Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost

My dear friends in our Lord: Glory to Jesus Christ!

We learn the great mystery of the Resurrection from our Lord God and Saviour not so much through His words as through His deeds. Though we are brought the good news through the agency of the human word, it is only by a genuine encounter with the Divine Word, our Lord Himself, that we can begin to appreciate the great depth of the goodness of that good news.

And as we do encounter our Lord, the Word of God, He never ceases at all times to teach our hearts, speaking always in a way most adept and conducive to lifting our minds to things divine.

In His commandments, in His teachings and in His miracle-working the Lord begins with what is of a lower order and then ascends to what is greater. He takes us, as if on a pathway leading upwards from things most simple to higher things, gradually elevating each of us to His divine glory in our thought and in our understanding.

We see this in the Gospel lessons which we have heard over the past few weeks and months. Recently, we saw the Lord give an indication – an initial glimpse – of the Resurrection and He demonstrated His power over illness, when He rebuked the fever which was so cruelly afflicting the mother-in-law of Saint Peter. So completely did our Lord drive away her illness that she who had been grievously ill immediately able to wait on those present, doing so out of gratitude and out of sincere and blessed desire to extend hospitality.

Likewise in another Gospel reading, our Lord proceeded to a greater miracle. The servant of a certain centurion was gravely ill; and there was no hope for his recovery; he was about to breathe his last. Our Lord was willing to go to him diligently, in His dispensation of healing and power; nevertheless, because of the petition and the faith of the centurion, who said to Him, “Lord, say the word, and my servant shall be healed,” our Lord raised by His command alone the one who was already near death. He did so without even going near the place where the sick man lay; He sent him health from afar with but a word.

In the very hour when the command was given, the servant was freed from his sickness; he arose to his former state of health, and to an even better condition. Think of the power of that command, my friends! In truth, the voice of God is a voice of power; as the Psalmist King David says, “Lo, He will utter with His voice a voice of power.” At the very moment when the Master said to the centurion, “Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee,” the sickness immediately left the servant.

Next the Lord showed His power in other and greater miracles. When He came to the city of Naïm, a widow’s son had expired; he had already been laid out for a long while and was now being carried to his grave, when the Lord most gloriously raised him up and gave him back to his mother, as the Gospel presented to us today reveals most clearly.

Our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ works a great miracle; He vivifies life itself, and raises up resurrection, and resurrects a dead man who was already being borne to his burial. By this miracle our Blessed Lord announces and confirms the general resurrection and the universal raising of the departed; He foreshows His own divine and life-bearing Resurrection and our deliverance and liberation which proceed from it, and He reveals salvation and eternal life.

Christ our God, the Door of life and immortality, drew near to the gates of the city of Naïm; and there the Giver of life put an end to weeping. The Divine Master met the dead man’s bier and halted it; to the mother of him who lay there He said, Weep not.

What a word to receive! A woman, who understandably weeps bitterly the loss of her only son now on the way to the grave meets the only Son of God, Him Who is the Resurrection and the life. By His word she is comforted and enjoined to cease from weeping and to leave her tears; for she is to be loosed from all thought of tears, and her weeping will be turned into joy.

And, drawing near, our Lord touched the bier; the bearers stood still, amazed and frightened, not knowing who He was and with what design He touched the bier. As they waited in astonishment and looked to see what would happen, our Lord Jesus Christ called out to the dead man and said, “I say unto thee, young man, arise.”

In such a way, with a word and a touch, our Lord raised the dead man.

Immediately, by the power of His Word and His touch, the dead man sat up straight and spoke before all. Though our Lord could have performed the miracle with a word alone, He also touched the bier, that we might understand that the Body of Christ our God is a Body of life and immortality, that He it is Who of old with His most pure hands formed man from dust by divine creation and gave him life and a soul with His divine breath. Furthermore, He it is Who at the end of things will resurrect and raise up human nature again at the sound of the last trumpet, and will render to every man according to his deeds; for He is the Judge of the living and the dead; He is the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. If Christ is the Way, then those who follow Him will seek no other guide. If the Words spoken by Him are the truth, then blessed are they that believe in Him. Whether they live or die in the body, they that fulfill His holy commandments will be ever alive; as our Lord assures us, saying, “He that believeth in Me, though He were dead, yet shall he live.”

The word of God, my friends. Demons and wicked men may receive the word of God by hearing it; but salvation is not merely in the hearing of the word alone, nor does life lie simply in understanding the word, but rather salvation and life are found in keeping and doing what has been heard.

The man who shall never see death is one who is a steadfast keeper of the commandments of God and the instructions of Christ. These words the Lord spoke, not denying the death of the flesh, indeed, but, as God, not considering death to be a death. To God nothing is dead, since He can bring non-existent things into being and He can easily vivify what has decayed.

