DAMNATION OR DORMITION: A HOMILY ON THE 13TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, BY FR. IFEANYICHUKWU HENRY NWOKORO CSsR, ST. ANTHONY’S & ST. JOSEPH’S
There is a 2014 American romantic tragedy titled “The Fault in Our Stars”. In this movie, a 16 years old girl (Hazel) was suffering from cancer. Her parent had forced her to attend a meeting of other cancer patients of about her age. There she met and fell in love with Augustus Waters who was also a cancer patient. During his speech to the group, Augustus Waters was asked what was his greatest fear, to which he replied “Oblivion”. According to him, he intends to live and extraordinary life, and to be remembered. He is afraid of not achieving that. He is afraid of being completely forgotten after his death. He is afraid of just dissapearing into nothingness.
OBLIVION OR DAMNATION
God did not make death, and he does not delight in death of the living. For he created all things that they might exist, and the creatures of the world are wholesome, and there is no destructive poison in them; and the dominion of Hades is not on earth. For righteousness is immortal. For God created man for incorruption, and made him in the image of his own eternity, but through the devil’s envy death entered the world, and those who belongs to his party experience it.: The problem with Augustus Waters’ fear is that he was afraid of the wrong thing. Someone described fear as False Evidence Appearing Real. He was afraid of the wrong danger. But the real danger is damnation. When this reading says that God did not create death, we will wonder why people die. Good people die, and bad people die also. True death is not part of God’s plan for us. We are told that righteousness is immortal. What this simply means is that whoever lives a righteous life cannot die. In this sense, the death we are talking about is the one we call final damnation. Damnation happens when we die in sin. To die in sin, that is the real death. Anyone who dies in a state of grace does not really experience death.
DAMNATION VS DORMITION
At that time: When Jesus had crossed in the boat to the boat to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, a great crowd gathered about him; and he was beside the sea. Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name; and seeing him, he fell at his feet, and begged him, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come andyou’re your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” And he went with him. And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. And there was a woman who had had a flow of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. She had heard reports, about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I shall be made well.” And immediately the hemorrhage ceased; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone forth from him, immediately turned about in the crowd, and said, “Who touched my garments?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, “Who touched me” And he looked around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had been done to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” But ignoring what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. When they came to the house of the ruler of the synagogues, he saw a tumult, and people weeping and wailing loudly. And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a tumult and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside, and he took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi”; which mean, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” And immediately the girl got up and walked; for she was twelve years old. And immediately they were overcome with amazement. And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.: This story is structured in a style which is called the ‘Markan Sandwich’. It is done by inserting a story in the middle of another story. Here we have Jesus met by Jarius and while Jesus was on his way he met the woman and after he continued his journey to raise the girl. This is done to make us see that both stories are meant to make the same point. The similarities is shown in the fact that the girl is 12 years old, and the woman had suffered for 12 years. Also the girl died and the woman was bleeding for 12 years. Naturally speaking, anybody who is bleeding is pouring out blood, which is considered the life-force of a person. So, this woman is considered dead for 12 years, and she was raised by Jesus. However, it is important to note that Jesus said the little girl is not dead but sleeping. There is a very simple formular that can help us understand this statement in relation to the other readings we have today. Death + Sin = Damnation. Death + Grace = Dormition. What is dormition. It is a term that was used in relation to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Because she was sinless, she was assumed into heaven. In the early church, her death was refered to as her dormition. Dormition comes from the latin world ‘dormire’ which means ‘to sleep’. Normally speaking, we normally dont fear to go to bed and sleep. The death of a sinless person is a dormition, which should not be feared at all, since its only like sleeping. Our greatest fear, therefore, should not be that of death itself, or of oblivion. Our greatest fear should be that of dying in a state of sin. That is the death which is not part of God’s plan. The remedy we have is in the sacrament of confession. Living with sin is like being dead but walking, just as living with a hermorhage is like being dead but walking. Going for confession and recieving absolution for our sins is therefore vital. It is our own way of touching his garment. There are at least three ways in which the healing of this woman is similar to what happens in our confessional. First any jew who is bleeding for whatever reason becomes ritually unclean and is not allowed to enter the temple, untill the bleeding is over and the person goes through a ritual of purification. In a similar way, a Catholic who is in a state of sin is not expected to go for Holy Communion until he/she has been to confession. Secondly this woman did not want Jesus to see her. Similarly, the Catholic confession gives us the possibility of either an open or a clossed confession. In a sense this woman hid herself and Jesus healed her. Also, at most confessionals, there is a curtain seperating the priest and the penitent. This curtain is symbolic of the garment of Jesus which this woman touched and was made whole. To live in sin is to live in death. A person living in sin is a dead person. But for a sinless person, what we call death will only be a dormition.
THE SINS THAT CRY FOR VENGIANCE
Brethren: As you excel in everything- in faith, in utterance, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in your love for us- see that you excel in this gracious work also. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you became rich. I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of equality your abundance at the present time should supply their want, so that their abundance may supply your want, that there may be equality. As it is written, “He who gathered much had nothing over, and he who gathered little had no lack.”: This Sunday, we continue with St. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. The Corinthians have a specific attitude to suffering, which St. Paul in this letter, is trying to correct. They rejected Paul because they felt that if he is a true servant of God, then he should not suffer so much in life. This kind of attitude, they also have to anyone who is suffering or poor. St. Paul also presents to them the poverty and suffering of Jesus. Jesus was rich, but he made himself poor for our sake. This means that poverty is not a sign of sinfulness and that our duty to the poor is to care for them. In our Catholic tradition, there are four sins which are said to cry to God for vengiance. 1. Homicide, which is taking the life of another person and this includes babies in the womb. 2. Sodomy and this has to do with sexually violating a person, be that person male or female. 3. Oppression of widows and orphans. 4. Cheating labourers of their due.
When we take a good look at these four sins, we see that these sins bring injury to the poor, the vulnerable and the weak. Of all the sins we can committ, these ones are said to be crying to heaven for vengiance. It is almost as if the people we committ these sins agains will sue us to the court in heaven and demand justice. We cannot afford to die in a state of sin, especially these kind of sins which injure the soul of the poor, the weak and the vulnerable. This is why the final criteria of judgment will be how well we have looked after the poor. To die with this kind of sin brings double damnation. St. Paul was worried about the Corinthians because they have a very bad attitude towards the poor, the weak and the vulnerable. If there is any sin we cannot afford to die with, it is these sins which cry to God for vengiance.
We should not be afraid of death.
We should not be afraid of oblivion.
We should only be afraid of dying in a state of sin, especially the sins we committ against the poor, the weak and the opressed.
Death + Sin = Damnation.
Death + Grace = Dormition.