Memorial, St. John Chrysostom

Today’s Scripture Readings

1 Cor. 12:12-14, 27-31, Psalm 100: 1-5, Luke 7:11-17

In today’s Gospel a widow loses her only son. Jesus, “moved with pity” becomes involved when he steps forward to touch the casket, breaking Jewish purity laws in the process. He then brings the son back to life and gives him to his mother. It is an amazingly straightforward story of God stepping in to rescue the life of a woman completely alone in the world. I think it is crucial to notice why Jesus acts. Jesus does this because he was “moved with pity” for her. Personally I have always felt drawn to these statements of emotion on Jesus’ part. I think they are little windows into the long ago reality of what happened. I think these little asides, if you will, are there because people at the time were so touched by Jesus’ genuine human outreach that it became an integral part of the story. They couldn’t tell the story about this unbelievable miracle without including the emotion they saw in Jesus. This is important because in the history of the Church there has been a long tradition that emphasized Jesus’ divinity over his humanity. For me it is the humanity of Jesus that helps me sense what God is all about. So this story says that God is touched by the fragility of human life, by one woman’s need. God hurts when we hurt, God acts out of a deep personal attachment to each of us. Too often we have not come to see God’s love in those personal terms and, I think, to that extent, we are the poorer for it.

We must also remember that this was Jesus acting to help this woman. And frankly Jesus of Nazareth, isn’t here anymore. Now it’s our turn. In our first reading Paul makes it clear we are the new Body of Christ. Each of us is part of the ongoing presence of God in this world. Paul expects his followers in Corinth to recognize that each of them has been given their own unique spiritual gifts so they can do their part. Luke’s story shows us how concrete Jesus was in demonstrating God love. He raises a man from the dead so his mother will not be left completely alone and without support in her life. Paul says each of us is part of the larger Body of Christ. We are one in the Spirit so that we can carry on God’s work as prophets perhaps, but more likely as teachers, assistants, administrators, workers. People who are willing to help heal the emotional and physical wounds of life today. I think too often we believe that God acts in unknown mysterious ways reaching out of the ether to put things right. But the Bible says, God needed to send his Son, as a person to live among us so that young man in Nain could be given to his mother. Today, mothers still need their sons and daughters rescued from the possibility of death, and fear and other awful realities. So our faith cannot be only an expression of good feelings or solely an adherence to ideas about God. Faith is only real when it acts as God acts. When we do what is needed for others. When we live by the same deep personal concern that Jesus had and are moved to action to save one another.

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