Opening the Word: Conquering the chaos

Death is chaotic. The once vital body shuts down. Breathing becomes labored. As blood ceases to flow, the process of decomposition begins. In dying, our bodies become nothing. All that remains is bones.

When God created the world, God fought against this process of chaos. In Genesis, we read, “In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth — and the earth was without form or shape, with darkness over the abyss and a mighty wind sweeping over the waters” (Gn 1:1-2). From the nothingness of chaos, God orders. God separates. God makes.

“God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living” (Wis 1:13). Human beings were not made for death. Human beings were made to be like God, created for a love that does not end.

Jesus Christ has come into the world to deal with the chaos of death. The synagogue official Jairus comes forward, asking Jesus to rescue his daughter from death. From chaos.

Along the way, Jesus meets a hemorrhaging woman whose body is in the process of dying. She bleeds. She oozes. She is considered unclean. She cannot enter into the synagogue, remaining on the outside of salvation.

She reaches out to touch the light that shines into the darkness. She reaches out to the only person who can heal the chaos of death. Through touching the hem of Jesus’ garment, the bleeding ceases.

Our Lord notices, turning to the crowd. He wants to know who has touched him. The healed woman approaches and “fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth” (Mk 5:33).

What is the whole truth? Surely, the truth was the chaos that had overtaken her. The loneliness she knew as one on the margins, ignored by all who passed by. She admitted to Jesus the hope that arose in her heart as she gazed upon him. Surely, the Way, the Truth and the Life could order her chaos.

But in this fallen world, in this world suffering from sin and death, there’s chaos aplenty. While he was healing the hemorrhaging woman, the daughter of Jairus has died.

Chaos has fallen upon her body. It has fallen upon all those who loved her as they are overtaken with tears.

Yet, Our Lord enters into the chaos, stating that she is but sleeping. They know the signs of death. They know what happens when the heart ceases to beat, when death descends.

But they don’t yet know the whole truth. That the man who stands before them has come to end the chaos of death: “Little girl, I say to you, arise!” (Mk 5:41).

Arise she does. The voice of the one who will himself be raised from the dead through the power of the Father and the glory of the Spirit affects her salvation.

Jesus came into the world to deal with death.

And we Christians are meant to share this fact with the world. We are to go to the ends of the world, announcing the good news that chaos will not win.

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Against all odds, all our evidence, God will order the chaos.

And we’re to live this new life in the world.

We are to welcome the refugee into our home, the one who knows the chaos of violence, sharing with them healing love.

We are to welcome the pregnant, unwed mother into our midst, taking away the chaos of poverty and giving her the dignity of Christian friendship.

Death is chaotic. It is inevitable. We Christians refuse this premise because God refused it first.

Timothy P. O’Malley, Ph.D., is managing director of the McGrath Institute for Church Life.