3rd Sunday of Luke
In today’s Gospel we encounter a woman; a woman who had lost everything. She had already lost her husband, and now also her only child. And let us bear in mind that, before the resurrection of the Lord, people had no clear idea of life after death — they thought that a person lives on first and foremost through their descendants. And so, in losing her only child, the woman had also in a sense lost herself, being on the verge of disappearing from the pages of history.
But “the Lord saw her [and] was moved with compassion towards her”, and he comforted her “and said to her, ‘Cease weeping’,” (v.13) and he raised up her son from the dead, giving her back her hope, her life, and the purpose of her existence.
This woman, dear brothers and sisters, is the soul of every human person, she stands for the whole of humanity. After the fall of Adam, humanity also became widowed. As one of the hymns of the Orthodox funeral service puts it, “We have been espoused to death” (Ideomelon of St John of Damascus, Pl. 4). The power of death, like a genetic disorder, was passed on from generation to generation, from mortal to mortal, from death to death. The different passions which had strangled and deadened out spiritual senses, carried our heart away to everlasting death, just like the crowd carried the son of the widow towards the grave. Humanity’s existence became vain, hopeless, and without true communion, all the while man had no power with which to take a single step or make a single movement in order to return to his former glory and joy.
But the Lord saw us, and “was moved with compassion toward” us in his great love, and he came to comfort and heal us. He approached us and took upon himself our nature, so as to unite it to his divinity. And he did not just assume our nature in an abstract sense, but also assumed every human experience. On the Cross, he assumed the experience of death, and with the cry, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46/Psalm 21:1), he shows us how he also assumed the pain of loneliness, loss and abandonment. “Jesus wept” (John 11:35) in the face of man’s mortality, but now he tells us, “Cease weeping”.
On the Cross, Christ becomes the Bridegroom of our widowed humanity, the Bridegroom of the Church, “who loved us and gave himself for us” (Ephesians 5:2). And with his resurrection he gives life and renewal, hope and meaning to every human person, as well as the possibility of return and restoration. “And he approached and touched the bier, and those bearing it stood still” (v.14). As soon as Christ comes near us, the power of the passions which carried us to our death is done away with. “And he said, ‘Young man, I say to thee, arise’. And the dead man sat up and began to talk”. (v. 14–15) With the word of the resurrection, the freed heart awakens, and begins to speak; in other words, it is once again able to communicate with God in prayer. “And he gave him to this mother” (v. 15). He gave back to the human being its spiritual life, its spiritual senses, the ability for man’s mind and heart to be united, so that our in life in Christ is whole and balanced.
What we see here, then, is how fully, completely and holistically Christ heals humanity. Nothing is left undone, nothing is lacking. As the Apostle says today, “We beseech you not to receive the grace of God in vain … behold, now is an acceptable time; behold, now is a day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:1–2). Let us therefore begin now to make use of all these things that we have received, since we know that “God has visited his people” (v. 16). Amen.
Fr Kristian Akselberg