Memorial of Saint John Chrysostom, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
Reading 1 1 COR 12:12-14, 27-31A
As a body is one though it has many parts,
and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body,
so also Christ.
For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one Body,
whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons,
and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.Now the body is not a single part, but many.Now you are Christ’s Body, and individually parts of it.
Some people God has designated in the Church
to be, first, Apostles; second, prophets; third, teachers;
then, mighty deeds;
then gifts of healing, assistance, administration,
and varieties of tongues.
Are all Apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers?
Do all work mighty deeds? Do all have gifts of healing?
Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?
Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts.
Responsorial Psalm PS 100:1B-2, 3, 4, 5
Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;
serve the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful song.
R. We are his people: the sheep of his flock.
Know that the LORD is God;
he made us, his we are;
his people, the flock he tends.
R. We are his people: the sheep of his flock.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
his courts with praise;
Give thanks to him; bless his name.
R. We are his people: the sheep of his flock.
For he is good, the LORD,
whose kindness endures forever,
and his faithfulness, to all generations.
R. We are his people: the sheep of his flock.
Alleluia LK 7:16
A great prophet has arisen in our midst
and God has visited his people.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel LK 7:11-17
Jesus journeyed to a city called Nain,
and his disciples and a large crowd accompanied him.
As he drew near to the gate of the city,
a man who had died was being carried out,
the only son of his mother, and she was a widow.
A large crowd from the city was with her.
When the Lord saw her,
he was moved with pity for her and said to her,
“Do not weep.”
He stepped forward and touched the coffin;
at this the bearers halted,
and he said, “Young man, I tell you, arise!”
The dead man sat up and began to speak,
and Jesus gave him to his mother.
Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, exclaiming,
“A great prophet has arisen in our midst,”
and “God has visited his people.”
This report about him spread through the whole of Judea
and in all the surrounding region.
This is the first of three people Jesus will raise from the dead. In the raising of Jairus’ daughter, she had just died. This guy was on the way to the grave when Jesus brought him back to life, and Lazarus was dead four days before he raised him. It doesn’t matter to God how long you’ve been dead. He can bring back all the sailors buried at sea that are now fish food or those that are just ashes. He can take care of it.
Nain is located about 10 miles southeast of Nazareth, just south of Mt. Tabor. It is about a day’s journey southwest of Capernaum where he had healed the centurion’s servant. Archaeologists have found a burial site east of the city about 10 miles away.
The funeral procession
They are going out of the city. Jesus is going in. The funeral atmosphere was one of weeping and wailing and sadness. It was especially sad because this woman was now all alone.
Jesus’ procession was one filled with joy.
THE SIGN 7:13-15
This woman was already a widow and had now lost her only son and only means of support. She was at great social risk and embarrassment. Jesus felt great compassion for her. The word for compassion is splagcnivzomai (splagcnivzomai). It is only used of Jesus and the Good Samaritan. And everytime it is used, the result of the compassion is not just detached concern or kind words, but always involvement and action. He tells her not to cry and raises the boy from death.
Touching a corpse caused defilement in the OT. Jesus could have been defiled, but instead he raises the dead. He touches the coffin. The word translated “touch” is a strong word in the Greek meaning to “lay hold”. Perhaps it indicates that he grabbed hold of the coffin firmly to stop the procession.
He speaks and it happens. Even the dead hear him.
THE SEQUEL 7:16
The immediate effects – fear came upon them all and then they glorified God. They conclude that Jesus is a great prophet like Elijah and Elisha. There are allusions to both these prophets in the miracle account. The phrase – “he gave him back to his mother” is the same phrase used in 1Ki 17:23 when Elijah raised the boy from the dead and “gave him back to his mother.” The location of the miracle in Nain is also possibly an allusion to the raising of the Shunamite woman’s son by Elisha because Nain is only a couple of miles north of Shunem (cf. 2Ki 4:). So the event and location are both allusions to Elijah and Elisha. Their conclusion is true. Jesus is a great prophet. But their understanding is incomplete. Jesus is in fact the greater prophet spoken of in Deut 18:15f.
Remote effects – the report went out to the surrounding district.
