1 Kings 17:17-24; Galatians 1:11-19; Luke 7:11-17
A funeral service is being held for a woman who had just passed away. As the pall bearers are carrying the casket out at the end of the service, they accidentally bump into a wall, jarring the casket. Suddenly they hear a faint moan. When they open the casket they find that the woman is actually alive. She lives for 10 more years and then dies. Once more, a funeral is being held at the same church and at the end of the service the pall bearers are again carrying the casket out. As they are walking, the husband shouts out, “Watch out for the wall!”
Dear friends! We have a very moving and touching story of two widows in the first and the gospel today. The widow in our first reading had been very kind to Elijah. She gave accommodation for him during the great famine. But tragically her only son became very ill and stopped breathing. In utter desperation and anger the poor widow struck out at Elijah, as if somehow this were his fault. Grief often gives rise to misplaced anger and hurting people hurt people. This woman was hurting, and so she struck out at Elijah. Elijah realized that it was his turn to help her in her tragedy. And the writer of I Kings tells us, “The Lord heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived. Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to his mother and said, “Look, your son is alive!”
In today’s gospel Jesus sees the dead person being carried out and following the body, there is a woman who is filled with sorrow. It would have been a cold heart that was not touched by this funeral procession. A young person was dead. A mother was burying a son. The mother of the deceased had already buried her husband and was now all-alone. Funerals probably don’t get any more heart wrenching than this one described by Luke. Because of death the hearts of men are frequently broken, dreams are shattered, and tears are shed. It is a train of misery on which all must ride.
But thankfully there is hope. Because when death and sorrow collide with life and hope everything changes. Luke tells us about the collision that took place as death and sorrow were going out of Nain and life and hope were going in. Jesus led his disciples and a large crowd toward Nain as the funeral procession was coming out. Death met life. Sorrow met hope. And how things changed! “When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, ‘Don’t cry.’ Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, ‘Young man, I say to you, get up!’ The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.” The Lord of life spoke to the living and the dead. May we learn from the collision at Nain to prepare us for the times when we must walk among the procession of death and sorrow.
It was no accident that he met the group going out of the city when he did. It is on him and his words that we focus in order to learn from the collision that took place. First we see that Jesus had compassion on the person at the center of the funeral procession. His heart went out to the widow about to bury her only son. Even though Jesus is the eternal Son of God he is also the Son of man. He has a human nature that feels pain and compassion, sorrow and joy. If we are ever tempted to think that God doesn’t know what we are going through when we stand at the grave of a loved one we need to remember our fully human Savior. He cried when his friend Lazarus died. He knows what a painful poison death is in the lives of humans.
Thankfully he can do more than just show compassion to those who face death. We see Jesus’ power over death in the miracle he performed at Nain. “He said, ‘Young man, I say to you, get up!’ The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.” Jesus wasn’t sent by his Father to bring only a short-term solution for death. No he came to permanently end death’s power.
This is the message in today’s gospel. This is the message Jesus wants to give us today. He wants us to see the miracle at Nain not just as a sign of his compassion – which it is – nor just as a sign that he is the Messiah – which he is – but also as a sign of what he will do for us, if we believe in him.
He will raise us up not just to a new physical life but to an eternal life that will last forever. This is the good news of today’s gospel. This is the good news Jesus gives us today. This is the good news that we have gathered to celebrate today. Let us pray then; Lord! Touch our eyes and give us eternal sight. Touch our ears and gives us eternal hearing. Touch us and give us eternal life.