What Does Death Smell Like?
In today’s scripture passages, from the Book of Wisdom and the Gospel of St. Mark, the theme of life and death are both mentioned. In our Wisdom reading we are directly told that:” God did not make death.” And we should conclude that God does not rejoice in death. Our God is a God of life and since we are created in ‘His image and likeness’, we too have to promote life and live it to its fullness. What a great image that we are created to be imperishable! Isn’t that what Resurrection is all about? But the author of Wisdom also warns that if a person chooses to hook up with the devil, and his evil works, then death is the ultimate destiny. It seems very ‘matter-of-fact’ and therefore we could miss entirely the dire consequences of not doing our absolute best to follow God’s ways. But we must be realistic and admit that this is ‘easier said than done.’
Take a few moments to consider what shape ‘death’ can take in our lives and world. I do not mean only physical death, but its many forms in disguise. American authoress, Zora Neale Hurston helps to re-imagine how many ways death exists in our world. “There is something about poverty that smells like death’” she wrote. Yes, poverty, a pandemic, physical illnesses, financial distress, homelessness all smell of death in the sense that she is writing about. A person may be experiencing terrible hardships, and their lives seem dismal and close to the ‘end of their ropes.’ Any situation, although not named specifically death, can smell of finality that can sometimes mimic death as in the end of the road for someone.
In our Gospel passage we hear of the plight of a sick girl and a woman who has been suffering for many years. Both are physically experiencing health issues… the girl is supposedly on her death bed and the woman has been ill for a dozen years. In the case of the sick girl, it is her father who begs Jesus to cure his lovely daughter. The woman, on the other hand reaches out herself to tap into the power of healing that she believes Jesus has. In both instances Jesus’ identity is established as being the ‘Son of God’ who shares with His Father power over death.
What issues in your life, if any, have smelled like death? Like Jairus and the woman healed, are you just as certain that Jesus can heal you of things that ‘smell like death?” Psalm 30’s response that we will proclaim at our weekend Masses is: “I will praise the Lord, for He has rescued me.” This is the heart of today’s readings and the entirety of the Bible. God can rescue us from whatever enters our lives…if we have the faith to believe He can do so. Sometimes like the young girl we may need someone to assist us. Other times we must take the initiative ourselves. Either way, we know the true source of life and should always feel comfortable approaching God and seek His presence and healing powers. If we can do this, then everything can smell of life. Be strong in faith and take in a deep breath of this wonderful lifegiving aroma, it can cure what ails you!
Have a blessed week,