Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on September 13, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 7:11-17

Jesus journeyed to a city called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd accompanied him. As he drew near to the gate of the city, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. A large crowd from the city was with her. When the Lord saw her, he was moved with pity for her and said to her, “Do not weep.” He stepped forward and touched the coffin; at this the bearers halted, and he said, “Young man, I tell you, arise!” The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, exclaiming, “A great prophet has arisen in our midst,” and “God has visited his people.” This report about him spread through the whole of Judea and in all the surrounding region.

Reflection on the gospel reading: Three times in the gospels, Jesus raises the dead. The most widely recognized account of this type of miracle is the raising of Lazarus, whose resurrection account in John’s gospel precedes Jesus’ own passion, death, and resurrection. The Gospel of John is the only gospel to report the raising of Lazarus. All three synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, report the raising of Jairus’ daughter. Only Luke reports this narrative concerning the raising of the son of the widow of Nain.

This is an interesting account for several reasons. Chronologically in Jesus’ ministry, as the gospels recount it, this raising of someone from the dead is the first time Jesus performs this miracle. In this passage, when Jesus enters a town, he encounters a funeral and sees something which would be tragic in any time or place but is particularly tragic within his own culture. A widow’s only son has died, and she now grieves not only the death of her child but the prospect of life without either a husband or a son to care for her in a world that did not generally respect women. When Jesus happens on this situation, he feels compassion. No one asks Jesus to do anything; he acts completely as a response of his own heart to what he sees. Jesus immediately reacts with empathy to someone who is needy and has no one to look after her. In a way, just as the account of Lazarus’s raising precedes and anticipates Jesus’ death and resurrection, there is a parallel here in this passage with Jesus’ behavior on the cross where he commissions the beloved disciple to care for his mother.

There is another interesting detail in this account. At this point for the first time, Luke refers to Jesus as “Lord,” a title reserved for God himself. In a sense, Jesus reveals himself as Lord, certainly in the power of what he does, but most particularly when love moves him to act. With us it is the same then: we are most like God when we encounter need, are moved to do something, and use the power we have to do something about it.

Saint of the day: John was called “Chrysostom” (“Golden Mouth”) because of his eloquence. Born in about 347, the son of an army officer at Antioch in Syria. His father died soon after his birth and he was brought up by his widowed mother. She saw that he was well educated in oratory and law. He eventually became a priest of Antioch and an outstanding preacher. (Audiences were warned not to carry large sums of money when they went to hear him speak, since pickpockets found it very easy to rob his hearers — they were too intent on his words to notice what was happening.) His sermons are mostly straightforward expositions of Holy Scripture (he has extensive commentaries on both Testaments, with special attention to the Epistles of Paul), and he emphasizes the literal meaning, whereas the style popular at Alexandria tended to read allegorical meanings into the text. He loved the city and people of Antioch, and they loved him. However, he became so famous that the Empress at Constantinople decided that she must have him for her court preacher, and she had him kidnapped and brought to Constantinople and there made bishop. This was a failure all around. His sermons against corruption in high places earned him powerful enemies (including the Empress), and he was sent into exile, where he died in 407. Along with Athanasius of Alexandria, Basil the Great, and Gregory of Nazianzus, he is counted as one of the Four Great Eastern (or Greek) Doctors of the Ancient Church. The Four Great Western (or Latin) Doctors are Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, and Gregory the Great.

Spiritual reading: Do you wish to honor the body of Christ? Do not ignore him when he is naked. Do not pay him homage in the temple clad in silk, only then to neglect him outside where he is cold and ill-clad. He who said: ‘This is my body’ is the same who said: ‘You saw me hungry and you gave me no food’, and ‘Whatever you did to the least of my brothers you did also to me’… What good is it if the Eucharistic table is overloaded with golden chalices when your brother is dying of hunger? Start by satisfying his hunger and then with what is left you may adorn the altar as well. (John Chrysostom)

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