Resurrection is the key.

Homily 473 – 16th APE
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
October 10, 2021
Epistle: (181) 2 Corinthians 6:1-10 and (334) Hebrews 13:7-16
Gospel: (30) Luke 7:11-16 and (56) John 17:1-13

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, One God.

The widow of Nain provides us with insight into a few different aspects of the life we live.

Foremost is the power that Christ has to raise the dead. Of course, this is important, particularly in this context, to establish that Christ is who He claims to be – Messiah, the Christ. The anointed one of God.

That was what the crowd walked away from that encounter knowing. God has visited his people. A great prophet has arisen among us.

And that would likely be enough for us as well.

But there is a small almost invisible statement made in this passage. And I’d like for us to think about it more.

When the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said to her, “Do not cry.”

I can’t speak for everyone obviously, but when I see people, whom I love and whom God loves, crying, grieving, then I am also grieving. It breaks my heart when people I love suffer, whatever the cause – physical, mental, emotional.

And I suffer.

In this brief, almost invisible part of today’s Gospel, Christ suffers with us. It breaks His spirit to see one of the humans He created, one of the humans He loves, in pain.

Even though Christ knows that our sorrow, our pain, our grief is only temporary – we still suffer, and He still suffers with us.

That phrase He spoke – do not cry – that phrase is for us, too.

Christ experiencing that pain with us doesn’t necessarily relieve any of our own pain. Having someone there to be with us as we bear that pain is, however, in its own way healing.

Now Christ had compassion. And from that compassion, He knew what would happen. He knew what He would do. So He spoke to the widow – now without a son, her only son – and said “Do not cry.”

The Greek word used here has the element of Lamentation to it. Do not wail, do not lament, do not weep.

He tells us the same thing. Do not lament. Do not cry.

This happening, tragic though it may seem, is not the end. Not even death is the end.

Do not lament – but have hope.

It is this hope in the resurrection which we base our actions upon. Our own resurrection, and that of others.

Remember, we sing at Pascha and throughout the year that death is overthrown. Resurrection is no longer just a possibility – it is a guarantee!

We put it in the creed – I believe in the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.

We say it – we sing it – do we actually believe it? Do we believe in the resurrection of the dead?

The entirety of our faith depends on resurrection. St. Paul tells us that without resurrection, our faith is meaningless.

Christ gives us so many examples. The Widow’s only son. His friend, Lazarus. And the capstone – His own.

Without that resurrection, our faith is meaningless. But, with that resurrection – our resurrection – this life becomes meaningful. In a different way than we imagine, perhaps.

It is meaningful as a prelude to that life that is to come. It is meaningful as a prelude to that new birth, which we see as death.

Even in the midst of this life, we get glimpses of the life to come, the world to come, and we realize that this life is preparatory to the one which is to come.

Like a child grows in the womb of a mother, we grow in the womb of the Church, to be born into the Kingdom as a fully-developed Child.

We emerge on the other side of this life, after having been literally buried, as the same creature, but also new. Like a tree growing from an acorn. Like a butterfly emerging from the cocoon.

We are new – but the same.

Knowing this, we see this world differently than those who do not share that understanding of the resurrection of the dead. We see that while this life is meaningful, the meaning is pointing us to the world to come.

The meaning of this life is found in the life which is to come. That’s what differentiates us from the world. The world sees tragedy and grief and also joy and wonder, but the fulfillment is found in this life.

We know that regardless of the experiences we have here, our meaning, our substance, our focus – everything is found in the world to come.

In the resurrection.

So, like the widow, we weep when our loved ones die. We weep because we feel a bit more alone than before. We weep because we will miss their presence.

But Christ reminds us that our weeping will be turned into joy. And even can be joy now, in our midst.

If – if – we keep our understanding not in this world, but in the Kingdom which is to come.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, One God.