13th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Ages 6-9): Sleep-Training
(Adults, the reflection for the 6-9 year old considers simply the raising of Jairus' daughter to life. You could begin by reading the Gospel aloud to the child. Alternatively, you could read the first paragraph of the reflection to the child, then read the Gospel, and then continue with the reflection.)
In the Gospel for this Sunday, when Jesus and his friends return from their trip out on the lake, a crowd is there to greet them. They want to be near to Jesus. They expect him to show them more about the Kingdom of God. But Jesus does something that they don't expect. He shows them something of the mind of God.
One of the synagogue leaders named Jairus came and, when he saw Jesus, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” So Jesus went with him.
The man comes to Jesus wanting something. He is a father with a daughter who is very sick. He says that she is at the "point of death." This shows that he thinks that death is a point, an ending. He wants Jesus to pull his daughter away from the ending. He is afraid she may die, and he wants his daughter to live.
We can understand how Jairus thinks. We do not want our loved ones to die, either. We want them to live. But do we understand how Jesus thinks? Let's focus on what Jesus says and does.
Jesus says nothing. He wastes no time discussing the man's situation. He just goes with him.
When the man is upset, Jesus goes with him. He is not alone.
Some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.”
Now Jesus speaks, but his words are strange. When the news arrives that Jairus' daughter is dead, Jesus does not say, "I am sorry for your loss." Jesus does not say, "This is all part of God's plan." Jesus does not even say, "Do not be sad." Instead, he tells the man not to be afraid. Why?
When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.”
Again Jesus speaks and his words are strange. He asks why they are so upset; he asks them why they cry. Doesn't he know why? We know why. This is what people do when someone they love dies. We get upset and cry because we cannot be with the one we love in the same way. We get upset and cry because everything changes. We get upset and cry because it feels like death is the end. What a strange question for Jesus to ask.
Then Jesus says the strangest thing of all. He tells them that she is not dead but sleeping. The people know she is dead. We know she is dead. If she is not dead then, when Jesus takes the girl by the hand and says,
“Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!”And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about,
nobody at all would be
overcome with amazement.
If the girl is not dead, then there is no miracle, and frankly, we know this is a miracle. First, that girl is dead; now, she is alive.
So why does Jesus say, "The child is not dead, but sleeping"?
Could it be that this is how Jesus thinks of death? Is he trying to get us to understand how he thinks? Does Jesus think death is a kind of sleep?
But if Jesus thinks that death is a kind of sleep, why does he tell the man not to be afraid? People are not afraid of sleep. We are not afraid because we know that after we sleep, we arise. It is a new day, and life goes on. No one is afraid of sleep, are they?
Actually, there is a time in a baby's life when she can be afraid to sleep. If the baby falls asleep in the arms of her mother or father, but then wakes up in a crib, she can be afraid. Where did her loved ones go??? Mum and Dad have to come and show their faces, reassuring the baby that all is well. The baby has to learn to go to sleep without fear, because love will be there when she awakes. We call this sleep-training. We train babies not to be afraid to sleep.
If Jesus thinks death is a kind of sleep, could Jesus be sleep-training the little girl's whole family? They do not need to be afraid of death, but they do need some training in order to believe. The little girl has died, and they are afraid of death. They think death is the end. Where has their loved one gone??? Jesus comes in, and takes the little girl by the hand, and says,
“Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!”
And whose face does she see right away? Who is the first person she sees?
One day, this little girl will come to the point of death again, maybe when she is old and grey. But she will know that death is not a point; it is not an ending. She can go to death without fear, because Love will be there when she arises.
Because Jesus sleep-trained the family, Jairus and his wife and daughter all know something about the mind of God. They know what we know:
They know that when they are upset, Jesus goes with them.
They know that death is not an ending, but only a kind of sleep.
They know that after death, we arise. It is a New Day, and Risen Life goes on.
They know that they do not need to be afraid, because the first face they will see when they arise, will be Love.