A Prescription for Peace in a World of Woe – A Homily for the 10th Sunday of the Year

June 4Today’s Gospel provides a kind of prescription for peace in a world of woe. Let’s look at this Gospel in four stages.

I. The Place – The text says plainly, Jesus journeyed to a city called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd accompanied him.

The name of the city, Nain, means fair (in the sense of beautiful). And it was, for it sat upon a high hill and commanded a magnificent view.

This is an apt description of this world as well, which has its fair beauty, its magnificent vistas, and its pleasures and offerings. As men and women of faith, we ought to appreciate the beauty of what God has created. It makes God angry, to quote Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, “when you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.” God has given us many gifts and the mystic in all of us is invited to wonder, awe, gratitude, and serene joy.

We, along with Jesus and His disciples, are journeying to a beautiful city.

Do not overlook the word “journey” in this passage. As we go through life, we are sorely tempted to walk right past “the color purple,” to be unreflective and ungrateful. Part of life’s task is to make the journey that sees God’s glory and is able to be in conscious contact with God at all times, seeing His beauty and glory on display and being in mystical contemplation of it. We need to journey to a city called Nain by having our eyes open to God’s fair beauty. This is the gift of wonder and awe.

If we can make this journey we will have followed the first prescription for peace. For the world, with all its woe, never loses the fair beauty of God’s glory. Appreciating this brings serene peace even in the midst of storms. God is always present and speaking to us in what He has made and is continually sustaining.

II. The Pain – And yet, fair though this world is, the very next thing we encounter is pain. The text says, 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

Indeed, we live in a fallen world, governed by a fallen angel, and we have fallen natures. God had made paradise for us.  And while we cannot fully understand what that paradise would have been like, it is clear that Adam and Eve were driven from the best of what God had made.

Adam was told that the ground was now cursed on account of him; it brought forth thorns and thistles in a kind of protest. For Adam, work became arduous and sweat-producing; a kind of battle set up, pitting him against the forces of nature in order to provide for his basic needs.

Eve was told that she would bring forth her children in pain. In addition, strife and some degree of shame entered into her relationship with her husband, and his with her.

The first shedding of blood took place as God killed an animal and clothed Adam and Eve with its skin. The world had now grown cold and hostile.

And while the world is not lost all its fair beauty, there is a long scarlet cord of suffering, pain, and death that reaches from outside Eden’s closed gates to this moment outside the gates of Nain.

And such a pain it is! A woman, already a widow, has now lost her only son as well as her livelihood.

We do well to maintain a sober perspective about this world. There is much to enjoy, all of which comes to us from the hand of God. And yet we must also remember that we live in a paradise lost. Its once and future glory is still on display, but its pain is very present.

Having simple sobriety about this provides a strange kind of serenity. There are certain hard truths, if we accept them, that will set us free. One of those is that life is hard. Joy will come with the morning light, but some nights of weeping must be endured as we journey to our heavenly homeland where sorrows and sighs are no more.

Accepting the pain of this world is the second part of the prescription for peace in a world of woe.

III. The Portrait of Jesus – The text says, When the Lord saw her, he was moved with pity for her. This woman’s sorrow becomes His own. And while there is a mystery to God’s allowance of suffering, we must never think that Lord is unmoved or uncaring.

There is a saying (attributed to various sources) that “Jesus didn’t come to get us out of trouble; He came to get into trouble with us.” Yes, He takes up our pain and experiences it to the utmost. An old hymn says of Him, “Jesus knows all about our struggles, He will guide till the day is done; There’s not a friend like the lowly Jesus, No, not one! No, not one!”

Note that the word pity comes from the Latin pietas, a word for family love. Jesus looks at this woman and sees a sister, a mother, a dear family member and He is moved with family love.

Learning to trust in Jesus’ love for us, especially when we suffer, is a critical part of the prescription for peace. We need to pray constantly in our suffering: “Jesus I trust in your love for me!” If we pray this in the Holy Spirit, it brings peace.

IV. The Preview – The text says, [Jesus] 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.

We have here a directive from Jesus not to weep. That directive is rooted in what He plans to do. This is more than a human, “Cheer up. Don’t be sad” sort of exhortation. Jesus is about to give her back her son; based on this fact, He says, “Do not weep.”

She and the others weeping with her are about to get a preview of what the Lord will do for all of us who believe, when we are finally delivered from this “paradise lost” to the Kingdom of Heaven.

