In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit;
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ we heard of one of the miracles’ of Christ in today’s Gospel reading. That miracle was the raising of the widow’s son at Nain.
In this Gospel we see our Lord revealing Himself as the Son of God, the promised Messiah of Israel, by raising the dead. When Saint John the Baptist wanted to know if Jesus was the Christ, the promised one of Israel, he sent his disciples to ask Jesus. Jesus responded to them “tell John what things you have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached.” (Luke 7:22)
It is interesting that this revelation of Jesus as the Son of God occurred in the shadow of Mount Tabor; the village of Nain is located in a valley below Mount Tabor. It was on Mount Tabor that our Lord was transfigured revealing the fullness of His divinity to His disciples Peter, James and John.
Is our Lord just performing this miracle to reveal Himself as God or out of compassion for the widow as the Gospel states? The answer to both of these questions is yes but there is a deeper meaning to this miracle. From the beginning of time man has feared death. This fear of death comes from not knowing what will happen to the soul once death occurs. Thus, there is a fear of all that can take away biological life. Our Lord reminds us “fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul.” (Matthew 10:28)
This should remind us that our bodies are just garments for the soul. We are further reminded of this on Great and Holy Friday in the Holy Prophet Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones. In this vision God asks “Son of man, can these bones live?” Ezekiel answers “O Lord GOD, you know.” (Ezekiel 37:3) In this vision the dead are brought back to life and the souls of the departed are reunited with their bodies. Through this prophecy we see that the body may become worn out but, God will renew it by reuniting soul and body once more in the resurrection.
If we should not fear our physical death, what then should we fear? We should fear is that which can kill our soul. Who or what can kill our soul? The answer to this question is that we kill our own soul through our sin and failing to care for the soul. The Gospel reminds us that we must not just care for the body in the parable of the rich man with many store houses. The man in this parable thinks that he can rest and take it easy because of his many possessions however; our Lord says to him “Fool, this night your soul shall be required of you.” (Luke 12:20)
How then can we care for the soul? The answer is given in the Gospel of the Last Judgment by feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, taking in the stranger, clothing the naked, and visiting those that are sick or in prison. (Matthew 25:31-46)
While caring for the soul in this manner is most helpful, the most important thing that we can do is to avoid sin. We must realize that to live a Christian life we must live our lives according to a set of rules. That not everything is permissible as Saint Paul reminds us “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient.” (1 Corinthians 6:12)
Thus we must always keep in our minds that we can do anything through our free will but is it in keeping with the ways of God so that we avoid sin. One of the ways to avoid sin is to question our motives and thoughts against the following four questions.
Is what I am about to do or say honest?
Is what I am about to do or say unselfish?
Is what I am about to do or say loving?
Is what I am about to do or say pure?
If whatever we do or say cannot pass through these four questions it is probably not in line with God’s will for us. We should avoid actions that cannot pass through these questions because they will lead us into sin which will kill our soul.
In our human fragility, we are not perfect. Thus, no matter how hard we try not to sin we will fail due to our own imperfections. God provides a way for us to heal our souls once we have inflicted damage on our soul through sin. That healing grace comes through our repentance. That is the full repentance of acknowledging our sin before God and His appointed witness; the priest. This type of healing through repentance is only given through the Holy Mystery of Confession. Our Lord tells us this in the Gospel when He said to His disciples “Whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 18:18)
So my dear brother and sisters in Christ tend to your souls through acts of mercy, avoid sin and confess your sin for our Lord said “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.” (John 5:25)
Delivered by Fr. Milan Medakovic at Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church, Youngstown Ohio on the 20th Sunday After Pentecost 2009