Homilies & SermonsTheology & Spirituality

Rise Up in Christ

Our life in Christ is a life of freedom and love; and because it is, we must choose this life. Not just once, but continually. This Gospel is so simple and straight forward that it becomes problematic. The Author of life encounters death and the outcome is exactly what we expect. We understand immediately what the Church is trying to teach us. We see a prefiguring of Pascha. We see that death has been overthrown; we see the power of Christ. We can relate to the widow and her son. We understand that somehow we have been included in this the Gospel at its very core. What remains of course is to experience this resurrection ourselves. But of course we have already in our baptisms. So how is it possible that I still feel the pain and the utter defeat of sin at times in my life?

I have been told and read in places that Satan is a roaring lion who hunts for souls in order to destroy them. I have been told and understand at a surface level that we are at war. But I really don’t believe it. I don’t train for it as I should, and what should cause you even more concern is that up until now I have not insisted that you train for it as you should. The good news is that we already know the outcome of the war; we already know which side wins. Even so the battle is still raging and it is possible to be captured and tortured. Sadly it is possible to be so overcome by Satan’s lies that we decide to give up the fight.

Jesus arrives at the gate of a town called Nain. He is at the head of the procession; with Him are not only His disciples, but also by a large crowd. The gate is narrow, so they completely fill it.

From the other direction another procession is coming to the gate. At its head is death. The two crowds encounter each other at the gate. One side, it would seem, must give way to the other — or is there a third option?

Jesus walks up to the funeral procession and stops it. He touches the coffin, the bier, and says to the young man, “Rise up I tell you!”

As St. Gregory Palamas remarks about this Gospel he notes that there is no mention of faith. No requirements are implied or explicitly given, least of all from the dead man! Gregory noted that he was only “dust that had no hearing.   But he heard our Lord call Him into existence.

Our king is invincible; His power cannot be comprehended by our limited minds. And He offers Himself freely to all of us. I said at the outset that our life in Christ is one of freedom and love. Freedom does not imply that we get to do whatever we “feel” like. Real freedom is experiencing the power of Christ in every aspect of our life, freedom to empty ourselves to the point of death for the love of the people who are in our life. Freedom implies never wanting or needing to think about ourselves or what we want to do. We are only free to love when we love in freedom.

That’s what our Lord is always doing and if we want to follow Him then we should begin here.

While all of these miracles and healings are going on, John the Baptist is in prison. He hears the stories and John’s disciples come to Jesus and ask; ‘Are you the one or should we wait for another?”

Go tell John what you see and hear; the lame walk the blind see, the dead are raised to life again….

Notice that Jesus answers the really important questions with deeds and not with words. In contrast all I do is talk. And most of my talk is not authentically mine.

We are witnesses to all these things. We have the same potential that all the saints and martyrs have.

So let us ask God to allow us to continue our struggle to live the Christian life let us make Jesus the very center of our existence.

With every beat of our hearts we say his name. With every breath, when we inhale say Lord Jesus Christ Son of God, and when we exhale have mercy on me a sinner. We should never get tired of expecting the return of our Lord at every moment. When we fall, and we will fall often, we get back up again. We ask for and give support to our brothers and sisters as we walk this path together. This is how we win the battles. The battles are not won with dogmas and cannons. These things direct us to the source of   victory – life in Christ.

Our Lord has come to us and He will keep coming, and He will come again. When He comes He comes with healing and compassion and resurrection.

In the middle of His time we live out our time on earth. And in this thing we call time we have been given grace to endure the battle. Grace is mysterious, the coming of Christ is not something we can demand or predict. While what we do, our labors are in our control, the grace of God is undeserved and unmerited-grace is grace. Grace is God’s and it never comes to us because we are worthy. Grace comes because we are needy. Grace comes because we believe, Grace comes because we never stop asking, even so Lord Jesus come quickly.

In the meantime we labor and we wait on Him no matter how many years or how difficult the struggle. We do not despair because we know the victory is ours. The final victory will come in a moment in the twinkling of an eye. The dead in Christ will rise from their graves and will be with Him forever and there will no more sickness or sighing, or death, even so Lord Jesus come quickly.

Photo courtesy of Lawrence OP.


Fr Gregory Owen

Fr Gregory Owen

Fr. Gregory is the priest of a small, canonical Orthodox Mission in Berrien Springs, MI. Ordained as a priest in 2007, he desires to use his position as a priest to see souls healed through the life in Christ as prescribed by the Orthodox Church.

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