVEN. So, my Brown Scapular visibly reminds me to pray, be chaste and know that the Saints are praying for me in Heaven. It is a gentle reminder that life on earth is temporary so I need to prepare now for my eternal life after death. Now I ask you…how can any of that possibly be boring!?!?
Another thing that is not boring is today’s Gospel reading from Mark. It’s the account of Jairus asking Jesus to heal his daughter who is near death. He begs Jesus to come to his house and simply lay His hands on his daughter to heal her. Just before they arrive at the house, they are told the girl had already died. Imagine the grief the father felt. He was hopeful that Jesus could cure her but now she’s gone. So close… but Jesus was just too late to save her… or was He???
You see…what frightens us sinners the most is death. To many, death seems like the end…total darkness. We are often unable to surrender and trust in God’s promises and therefore we fear death. Apparently, we humans have trust issues! Jesus fully realizes this, which is why, on hearing the news that Jairus’ daughter had died, Jesus turns to Jairus and says, “Do not be afraid; just have faith” and they continued on. They arrived at the house and found people were “weeping and wailing loudly” at the death of the daughter. You can then sense Jesus just shaking His head, possibly rolling His eyes as He says, “Why this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep.” I recently listened to Fr. Robert Barron’s homily on this same Scripture verse and this is how he used it to help explain death as we know it now. The “weeping and wailing” represents our human perspective of death. We resist it with all our might due to our fear and lack of trust. However, Jesus referring to the girl as being not dead but “asleep” represents God’s perspective of death. We simply fall asleep to this life and awake to our eternal life. This goes back to the opening line we heard today from the Book of Wisdom stating, “God did not make death,” especially the “weeping and wailing” perspective that we all fear due to our lack of trust.
I guess this is actually why I continue to wear a Brown Scapular around my neck. Because I fear death more often than I embrace death. I need this Scapular to remind me daily that my faith is not to be feared, but to be celebrated with trust. Death should not be seen as darkness and the end, but as light and a new beginning. Trying to stay connected with the Saints also strengthens my faith because it reiterates in my heart that if the Saints made it to heaven, there is hope for me. And my brothers and sisters, there is hope for you as well.
The Church so beautifully has given us all of that “stuff” I mentioned earlier to help us stay focused on God and His teachings. Life is full of distractions that try to veer us away from God. So I challenge you to study your faith and find a devotion or sacramental (like the Brown Scapular) that you can cling to when life gets rough or when your faith feels weak or challenged. This is important because all of these things will help lead us to heaven because they point us to Christ. He is the only one who can alleviate our fears. As Fr. Barron said, “The way of Christ enables us to face the power of death with trust rather than fear.”
So trust in Jesus Christ with your entire being so that the next time you face tragedy, uncertainty, suffering or even death, you will fear no more.
** For more information or to order a Brown Scapular, I highly recommend this site: http://www.sistersofcarmel.com/brown-scapular-information.php