Compassion and Life
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Death is everywhere, and there’s no escaping it. The mortality rate is 100%. Death has us surrounded. And death’s grip is even greater than we think, for death creates fear in us. What scares us most is the thought that the Lord won’t come through as He’s promised, that He’ll forget us or abandon us—especially in the hour of death. So we plot and scheme either to avoid death, or to get it all and have it all before we die. Death has us surrounded.
The poor woman in today’s Gospel knows this all too well. Not only is she surrounded by the death of her only son. She is also a widow. She vividly remembers the death of her husband. She is afraid. Who will give her lasting comfort in her grief? Who will provide for her? Death has stolen her future, her hopes, her joy—and in its wake it has left nothing but fear and despair. Death is so common to us that we feel for this poor woman as she follows her son’s coffin to the cemetery. Her story is all too familiar: we know both her grief and her fear. It strikes at our very hearts.
And yet, in the very midst of death, Life Himself surrounds us. Jesus sees the woman, has compassion on her, and says to her, “Do not weep,” and then He comes and touches the open coffin, and says, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” The shadows in the valley of death are chased away, for the Light of the world has overcome death’s darkness. Fear has been chased away, for the Lord, who we thought would be slumbering and sleeping, has put forth His hand to rescue and deliver. The devil’s voice is silenced, for the Holy Spirit has brought to our remembrance every word of life, every word of promise and hope spoken by our Lord Jesus, who is the Resurrection and the Life.
All of this is possible—all of this is given to us—not merely because our Lord Jesus stopped a funeral procession one day, raised a young man from the dead, and then gave him back to his mother. After all, if that’s all there is to the story, where is the hope for us? Your only hope is that the Lord might magically swoop down and raise up all your dead relatives and friends right before they are buried. That’s precisely what the devil wants you to believe. He wants you to envy this widow. He wants you to think that she got special treatment from Jesus. He wants you to believe that, for whatever reason, God has let you down because no one you know has ever been raised from the dead.
You can chase away those devilish thoughts by reminding yourself that Jesus was always healing, always raising, always showing compassion. This is not just another episode in the life of our compassionate Jesus. This story also shows us His own resurrection…and yours. The compassion our Lord shows this woman is also the compassion He shows the Church. He has raised us in the font from the death of sin; He will raise us from the grave, and we shall nevermore be subject to grief, to sin, to suffering, to death. We see our Lord Jesus reaching down to us with compassion. We hear Him saying to us, “Do not weep”; and then also, “I say to you, arise.” For that is what He truly says, not just in our hour of death, but also in our time of fear—so that He might also restore, refresh, and renew us by His Holy Spirit.
In the midst of earthly death, Life Himself surrounds us, speaks to us, touches us, and raises us up. Now we can take to heart these words from St Paul: “He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” Or to say it even more simply, as the Church sings on Easter, “Faith shall cry as fails each sense: ‘Jesus is my confidence.’” In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.