18th Sunday after Pentecost
In today’s Holy Gospel we hear the account of the raising of the son of the widow of Nain. Christ and His disciples and a large crowd of followers were traveling from one city to the next and, as they approached the city of Nain, their path crossed with a funeral procession. A young man, the only son of a widowed mother, had died and the dead man was being carried out for burial. When our Lord saw this scene, His heart was filled with compassion for the grieving mother and He approached her and said, ‘Do not weep.’
Then He touched the coffin of the deceased and said to Him, ‘Young man, I say to you, arise.’ Immediately, the young man was revived and sat up and began speaking. The shock and consolation and joy of the mother, and of all those who witnessed this miracle, must have been indescribable!
In this Gospel account we see before us two processions… a procession of Life: with Christ our Lord followed by His disciples and a large crowd of followers. And we see a procession of death: the funeral procession of this young man, the only son of the widow of Nain. The procession of death comes face to face with the procession of Life – and Christ, the Giver of Life, through His compassion and by His divine power, overturns the procession of death into a resurrection!
What an image! And what a fitting image this is for the world we see today. If we look around us, we see in so many ways the procession of death. I was particularly struck by this last weekend… Matushka and I were out of town and spent a couple of nights in a hotel up in Santa Rosa. By choice, we do not have a TV in our home and so I hoped it would be a rare treat to watch a little television while we were there. I was shocked by what I saw… Channel after channel there was nothing to be seen but the procession and glorification of death! Now, I know that much of this was in preparation for the morbid celebrations of Halloween this month – but still… it was extremely disturbing to see how dark and how utterly demonic were the images being paraded upon the screen.
I don’t think this was particularly unique. So much of the news, so much of social media, so much of popular music, so much of what is being taught and discussed in the world today can be accurately described as a procession of death.
Is there any wonder why people are so depressed and so hopeless?
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ… thank God, there is another procession approaching. It is the procession of Life! It is the presence of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ – Who is the Source of Life itself.
And just as we see in the Gospel this morning, our Lord Jesus Christ calls out to us: ‘Do not weep!’ His compassion for us is indescribable. And His authority over all tragedy and death is absolute. He also calls out to us to ‘Arise!’
We have great reason for hope and rejoicing… We are not meant to be, nor are we confined to be caught in the lockstep procession of death. Though we all still face our mortality, the passage from this earthly life does not spell the end. Though we may be oppressed by the hopelessness we see in the world around us, Christ’s procession of Life is our alternative and our hope.
It is interesting to note the three cases of resurrection performed by Christ during His earthly ministry. Jesus raised the daughter of Jairus when she was still lying on her bed, He raised the son of the widow of Nain while he was being carried out in a coffin, and He raised Lazarus who was already buried and decomposing.
It was never too late for our Lord! And this is what we must know and believe as well… it is never too late for our Lord!
Though we, or one we may love, might be experiencing spiritual death of some kind – whether that spiritual death might be characterized as ‘still lying in our bed’ – in other words, not too far gone; or whether that spiritual death is more severe, such that we might way we are being carried out in our coffin; or even if we have been given up as dead and buried and reeking of the stench of spiritual decomposition… it is never too late for our Lord.
As long as we have breath and have the opportunity to choose Life over death, to choose Grace over sin, to choose Love over evil and fear… Christ can and will resurrect us.
Many of the holy fathers who have commented on this Gospel passage place great importance on the fact that our Lord reaches forth and touches the coffin of the young man. There is an intimacy here that is so characteristic of God, Who so often uses touch or material things like mud and spit… or bread and wine to be the vehicles of His Grace.
God reaches out to us and He calls for us to arise. Let us take great consolation in His compassion and great courage in His Life-giving power.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ… there are two processions taking place before us. One is the procession of death which leads to dark places. The other is the procession of Life which leads to Light and Grace. May God grant us to arise and to resolutely and steadfastly join that procession of Life!