Christ, then, says, Young man, I say unto thee and I command thee, Arise. Our Lord speaks to him who is dead; He does not bring unto him or breathe into him another soul in place of the young man’s own, but the very same soul which departed from him, here the Lord summons to return by His divine power; the Lord commands the one who is dead to come to life and to arise.

The Master commanded; the servant heard his Master’s command. He was ensouled; he moved; he sat up straight; and he began to speak in front of all the people, speaking in his own voice, lest anyone should imagine that an evil spirit had entered into him and made his body move, and that the entire incident had been an illusion and a deception.

For this reason, also, did the formerly dead man sit up and speak, as evidence of the general and common resurrection of the dead; for these actions were sure and reliable signs of a resurrection, since a soulless body cannot sit up, nor, indeed, can it speak.

For the same reason the Lord gave the young man to his mother, as an even greater proof and confirmation, for a mother invariably knows her child.

Since this great and most glorious miracle brought all who were present there at the time into a state of fear and amazement, they glorified God, saying that a great prophet is risen up among us, and that God hath visited His people; for as yet the people had no understanding of Christ the Saviour as God. Still, it was no small thing for them to call Him a great prophet, and to esteem the Lord as greater than other prophets, greater even than Moses the law-giver himself. Proceeding gradually along such a path, their minds would be lifted up to what was higher, and they would come to know Him to be true God and true man.

And the news of the miracle went forth throughout all Judaea, and throughout all the region round about. For this reason many witnesses were present at the event, that the senseless, the envious, and the faithless would not be able to cast aspersions or conceal Christ’s miracles, though they certainly wished to do so. So far did word of the raising of the dead man spread that it reached far into all the country of Judaea and came to the ears of John the Baptist, who was in the wilderness.

And a great sign and miracle this was, my friends. This resurrection. Can there be a greater miracle? Can there be a greater sign of God’s power and mastery over all creation? In history we know that there were three cases of resurrection of the dead by the prophets before the Advent of Christ, and then four by Christ Himself.

Three before Christ were risen up by the prophets. The first was the resurrection of the boy of Zarephath, whom Elias raised up. The second was the resurrection of the Shunammite boy, upon whom Eliseus wrought a miracle. The third was that which the dead body of Eliseus performed. Eliseus had received a double portion of grace at Elias’ ascension; therefore, even when he himself was dead, he raised a dead man who was placed upon his body. The three before Christ.

Then after the coming of Christ, we have the resurrection of this youth, the fourth attested in sacred history and the first one performed by Christ the Saviour; Christ, however, did not raise the dead man by prayer and supplication, as did Elias and Eliseus, but rather as Lord, by His own command. Next was the resurrection of the daughter of Jairus, the fifth resurrection. Then the resurrection of Lazarus, the sixth resurrection. Then the seventh recorded resurrection, the fourth after our Lord’s coming, occurred after the Lord’s Passion, when many bodies of the saints which slept arose.

And thereafter followed the eighth, the Resurrection of the Lord. But Whereas death again claimed all seven previous who were raised up, the eighth resurrection remained beyond the reach of death, just as the resurrection of the dead which will occur in the eternal eighth age will never be cut off by death, but will be indestructible and eternal.

Let us, then, my friends, let us strive to vivify and resurrect our souls which have been slain by sins. Let us approach Him Who gives life to the dead, the life-giving Master; let us fall down before Him, let us glorify God, Who so loved us that for our sakes He even shed His Blood, and by His Death delivered us from death and corruption. Let us glorify God, not only with our lips, with words, but with pure hearts, free from every passion, and with a good way of life and irreproachable conduct. For thus is God glorified, as He said: “That they may see your good works, and glorify your Father Which is in heaven.” Let us, therefore, do everything for the glory of God. Let each one of us cry out to Him with a humble and contrite heart. And God will hearken, and the gentle Lord will not remove His help from us, but will free us from all wrath and tribulation, disturbance and affliction. He will rescue us from the torments, assaults and injuries of our visible and invisible enemies; He will save us out of the evils of death and sin, and make us sharers in His heavenly kingdom. For He is the Resurrection and the Life, Christ our God.

At that time: Jesus went into a city that is called Naïm; and there went with Him His disciples, and a great multitude. And when He came nigh to the gate of the city, behold a dead man was carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow: and a great multitude of the city was with her. Whom when the Lord had seen, being moved with mercy towards her, He said to her: Weep not. And He came near and touched the bier. And they that carried it, stood still. And He said: Young man, I say to thee, arise. And he that was dead, sat up, and began to speak. And He gave him to his mother. And there came a fear on them all: and they glorified God, saying: A great prophet is risen up among us: and, God hath visited His people.

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