- Jesus demonstrates that he has power over death and demonstrates himself to be even greater than the prophets of the OT. He fulfills the imagery of Elisha, Elijah and Moses. He doesn’t pray to God to do this. He doesn’t go through any rituals, lay on the child, etc. like Elijah and Elisha did. He just says it and it happens.
- James 1:27 – Jesus demonstrates genuine religion. He cared for widows. Do we have compassion? Is our compassion active or passive?
- Even though you believe in resurrection, there is still room for sorrow. Cry with those who lose loved ones. Sometimes Christians are almost callused about death because they know the person is going to heaven. But here we see that even though Jesus knew he was about to raise the son, he still felt sorrow for the mother because she was hurting.
- The providence or sovereignty of God works his program out in my life. This was not a chance meeting. It was providential.
- The timing was just right. He could have gotten to Nain sooner and healed the boy. Or not raised him and still had compassion on her. If God tarries another 1000 years, does that mean He does not care or has lost control?
Related Topics: Miracles
How can we best serve the Lord in the ministry? What does it take to be truly shepherds after the heart of Christ? Today, the scripture readings give us the blueprint for fruitfulness in the ministry. Two essential factors are necessary for us to be truly effective agents of Christ in the world. We must be passionate shepherds after the heart of Christ and we must work together in unity.
How, then, can we become passionate shepherds after the heart of Christ? The opening prayer of the Mass gives us the key to be ignited in our passion for the Lord’s vineyard. The prayer says, “Look upon us, O God, creator and ruler of all things, and, that we may feel the working of your mercy, grant that we may serve you with all our heart.” In other words, we need to experience first the compassionate love of God for us before we can be channels of His grace and mercy. Being inspired by the compassion of Christ is what helps us to be passionate and compassionate shepherds. St Paul himself writes that “For the love of Christ controls us, because we are convinced that one has died for all: therefore all have died. And he died for all, that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” (2 Cor 5:14f)
The gospel illustrates the compassionate love of God in Christ Jesus. We read how Jesus felt sorry for the widow’s only son who had died and, without hesitation, He reached out to her by raising and giving him back to her. The words, “he felt sorry” are often repeated in the rest of the gospel as well. Jesus was always moved by compassion, as in the case of the feeding of the multitude. They too were like sheep without a shepherd. When Jesus saw them, He was moved by their hunger for God and so went about teaching them and then feeding them in their physical hunger as well. (cf Mk 6:30-44) Scholars tell us that whenever Jesus performed miracles, it was never for His interests and benefits but solely out of compassion. He never performed miracles to prove His identity, to refute His opponents or to satisfy curiosity but simply as a response to the people’s cry for help. Jesus truly has the heart of the good shepherd because He sees us as the Father’s sheep without a shepherd. Hence, He was seen as the visitation of God. He is the compassionate love of God in person.
What is the source of Jesus’s compassionate love? He loved because He was identified with His Father’s love. Having experienced His Father’s love, He came to identify Himself also with His Father’s love for humanity. As the responsorial psalm says, we are the sheep of His flock. He felt the desire not only to love us but to love us for the sake of His Father who loves us all. In union with Him, He too loves us because we are His sheep.
Similarly, if we are to be passionate and compassionate shepherds after the heart of Christ, we must also be motivated by God’s love for us. If we desire to serve in the ministry, it must be because, like St Paul, we are overwhelmed by His love and mercy for us. We too must have been recipients of His compassionate love before we can feel passionate in extending that love to others. Only as a consequence can we then truly reach out to our fellowmen, because Christ’s concern for them and God’s love in and through us reaches out to them.
Our ministry must be motivated by compassion, not by ambition; out of love for others and not to prove ourselves: not to find our security but to give security to others. St Augustine wrote, “If you cannot, like Paul, earn your living by the work of your own hands, then by all means relieve your wants by accepting the milk that your sheep provide; but never neglect the weaknesses and needs of your flock. Do not seek to do well out of it, so that you appear to be proclaiming the Gospel only because you need the money … So the means of living must be offered only as an act of charity and accepted only out of necessity. The Gospel must not be like something that is bought and sold, the price being the preachers’ livelihood. If you do sell it like that then you are cheapening a thing of great value. Accept the relief of your wants from the people, but receive the reward of your preaching from the Lord; for it is not right for the people to reward their pastors for serving them in the gospel of love. Let the pastors look for reward from the same source that the people look to for salvation. Why are these pastors being rebuked? What is the charge against them? It is that they take the milk and clothe themselves with the wool but neglect the sheep from which these things come. They care not about Christ’s interests, but their own.”
