Fr. Richard's Sunday Homily, October 6, 2019
Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost
Arise and Follow Jesus Every Day
Epistle: 2nd Corinthians 6:16 through 7:1
Gospel: Luke 7:11-16
The Gospel writers, like almost all those who wrote stories in that part of the world, 2,000 years ago, the Gospel writers do not give us a full-blown extremely detailed account of what happened when they tell a story. It’s difficult to remember that because modern writers fill in with so many details to their stories that we do not need to use much imagination to fill in the blanks. But ancient writers were not so detailed. The readers, the listeners—they were expected to provide a great deal more to the story from their own imagination, and this Gospel today is a good example.
You just heard it. Please think about it again. Jesus is travelling to a small town of Nain, just south of Nazareth where He grew up. He's not alone. His disciples and a large crowd are with Him. How many people would you say: 30, 50, 70? They are getting close to the city gate, because this town was protected by a wall of some kind, and traffic in and out of the city had to pass through this gate. So, here's one large crowd of people following Jesus getting ready to enter in, and here comes another large crowd ready to come out. It's a funeral procession. A lot of mourners in this procession and we're told a man was being carried out for burial. He would have been carried on a pallet, wrapped up in a shroud, and because the crowd was so large it's clear that either this man, or his mother, or both of them had many friends. It would have been a very noisy crowd because you would hire some musicians and professional mourners, and these mourners would have been crying and screaming out loud their expressions of grief in a style that is still used in much of the Middle East today.
Jesus stops the procession and the noise soon turns into silence. We are told that this woman has lost her only son, and that she is a widow. It's implied that Jesus knew this information. Women were not allowed to go outside of the home to get a job here at this time and place. With no son, no husband, no man to provide an income, this woman was headed for a life of poverty, and that's why we're given these details. We are supposed to understand this. Not only has she lost her husband and only son, but she may have to become a beggar for the rest of her life.
Jesus sees, not just the crowd, not just the corpse, but he sees this poor woman and we're told, "He was moved with pity for her." He tells her not to weep. And St. Luke in his Gospel often tells us about Jesus being moved with great pity when He saw people suffering. He wants us to know that Christ was not some kind of cold and unaffected teacher while He walked on this earth. He was a man of great compassion. St. Luke also wants us to know that in a time and place where women were not usually treated as equals to men, and were expected to stay out of the public eye and keep quiet when men were talking, Jesus always showed the highest regard for women and treated them with the greatest respect. You find this all throughout Luke's Gospel. "Do not weep," Jesus says.
Then He touches the pallet. "Young man, I tell you, arise!" Arise! Eigero! The same word used at the healing of the paralytic, and the man with the withered hand. The young man still wrapped in his shroud sits up and begins to speak. Now if you were standing there watching all of this, how do you think you would react? (Today everybody would have their cell phones out taking pictures and video, and it would be on Facebook and YouTube in 1/2 an hour.) St. Luke says that "fear seized them all and they glorified God."
Now you would think that such an absolutely unheard of miracle in front of so many witnesses, not to mention all the other miraculous healings that were done by Our Lord would have created huge crowds of absolutely dedicated followers who would believe in Jesus and stand by Him through thick and thin, with faith that would only continue to grow with every miracle and every teaching that touched their minds and their hearts. But most people, after a time, simply went back to their daily business and their regular routines, perhaps remembering once in a while what they had seen and heard. How could that be? A man is brought back from the dead and you just go back to regular daily life? How can that be?
But for the most part that is what happened. Even those who were closest and dearest, who saw it all and heard it all, witnessed every miracle and were taught most completely, even these abandoned their master when He was arrested.
I don’t think I have ever seen a miracle, but for me, I have even more than those disciples did when they were traveling with Jesus. I who have the gift of divine life within me; I who have received the testimony of countless holy men and women from the past 2,000 years of living Faith; I who have been taught by my parents and grandparents; I who have access to all the Scriptures and the life-giving sacraments; I who have had so much more than that crowd at Nain so long ago, I also find myself being more involved and concerned about the daily affairs of my life than I am about the presence of Christ in my daily life. I'm often so much more focused on pushing through my day all by myself than I am with a genuine conviction of following Christ in faith every day. I always think more about tomorrow than I do about eternity, and more about the good that I would like to have than about the good that is being offered to me.
The world loves a compassionate Jesus, but not a Jesus Who tells them how to live a good life. So, the world will not follow Him. But what about me? What about us? I ask Him to call me also, I ask Him to call us also, today: "Eigero! Arise! Get up!" If we listen to Him now, here, at this Liturgy and ask His help, He will surely help us to follow Him at least a little closer today, and may we do the same tomorrow.