Fr. James DiLuzio CSP 27 June 2021
The two lines that shout out at me from our Scripture Readings today are these: From WISDOM 1: 13: “God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living.”
MATTHEW’S GOSPEL: “Why this commotion and weeping?
The child is not dead but asleep.”
In this statement Jesus is clear: death is not an end in itself, but a form of sleep, part of Life’s journey. To sleep and to dream are essential to life itself. We need both sleep and dreams to awaken us every day to something new, a movement toward fullness of life.
Saint Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans: “it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.”
SLEEP – How essential is it to our health and wellbeing! What a mess we would make of life, our history, had humanity kept working 24 seven without the humbling, physical and spiritual values of sleep. From pauper to prince, everyday people to presidents, emperors and kings, sleep must come, dreams will come.
Sleeping. Both a gift and a revelation. Why, even from the beginning of Creation, there is night –rest for all beings, all things, even GOD! Could any statement be more emphatic than what is essential to LIFE than what relates us to GOD? And remember how God relates sleep to humans! Recall Genesis 2:
21 So the Lord God cast a deep sleep on the man, and while he was asleep, he took out one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 The Lord God then built the rib that he had taken from the man into a woman. When he brought her to the man, 23 the man said: “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; This one shall be called ‘woman,’ for out of man this one has been taken.”[k]
From this powerful story of our origins – of course, we do not take “Adam’s rib” event literally, but we do have a MAJOR metaphorical implication in it: SLEEP brings forth NEW LIFE. That is the passage’s import. Many have written that “human beings are closest to death when we sleep AND, moreover, closest to eternity at the very moments we drift off to sleep at night and just before we slowly, awaken into consciousness at morning.
Furthermore, Sleep is the threshold to dreams which, in their joys and terrors, serenities, and fears, offer us connection to heaven and hell – – – connections with relationships, past, present, and future, the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. So important it is that we pay attention to our own dreams, and our experiences of drifting into sleeping and awakening:
Consider the life-Giving Import of dreams in Biblical Revelation. Joel 3: 1: It shall come to pass I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will ream dreams, your young men will see visions.
From Adam’s sleeping to the dreams of Abraham, Jacob (Ladder of Angels), Joseph (who interprets dreams for his brothers and for Pharoah), the Prophet Daniel, the visions of Ezekiel and other prophets:
Dreams are not limited to the Hebrew Scriptures, alone, but prove essential in the life of Jesus and the Church through the dreams of Saint Joseph, Saint Peter, and Saint Paul – all of whom have significant revelations in their dreams.
Dream’s depth dynamics invite us to explore the MORE of Life and Faith as we say in the Creed “things visible and invisible.” Dreams extend our relationships into THE WORLD OF THE NUMINOUS while affirming both body and soul. Our own experience in DREAMS verifies that the spiritual is fully integrated into the material. Dreams confirm our relationship with our own bodies as well minds and spirit, and dreams connect us with other people.
Jesus told the crowds: “The child is not dead but asleep.”
He was not speaking metaphorically here but referring to the deep reality that death is a temporary dynamic, that death, like dreaming, keeps us connected to God and to others, to all relationships in our life, both with the living and the dead.
Contemporary Theologian, and prolific writer Gerhard Lohfink wrote this in his book: IS THIS ALL THERE IS? – Meditations on Resurrection and Eternal Life (pp 175) offers us his convictions that all relationships continue after death:
Every individual is linked to others with a thousand threads. . . . No one can be an “I” without a “you.” Individuality, being oneself, personhood do not exist without a living connection to others. Living as a person means “living in relationship.” Existing means “experiencing others.”
in fact, it is necessary—to call the resurrection of the dead “new creation,” that is, to bring it into relationship with the creation of the world, because that makes it clear that the resurrection of the dead is not something added, something that could be or not be; even though it is pure grace it is part of God’s plan for creation. Creation, from the beginning, points toward its perfection, toward glory, toward being at home in God.
The book of Wisdom relates: “God did not make “death” –that is finality, oblivion, extinction, alienation forever. In God all is held in the palm of God’s hands.” All relationships continue whether we are conscious of them are not in our dreams or daily lives. I have noted before, how the DNA of dinosaurs is still living in birds; that we moderns continue to have Neanderthal DNA in our systems. Nothing, and no one, is fully extinct, nothing is wasted. God who is Relationship itself (Father, Son and Spirit) brings all to fulfillment and calls all relationship onward to eternity. SLEEP and its bedfellow DREAM offer us insights in the interconnectedness of all things.
I once read of a scientific experiment in which scientists were able to split an electron (one of the 3 components of an atom). One half they place in a space capsule with a monitor of some kind and sent it in a satellite beyond our solar system. The other half they maintained in their earth-bound laboratory. They found that whenever they manipulated the electron in their lab, the electron in space reacted and adjusted in exactly the same way as the earthbound one. In other words, space dimension made no difference in the intimate connection of one part of an electron to the other. They were intimately tied, united from earth unto the heavens. Amazing. In this scientific experiment, faith finds a bedfellow in science, not necessarily “proof,” but an invitation to mystery. We need to be open to connections such as these.
Remember, Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead is the foundation of the Christian faith. Scholars tell us Resurrection – that in death, life is changed not ended — was the primary motivation for all the early converts to Christianity. Oh, what Jesus knew and manifested 2000 years ago! Still, all this is a matter of faith which is why Jairus’ faith and the faith of the Woman cured of hemorrhages are so intricately linked. Faith saves us. We continue to make Jesus’ Wisdom and these Gospel events to feed us and bring us into communion. And so, as an act of FAITH, we are welcome to this table of Death and Resurrection: dying from sin and fear and unto New Life — NOW and forever.