When We Are Forced to Stare At Death

The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke. (7:11-16) 

In today’s gospel reading we are privileged to hear an amazing account from St. Luke the evangelist. We are told that many of the disciples as well as a great crowd of people were following the Lord Jesus as He went to a city called Nain, which was a village of Galilee. What the disciples and the people would witness that day was something very special, almost unbelievable. It was a work that had only happened a select few times throughout the whole of the history of the people of God. I am sure that when they woke up that morning, they could not fathom what their eyes would behold that day.

As our Lord Jesus Christ drew near to the gate of the city He encountered one of the sights that He abhors above all else. He encountered something that might have caused Him pain of heart. He was entering the city as a funeral procession was passing by. Why should such a sight be something that the Lord Jesus hates? Because He created us to live forever. He created us to be full of life, not to be swallowed up and embraced by death. He was sad at the sight because from the beginning it was not meant to be. We were meant for so much more than to simply lie in a box with our eyes closed.

I believe that every time the Lord encountered death, it was deeply troubling to Him, as it should be to us. Because it reminds us of the fallenness of humanity and the sin of our forefathers. It reminds us that death had dominion, or lordship over all human life. Yet we find that in Christ, all things become new.

We are told that when the Lord Jesus saw the procession and the widow whose only son had died, He had compassion on her and said “Do not weep.” These are the precious words of the Lord, whose word created Heaven and Earth and all of creation. He condescends to this poor widows pain and anguish and He comforts her with His word “Do not weep.” Who are we that any of us should be shown such comfort and compassion by the Lord, as He demonstrates in this story? What a beautiful master we serve!

After comforting the widow with His words, and as an aside, let me say that when someone is sick or suffering, we should be careful not to try and comfort them with empty words of comfort. The Lord comforted with a full knowledge of what He would do. We should not tell the sick and suffering that everything will be okay, when in fact, their world might be falling apart. We should be with them in their pain. You can’t tell them that everything will be better, because we don’t know that. End of aside.

After His comforting words, the Lord does something that no one that day expected or foresaw. He came up to the bier (the casket) and He touched it and said “Young man, I say to you: arise.” And we are told that the dead man sat up and began to speak. It was such a shock to the crowd that we are told that “fear seized them all.” But the evangelist goes on to say, “and they glorified God saying “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited His people!”

My brothers and sisters, this story is about each of us. Sometimes we are like the widow who is staring into the face of the darkness and trying to somehow make sense of the death of a loved one. And we will all certainly be like the widow’s son who was laying lifeless in the casket, because all of us are going to die. Death is beyond our control. Death is beyond our control but life is the gift of Jesus Christ to those who love Him, who hear His words and follow Him.

We do not need to be troubled by death, because death has no more dominion over Our Lord Jesus Christ, who conquered and defeated death. He destroyed it and destroyed sin. Each of us is called then to live as if Christ has already touched our casket and brought us back to life, and He has! We were dead in sin! We were buried with Him and raised again in baptism! We were given new life and put on the new man. We have become sons and daughters of God by this royal adoption into the household of God. Now we are called to live a resurrected life, not bound by sin as ones who are spiritually dead, but living in the Spirit, in newness of life.

Each of us was dead through sin and each of us has been restored. St. Paul says at least three times in his epistles “walk worthily.” He writes “that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.” Again he writes “that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;” and finally he writes “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called”.  Let us indeed do just that.

I pray that this gospel passage will bring you great hope. Sometimes we have to face difficult circumstances in our lives, even death, but we should face them knowing that life has defeated death itself in Christ the conqueror, who rose from the dead. Let us then live in Him and for Him that we might also be redeemed and hear His powerful words inviting us to share in His life, “I say to you, arise!” 

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