Indeed, when I reflect on my pastoral involvements and the motivation of my vocation, it is because of God’s compassion for me and my desire to extend this compassion to others. It is for the love of God who has first loved me, and the love for His people, that motivates me to keep on giving and giving. Indeed, many times, I felt like giving up because it is so tiring to be giving and giving all the time. Yet, I cannot stop giving simply because I hear the cries of so many who are seeking God, longing to find His love and mercy and to be nurtured by the Bread of life. Like the song, “Here I am, Lord!” I too hear the cry of our people to be fed, nurtured and healed. Every time when I hear how our people are frustrated and disillusioned with life and with the Church, I cannot but feel sorry for them as they are like sheep without a shepherd.
This, then, is the reason why we, as labourers in the vineyard of the Lord, must work together. Pope John Paul II never fails to reiterate that our mission is communion and hence the mission must be accomplished in communion. The harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few. We need to collaborate with each other to serve the people of God. We cannot do this work alone as the demands are too overwhelming. Hence St Paul speaks of the diversity of gifts for the building of the body of Christ. We are all given different gifts to complement each other in the great work of building the Church of Christ. We must not work alone, but together we can achieve more. St Paul urges us, “Just as a human body, though it is made up of many parts, is a single unit because all these parts, though many, make one body, so it is with Christ …Now you together are Christ’s body; but each of you is a different part of it.”
But before we can work together and collaborate with each other, we must first become the compassionate face of God to each other, not just with people whom we serve. This is the acid test in examining whether we are serving ourselves or others. If we truly want to be the compassion of God to others, then we must reach out to each other and be compassionate in love to each other. If we cannot feel with our close ones and those living with us, how can we feel for people outside our circle of life? Compassion must begin with our loved ones, spouse, children, parents, colleagues and church members before we can extend to strangers. By becoming recipients of God’s compassion through each other, we become one as well, because we experience God’s love as real and concrete. Let us be the face of God’s compassion to each other so that we see each other truly as brothers and sisters who love each other sincerely. This bond we create among ourselves will help us to support each other in the ministry. Together as one in the love of Christ, we will truly become the Sacrament, the sign of God’s love to the world, the visitation of God in their lives and truly, the sign of love and unity for the whole human race.
From The Monastery of Christ in the Desert
The recounting of the raising to life of the widow’s son at Naim is found only in the Gospel account of Saint Luke, that is, it is not in the other three Gospels. We may ask why and the answer would something like: we don’t really know. In the narrative, like so many in the Gospels, we see a need, followed by the Lord’s intervention, its result, the reaction of the people who witness it and finally the deeper meaning of the wonder.
The attention of Jesus is initially and entirely focused on the sorrowful mother who is inconsolable at the loss of her only son. We might also think here of the Sorrowful Mother, presumably a window, Mary of Nazareth, at the passion and death of her only son, Jesus. Perhaps the Evangelist Luke had that in mind by including the miracle of raising the son of the widow of Naim. We do not know if this was in fact the case, but it seems a possibility, or at least my theory concerning the Lord’s special connection with sorrowful widows, such as the woman of Naim and his own mother Mary as well.
In his his compassion for the sorrowing mother at Naim, Jesus says to her, “Do not cry.” After this, Jesus stops the procession carrying the dead man, touches the board on which the body is laid and says, “Young man, I bid you get up.” This is an order with presumed assurance that it will come to pass. It is different from the case of Elijah who prays to God for help. Jesus, as God, is able to give the command and it simply takes place. Those who read the Gospels with belief in Jesus’ own resurrection from the dead are to recognize that Jesus is master of both life and death.
The reaction of the large crowd to the action of Jesus in raising the young man, is “fear,” though perhaps better understood as “reverential awe,” a fitting response in the presence of the divine or supernatural. “A great prophet has arisen among us,” the people say; and furthermore, “God has visited his people.” The enthusiasm of the crowd includes the wider call to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, sent from God and calling everyone to repentance and everlasting life.
