Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost

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When Jesus tells tells the widow in the gospel that we hear this morning (Luke 7:11-16) to Weep not, we realize that it is the only thing one can offer to those who are in mourning.

Or so says St. Bishop Nikolai Velimirovic when, commenting on this morning’s reading from the gospel he says: “Apart from this and our sympathy, we feel ourselves incapable of offering anything else to those who are mourning. The power of death has so outstripped our strength that we crawl around like insects in its shadow; and as we heap earth over a dead body, we feel that we are heaping earth over a part of ourselves in the deathly darkness of the grave. The Lord does not say ‘Weep not!‘ to the woman in order to show that we should not weep for the dead. He Himself wept for Lazarus (John 11:35); He wept in advance for many who would later suffer in the fall of Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-44); and lastly, He praised and blessed those who weep, ‘for they shall be comforted’ (Matthew 5:4). Nothing so calms and cleanses a man as tears. In the Orthodox methodology of salvation, tears are among the first means of cleansing the soul, heart and mind. Not only should we weep over the dead, but also over the living, and especially over ourselves, as the Lord recommended to the women of Jerusalem: ‘Weep not for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children‘ (Luke 23:28).

In another commentary Fr. Patrick Reardon* poses the question: Once Jesus raised this young man from the dead, why did the multitude recognize Him as being a prophet? And he answers that question by saying that it was only the prophets recorded in Holy Scripture as raising anyone from the dead. For example, we have the cases of Elijah and Elisha. And the people of Nain, of this city that Jesus was in, very very familiar with these stories and as soon as Jesus raised this young man they were instantly convinced that He must be a prophet.

And he continues in his commentary to note that prophecy is, plain and simple, God’s word inserted into our human history. Because human history without prophecy is nothing but a funeral procession. And the task of prophecy is to stop that procession in the very same way Jesus stopped the procession in this morning’s gospel reading. And, of course, the most singular act of prophecy in the history of the world and man is that day when Christ rose from the dead.

This episode is taken from the seventh chapter of St. Luke’s gospel. It is there that we read how Jesus was approached by a centurion who asked Him to heal his servant. It was right after that incident that we read how Jesus went to the city of Nain and there encountered the funeral procession. What’s interesting to note, however, while Jesus was approached by the centurion – and we have other instances of Jesus being approached by different people, asking Him for help – He was not approached by anyone to raise the young man from the dead. Instead, the evangelist writes that Jesus saw the funeral procession and He saw the widow “And when the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her…” (v. 13).

It is God who so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son; It is God who sends His Son for the salvation of mankind and it is God who sees all of us as well and touches our lives. Yet, it is up to us to recognize Him, to confess Him and place our faith in Him as the prophet, as our Savior and the very salvation of mankind. Amen.

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*Fr. Patrick’s Daily Reflections (here), for Friday, September 12

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