The 17th Sunday of Pentecost
110th Anniversary Celebration
Homily given by Bishop Benjamin of San Francisco and the West
There is no time when a pastor feels more incapable of comforting than when a child dies. We heard the story in this morning’s gospel from Luke, that while Jesus was passing from one place to another, He passed by the Nain, and a funeral was progress. A funeral procession was in progress, and the people of the city were bringing the body of the only son of a widow to be buried.
Imagine the grief, imagine the sorrow, imagine the emptiness that that mother felt. I don’t if you, and I hope none of you ever had had that occasion to experience the death of a child. But it is incomprehensible. One cries out do God and says, “Are you at the desk? Whose running the universe? It’s not supposed to be like that. Parents are not supposed to live longer than their children. It’s not supposed to be like that.” And yet, it happens. And it’s those time we feel the farthest from God.
But I’m here to tell you as I tell the parents. The child could be 9 months and the parents 22. The child could be 50 years old and the mother 80. It’s still not supposed to be like that. It’s just not supposed to happen. I remember when my own mother died my grandmother could not even go to the funeral. It was incomprehensible to her that my mother should pass away before she did.
What kind of words can a pastor give that make it go away? In fact, brothers and sisters, the Rabbi’s say that when someone dies, God weeps. It was not God’s plan that any of this children, be they nine months old or fifty years old, die. And God feels the sorrow and the pain of His children.
Christ, in the gospel today, looked into the eyes of that mother, and He saw real pain. He saw real questioning. He saw her complete lack of understanding of how this could happen, and her questioning, “How could God have abandoned her?” and He reached out to her, and in a moment touched her son and he was raised from the dead.
It’s the foretaste or Christ’s entire ministry on earth. He came to earth for no other reason than to raise the dead. He came to earth for no other reason than to search for His friend Adam, and Eve. When Adam sinned he took himself away from the source of life, and he died. It wasn’t a punishment. No more than when you turn off the light switch, the light goes out. It’s not a punishment, it’s just what happens. And when Adam took himself away from the source of life, God, he died. And all of his children were condemned to die. But God looks into the heart, into the eyes of everyone who suffers and He sees in it the reflection of His own grief at the loss His beloved – at the loss of you, the loss of me, the loss of Adam, the loss of that young son on the funeral bier going the cemetery. God experiences that same sorrow.
But it’s not enough. It’s not for God to let us all kind of stew in our juices as it were. To reap the benefit of our sin. But He sent His own Son, His own beloved Son, into this world to suffer Adam’s death, to suffer my death, to suffer your death, to suffer the death of that widow’s son, so that He could go down into Hades and destroy death, making death, Adam’s death His own.
And so each one of us in the Christian Church, Orthodox Christians, we’re baptized into Christ’s death and raised with Him. And we’re able to rise with Him because He dies our death, He dies Adam’s death. So at any time when we weep, when we feel the sorrow at the loss of someone, we should remember that we’re not the only ones who are weeping, we’re not the only ones who feel loss, but God feels it with us. God shares our sorrow and He has made it His own so that He can turn our sorrow into joy.
Christ is Risen!
Indeed, He is Risen