The miracle recounted in the Gospel is also a manifestation or showing forth of God’s love for all people. A key word to this notion is found in the word “compassion” or “moved with pity,” which Jesus extends to the mother in mourning at the loss of her son. More than an act of power, Jesus’ deed is one of deep compassion, literally a “suffering and dying with” the widow.
The phrase, “God has visited his people,” which the people cry, is found in another very telling place at the beginning of Saint Luke’s Gospel, at the Benedictus or Canticle of Zachariah, father of John the Baptist, who says, “God has visited his people and redeemed them” (Luke, chapter 1, verse 68). The Greek can more literally be translated as, “God has visited and wrought redemption for his people.” This is from the Gospel canticle chanted every morning al Lauds by all who pray the Divine Office or Liturgy of the Hours.
The Evangelist Saint Luke seems to have in mind that anyone reading his Gospel account is supposed to see beyond the raising of the dead son of the widow, as wonderful as this is in itself, to the “bigger picture,” that is, the possibility of resurrected life for all who follow Jesus Christ.
After returning the widow’s son to life, Jesus, we are told, “gave him (the son) back to his mother.” This corresponds to the Old Testament Elijah story this Sunday as well, when another widow’s son is brought back to life. In both instances compassion for a bereaved mother is present, a great wonder takes place and the prophetic missions of Elijah and Jesus are recognized and praised by those who witness the wonderful deeds.
God’s mercy is incarnate in Jesus Christ, Redeemer of the human race. Jesus’ supernatural vocation had its origin in God’s good pleasure (eudokia in Greek) and loving kindness (charis). We are inheritors of the fact that God loves infinitely and without discrimination. Everyone is eligible for God’s favor and visit, the gift of redemption in Jesus Christ.
The mystery of Christ and his mercy, clearly demonstrated in the Gospel this Sunday and every Sunday, should encourage us, “raise us up” to a life of action (yes, even for me as a contemplative monk!), for the good of others as we all seek to be “Kingdom-makers.” This means calling others into God’s sheepfold, and in the process personally becoming more deeply part of God’s household as well.
On a Holy Land pilgrimage in 1987, with other religious and clergy who were living and studying in Rome at the time, we were privileged as a group to visit the village of Naim, a poor and rather out of the way place, down a dirt road off the highway and now a Muslim village. There is a modest-sized Christian church there, centuries-old, unlocked by a Muslim attendant for the occasional Christian pilgrims like ourselves. The little church is dedicated to the mystery of the Lord raising the son of the widow of Naim. A visit and moment for prayer there always has remained a fond memory for me, knowing that Jesus walked the same dusty path and was moved to compassion when he approached the funeral procession and raised the widow’s son from death.
Widow’s Son Church at Nain — is the site of the miracle in today’s Gospel by Saint Luke….
In this context, I conclude with a quote from Father James McCaffrey, OCD, a Carmelite friar, from a very fine book I am now reading:
“The Holy Land helps us to rediscover the human Jesus, but at the same time directs us steadily to his mystery; because the living Christ is now in glory. Freed by the resurrection from the limits of time and space, he meets us, men and women of every country, every language and culture. We are present here where he was; he is present here where we are” (from the book, “A Biblical Prayer Journey in the Holy Land,” Editorial Monte Carmelo, 1988, pages 322-333).
Prior Christian Leisy, OSB
Monastery of Christ in the Desert
Abiquiu, New Mexico
Saint John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople (Byzantine mosaic from the Hagia Sophia)
Tags: 1 COR 12:12-31A, A Biblical Prayer Journey in the Holy Land, compassion, Do not weep, God has visited and wrought redemption for his people, God has visited his people, God’s love for all people, humility, James McCaffrey, Jesus Brings a Widow’s Son Back to Life, Jesus demonstrates that he has power over death, Jesus is master of both life and death, Jesus journeyed to a city called Nain, Jesus’ deed is one of deep compassion, Jesus’ own resurrection from the dead, literally a suffering and dying with the widow, Lk 7:11-17, Lk 7:16, Luke 7:11-17, lust, Nain, Prayer and Meditation, Psalm 100, Resurrection of the Widow's son from Nain, Saint John Chrysostom, September 13 2016, Sorrowful Mother, St John Chrysostom, The dead man sat up and began to speak, the Lord’s intervention, the possibility of resurrected life for all who follow Jesus Christ, Young man I tell you arise!