Friday, June 18, 2021

Jesus Reverses the Curse

In our culture, we are often told that “death is just a part of life,” and that “death is perfectly natural.” 

These statements are told to us by many wise modern philosophers, including animated cartoon characters in the classic Disney movie, “The Lion King.” (I love that film, by the way. When our daughters were young a couple of decades ago, we popped that tape in the ol’ VCR machine all the time, along with other great Disney children’s movies such as “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and Beast,” and “Platoon.”)
In “The Lion King,” it’s explained that all living things, including we humans, are part of the great “circle of life,” where each generation has to move on and make room for the next generation — often by becoming food for the next generation. 

So, the idea is that death is just a natural part of life. Well, tell that to Jairus, the man in this week’s gospel reading at Mass, as his friends come and tell him, “Your daughter has died; why trouble [Jesus] any longer?” Sure, just tell Jairus that death is perfectly natural. Sing Elton John’s “The Circle of Life” song for him. “Oh, you got a dead kid there, Jairus? Hey, you’ll get over it. C’mon pal, let’s go have some lunch.” 

I suspect we are constantly told this “death is natural” view to keep us from becoming despondent at the death of loved ones, and to keep us from being terrified by the thought of our own death. However, the idea that “death is just a part of life” is the farthest thing from God’s view. God did not create life just so it ultimately could die and wither away.  

Death was not part of God’s original plan. For example, when Jesus stood before His friend Lazarus’ grave — even though He knew He was about to raise him from the dead — the Bible tells us that Jesus wept. That’s how repugnant the whole idea of death was to Jesus.
Just think of it: Jesus was the only person present at that moment who KNEW Lazarus would be walking and talking and hugging his family in a few moments. And yet Jesus wept at death, at the way death had corrupted the perfect creation He had spoken into existence before the beginning of time (John 1:3). Death was not, and has never been, a part of God’s plan for mankind. Death is an abomination; it is an obscenity; it is a curse. 

Up until the year 2004, Boston Red Sox fanatics such as myself had a rallying cry: “Reverse the Curse!” This referred to the so-called “Curse of the Bambino,” the idea that the late, great Babe Ruth had cursed the Red Sox never to win the World Series as punishment for trading him to the rival New York Yankees. At times — Bucky, Buckner, Boone, etc. — it certainly seemed as though this curse was real. It took 86 years, but the Sox finally reversed the curse. 
The reason Jesus came to earth was to reverse the curse — the curse of death. His sacrificial death on the cross once and for all paid the price for the entire world’s sins. And His rising from the grave three days later conquered death. What Satan had gleefully unleashed in the Garden of Eden, Jesus reversed on Calvary. 

So, even though we still have to deal with the death of our physical bodies on this side of eternity, death no longer has the final word. The Word made flesh changed all that. The crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus made it possible for our souls and our glorified bodies to have eternal life in Heaven. 

Death is still painful and horrific, and anyone who tries to cheer us up with that “death is just a natural part of life” nonsense — whether a well-meaning but foolish friend or a philosophical cartoon character singing a catchy movie tune — should be gently but firmly hushed. 

Death is painful, but it is no longer hopeless. Jesus changed all that. The curse has been reversed. Thank God!

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