“Young man, I say unto
The love of God
reaches out and touches. It heals and restores. That love is made visible
in the compassion of Christ. Something of the infinite extent of God’s love
is somehow brought near. Jesus reaches out to us. He came near, first, to
the gates of the city of Nain, then, to the bier carrying the young man who
was dead. He reaches out and touches. He speaks healing words, first, to
the bereaved mother and then, to the dead. He restores him, first, to life
and then, to his mother and to his community. There is resurrection.
of Christ is the moving force in this story. “And when the Lord saw her,
he had compassion on her”. It makes tangibly real the love of God, the
love which comes into our midst to touch, to heal and to restore. But there
is something more here as well. The love of God made visible and tangibly
real in the compassion of Christ does not only come near to us; it enters
into the very fabric of our lives so that it may shape our lives in love and
compassion. The love of God which here reaches out and touches, heals and
restores is to be the moving force in our lives.
Luke begins his
account by telling us “that Jesus went into a city called Nain”
before describing this encounter which took place as “he came nigh to the
city”. His coming near is part of the process of his entering into the
fabric of our lives. The compassion of Christ is to be made visible and
tangibly real in us. It belongs to the witness of the Church, a witness so
tangibly real and so powerfully demonstrated in the works of corporal
mercy. These are ‘the works of the body for the body and in the body of
Christ’. They are sometimes made dramatically visible as, for example,
in the life and work of Mother Teresa. The compassion of Christ is what
reaches out and touches, heals and restores.
The children of
the Sunday School are inviting you to engage in one of the works of corporal
mercy, the work of “feeding the hungry”. It is, ultimately, a work
of faith in which we reach out to the poor and the hungry in our own
Poverty is a
complicated and complex affair in our contemporary culture, far more,
perhaps, than we realize. We often misapprise it and avert our gaze. It
is, at once, social, economic, psychological, political, generational,
geographical; in short, it is a profoundly spiritual problem. It confronts
us like the young man dead on a bier before Christ. But what shall we do?
Turn away and step aside? Walk over them as if they weren’t there? Wag our
fingers in judgement and shake our heads disapprovingly? No. “The poor
you have with you always”, Jesus tells us, “you can do with them what
you will”. What do we will? The children of the Sunday School propose
an offering of money to go to the local Food Bank in time for Thanksgiving.
I hope that you will support their effort generously. And beyond that?
Well, I hope that we can do something more and more regularly, like placing
a box in the narthex of the Church for gifts of food to complement the
poor-box for the giving of alms. Such things are nothing less than the
visible tokens of the compassion of Christ moving in us.
of Christ in the gospel and in the example of human lives recalls us to a
profounder understanding of our humanity. To say, as is commonly said, that
our world is simply ‘driven by technology’ or that we are merely
‘economically determined’ is to overlook or forget that we belong to a much
more complex web of relationships. This gospel story shows us that the real
driving force of our lives must be the compassion of Christ.
of Christ would reconstitute our human lives upon a divine foundation.
Ultimately, the truth of our humanity is to be found precisely in the love
of God. Without that we are left simply and utterly bereft. We would be
like the widow of Nain - always weeping, without consolation. And that,
perhaps, is the best thing that could be said about us, for at least then
there is an awareness of our emptiness and need, even the need to forgive
and be forgiven. The worst thing would be our arrogant selfishness and the
terror of our technological tyranny over and against one another.
of Christ shown in the gospel is a real and powerful force. It is shown so
as to be lived by all of us. Christ has not just come near; he has entered
into the very fabric of our lives to shape us in his love and compassion.
It is a life-long process - a growing in love and understanding. We don’t
always get it right. After all, even in Nain following this remarkable
encounter, they mistook the nature of the moving force in their midst. Some
said “that a great prophet is risen up among us” and others, coming
closer but still standing afar off in understanding, said “that God hath
visited his people”, as if there is just the coming and going of God,
here today and gone tomorrow.
These were the
“rumours of him” that “went forth throughout all Judaea”, St.
Luke tells us. But in identifying the moving force of the story, namely,
the compassion of Christ, he is also telling us about what abides in and
through the comings and goings of our own lives. The compassion of Christ
is an abiding love. We are to abide in that love so that it may take shape
and move in us.
of Christ is the moving force, too, of the Church’s life. It reaches out
and touches, heals and restores us to one another and to God. And it
compels us to reach out, touch, heal and restore in the name of Christ.
Christ enters in that he may take shape in us. Such is the continuing
nature of the resurrection. We are bidden to arise and to live in the
compassion of Christ.
“Young man, I say unto