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Father Muench Says...

Two favorite readings on one day

February 12, 2020

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

I am often surprised when I discover that some of my favorite Scripture readings are matched together at a Mass, especially at a daily Mass. Today, I attended Mass while down here in Florida on a bit of a getaway from home. I am visiting my brother and sister-in-law, Mary Lee and Tom, who have a place in Delray Beach. I mention that because if you happen to be in the neighborhood, please stop over. Both Scripture readings are favorites of mine. I have used them often when teaching, as well as at Mass. The Old Testament reading from the Second Book of Samuel is the story of the death of Absalom. The Gospel reading is the story of a healing of Jesus, His raising of Jairus’ daughter. I was wishing I could have given the homily this morning.

So, let me take a minute today and share with you these two wonderful stories. You have heard them often. The Books of Samuel describe the history of the kingships of Saul and David. In today’s story, during David’s older years as king, his third son, Absalom, forms an army and revolts against his father, David. During a battle, Absalom is killed.

The Scripture describes a currier who runs to the city to notify David that Absalom has died and David’s army has won the battle. However, David is upset and broken hearted that his son, Absalom, has been killed. We are told the occasion becomes a time of mourning instead of celebrating for David’s army. David is personally crushed. His prayer – a prayer that is well remembered – is recorded in the Scripture: “My son, my son, Absalom! If only I had died instead of you, Absalom, my son, my son.”

The life of his son is so important to David, even if this son has turned against him and challenged his rule as king. For David, this was his son, whose birth he had celebrated many years ago, whose various achievements during his young life were rewarded, who he truly loved even when this child turned against him. An interesting story isn’t it.

I am reminded of the story I heard once of a mother being interviewed while standing outside of a prison, where her son was about to be put to death for a crime he had committed. She continued to express her love and respect for him. As a priest, I have stood with parents who were trying to come to grips with the fact that their son or daughter had left home and had truly turned against their parents. They were crushed and upset and yet continued to love their child.

The Gospel story is a much happier incident in Jesus’ ministry. Jairus, a synagogue official, comes to Jesus and actually kneels, obviously declaring his faith in Jesus as he asks Jesus to heal his daughter. Jesus agrees to go to his home. Jairus’ faith is again tested when some people meet him on the way declaring that the girl has died. Jesus again encourages Jairus to have faith. Obviously, a challenging moment for Jairus.

At the home, Jesus enters the house with the girl’s parents and with Peter, James and John. We are told that the girl was 12 years old. Twelve is an important number for the Hebrew people. There are 12 tribes of the Chosen People. For us, Christians, 12 is also important. There are 12 apostles of Jesus. Jesus takes the girl by the hand and raises her to life. I always love that the story ends with Jesus telling the parents to give her something to eat.

I am reminded of a doctor I knew so very long ago. He was a very special man. I am told that after treating a child, he would take his prescription pad and write, “take this child out and get him or her an ice cream cone.”

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