"Do not be afraid. Just have faith."
These are the words of Jesus to the doubting synagogue official in today's gospel reading (Mk 5:21-43). A little girl, only twelve years old, had died. Her father had gone to get Jesus, because he had heard of the great miracles He was performing and knew Christ would be the only one who could save his child. When Jesus arrived, the synagogue official told the father not to trouble Jesus any more, because his daughter had already died. Jesus simply told him, "Do not be afraid. Just have faith." They went in to see the daughter and found her alive and healthy.
What wonderful words for us to remember today. Imagine Christ speaking these words to you. The entire Christian faith is contained in these two simple commands.
This is the essence of what it means to be a Christian. Do not be afraid. Why not? Because Christ has come, and He saves us, giving us no reason to fear. Just have faith. Faith in what? Faith in the Son of God who has come to restore us.
Today's first reading from the book of Wisdom speaks of our original condition (Wis 1:13-15; 2:23-24). "God made man to be imperishable, the image of his own nature he made him." What is God's nature, but existence and being itself? God's nature is life, and love. And we were created in that image. "God did not make death," the author of Wisdom assures us. Indeed, death is antithetical to what God is. "For he fashioned all things that they might have being; and the creatures of the world are wholesome."
So why is there sickness and death in this world? Why do we worry and fret? Why do we fear? All these things come not from God, but from the devil -- and from ourselves when we listen to those evil influences in our life. We know (or should know) the story of the fall. Adam and Eve, our first parents, decided to listen to the serpent in the garden instead of the God who made them. They were disobedient and unrepentant when their sin was discovered. They were cast out of paradise, and illness and death entered into the world.
The Christian story is the story of God working through man's history to set things right again. This is why Christ came to us -- to conquer death. And He did so in a way that our human minds would never have imagined. For the Second Person of the Trinity did not merely snap His fingers and do away with death, but He Himself died on our behalf. He took death unto Himself and made it the very portal to everlasting life. And He still today offers redemption to us by granting the grace needed to choose life over death, to choose holiness over sin.
And so we can sing with the psalmist today, "I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me!"
As a Christian, you should not fear death. For your savior Himself died, and came through the other side -- He will be waiting faithfully for you there, to "lift you up from the netherworld and preserve you from among those going down into the pit" (to paraphrase today's psalm). And if we have no reason to fear death any longer, what else shall we fear? What else can Christ not help us to overcome? There is nothing our Lord cannot help us to get through by giving us the grace needed to come out the other side whole, and indeed stronger.
"Do not be afraid. Just have faith." Christ speaks these words to you today. Listen to Him.