Thursday, February 4, 2016

Have you been deemed by the world (or by yourself) to be unworthy, insignificant?


This work is in the public domain because it was published in the United States between 1923 and 1963 
and although there may or may not have been a copyright notice, the copyright was not renewed
Fear seized them all; and they glorified God saying, "A great prophet has arisen among us," and "God has visited His people." Luke 7:16

Is it possible that atheists have the strongest faith in God? They know from the marvels of the created world that God is majestic and powerful. They know from the voice of conscience, though largely squashed these days, that death and judgment await us all. However, such thoughts prove so alarming that for some people denial is the only answer, a matter of sanity and survival; but denial is not the answer, Jesus is. Of the countless miracles that our Lord performed during His earthly ministry this one was preserved and written down in Sacred Scripture to teach us that God is not only our Creator and Judge but also our Redeemer, who rescues us from trouble and saves us from death.

We learn this from where this miracle took place, in Nain, a town so small that it was not even a dot on the map: a burg so tiny that when someone died the whole town knew about it, and turned out to join the funeral procession. The Spirit teaches us here that we are never too small or insignificant for our Lord to take notice of us, or to exercise His redeeming grace. Whoever you are, wherever you live, whatever trial might grieve you in the midst of earthly life, Jesus comes to visit and redeem His people.

Not only this, but there could hardly be a more pathetic condition. We learn from St. Luke that the mother of this young man was also a widow: grieved, afraid and alone in the world except for her one and only son, and now he is dead! Besides her present pain her future was bleak. She could expect to spend the rest of her days living at the mercy of others, with no protection from the cruel world, and the many people waiting to take advantage of her helpless condition.

That day, in the little town of Nain, Jesus came to visit and redeem His people. The contrasts that St. Luke details for us are truly beautiful. The only-begotten Son of God is coming in, as the only-begotten son of the woman is on his way out. The One who is Life confronts the one who is Dead, and now what will happen? Will the stench of death infect the Lord, or will the Life of Jesus overtake death? Both actually happened because, in order to restore this dead boy to life, Jesus would suffer the death of the cross, but because He is holy, death had no power to hold Him and, as if to demonstrate the fact, He brought the future victory of His resurrection into the present, and handed it to the dead boy that day.

We noted a few weeks ago that miracles such as the raising of the dead ended with the age of the apostles, but we also observed that the church does greater ones than even this; that by her Lord’s authority she bestows the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and everlasting life on all who believe and are baptized.

The events of that day are much like the Mass we celebrate each Sunday which memorializes the Lord’s death and resurrection among us. In it Jesus is present among us, to speak His life-giving Word and to touch us with His Flesh and bring us back to life. The most important element that day is that Jesus was bodily present among them, and the same is true for us today. When we say that Jesus is present in the church, we are not speaking figuratively. Whenever Scripture uses the word Church it isn’t talking about the structure, or the organizational flow chart, but about the people of God gathered with Jesus in Eucharistic fellowship, the very thing we are engaged in at this time. When we convene in the Lord’s name we do so first to receive God’s good gifts, then to render true thanksgiving to Him in and with and through Jesus our High Priest, who offered Himself for the sins of the world, and who stops our tears and restores our life to us. What does Christ, present among us, do today? The same thing He did then. He says to a woman who is at the end of her rope, who is empty, dead inside, and for whom joy has forever vanished: don’t cry, but unlike the world’s pathetic attempts to comfort grief-stricken people with useless bromides, when Jesus says “don’t cry,” He can back it up. He says to the dead man: Young man, I say to you arise, and He did! Jesus restored him to his mother, and now her joy was complete! This is what happens in the Service of the Word. The Law makes us cry. It recounts for us all the misery that sin and death cause for us, but to all this, by the preaching of the holy, unadulterated Gospel of salvation Jesus says to us all: Young man I say to you arise!

After He spoke that day the Word made flesh did something else: He touched the stretcher that was carrying the dead boy to his grave. In the Service of the Sacrament the Incarnate Lord touches us with His body and blood, and look at the amazing thing that happens! Like the young man we too sit up! We come to life, we rise from the death of sin and are made alive to God.  Like him we too “begin to speak.” We confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. We thank and praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ that He has sent His one and only Son to redeem us from death and to give us new and glorious life. The praise of our lips knows no bounds. It spills over into the praise of our lives so that, empowered by Him who is the Life, we too live new and resurrected lives. No longer slaves of sin, we are now servants of God who mortify the deeds of the flesh.

Also like the young man we, too, are given over by Jesus to our mother the church who nourishes us, cares for us, washes us, strengthens us, corrects us and leads us in the paths of righteousness, until like Jesus and like the young man of Nain, we too rise from the dead into the eternal Eucharist of heaven. Amen.

~ Rev. Dean Kavouras

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