In a very moving line we are told simply, “Jesus gave him to his mother.”

Do you realize that one day the Lord will do this for you? Jesus will return and restore everyone and everything that the devil and this world have stolen from us. It will all be given back and more than we could ever imagine will be added to it.

We might all wish that the Lord would raise some of our loved ones as he did for this widow. But what is done here is a powerful preview for this widow and for us. And even if you haven’t personally experienced this particular preview of what the Lord will do for you, you surely have experienced others.

In my own life the Lord has given me victories over sufferings and setbacks. I have experienced healings and restorations, as I’m sure you have. These are previews—down payments, if you will—on the total restoration that the Lord is going to effect in your life. Whatever you have lost, you will recover it all and far more besides.

What previews have you had in your life? What victories? What healings? What restorations? These are like previews of the promised and more-than-full restoration that is to come. What is your testimony?

It is important for you to reflect on the previews the Lord has already given, for these are another important part of the prescription for peace: the promise of complete restoration and the previews or down payments he has already made on that promise.

Here then is a prescription for peace in a world of woe:

  1. Make the journey to Nain, a place called fair and beautiful. That is, let the Lord open your eyes to the beauty and blessings all around you. Come to see the magnificence of His glory on display at every moment. It will give you peace and serene joy.
  2. Ask for the grace to accept that we currently live in a “paradise lost” and that life is hard. This sober acceptance of life’s sorrows brings a paradoxical serenity, as our resentment that we do not live in a perfect world goes away. Accepting that this world, with all of its beauty, also has hardships, brings peace and a determination to journey to the place where joys will never end.
  3. Accept the Lord’s love for you even amidst His mysterious allowance of suffering. Accept that He is deeply moved and just say over and over, “Jesus, I trust in your Love for me.”
  4. Be alert to the previews that God gives and has already given you, previews of the future glory that awaits the faithful. Once you have accepted this evidence, this testimony from the Holy Spirit, peacefully accept the Lord’s instruction not to weep and His promise that you will recover it all—and much more besides.

A prescription for peace in a world of woe.

6 Replies to “A Prescription for Peace in a World of Woe – A Homily for the 10th Sunday of the Year”

  1. This is such a beautiful reflection and just the prescription that I needed. Thank you!

  2. Our priest pointed out that we hear in this weeks’ readings about three widows and their resurrected sons. The widow of Zarephath, widow of Nain, and the widow of Nazareth.

  3. Father, I had a very gracious preview about 6 weeks before my husband passed away last November. I had a warning dream. My husband and I were walking down a road side-by-side in daylight, but a very different kind of daylight. The air was like mother-of-pearl, full to bursting with life, almost like birds and butterflies and insects and all kinds of life forms were about to crystallize out of the air. This was such an unusual light, and I could feel the presence of God above both of us. I tried to look up, but could not see for the light (God dwells in unapproachable light), and some unseen, angelic presence admonished me gently that we mortals are not supposed to try to look God face-to-face. I did not want to be disrespectful, so I apologized, and kept walking down the road with my husband.
    Suddenly, my husband zoomed ahead, towards a black tunnel. I wailed, “come back! I can’t keep up with you!” My husband came back for the briefest of returns visits, but then he zoomed ahead again, went into the black tunnel (into a place from where no one ever comes back), and was gone.
    At that point, I awoke, and the dream was so vivid, it was like the waking reality was faint, and the dreamscape more real than reality. I felt as though someone were telling me urgently, “get ready! John is going to go ahead, first. Be prepared!”
    Both of us had made the devotion of the 9 First Fridays (Sacred Heart devotion) and the devotion of the 5 First Saturdays (Immaculate Heart of Mary devotion) multiple times. Both of these devotions come with promises that the person who completes them properly will receive very specific graces helpful to them at their time of death, helpful towards the eternal salvation of their souls.
    Immediately after that, I felt a very strong “call” to increase my prayer and devotional life, so I did (lots of extra prayers and devotions, including one additional 5-decade rosary every single day, which for someone still working is a lot). But, by the grace of God, I was somehow able to do it.
    My husband fell ill Oct. 27 (we thought it was severe G.I. or mild food poisoning). I was all set to visit my sister to attend a benefit luncheon for her son in high school in Rockford, IL. I did not want to be a “party pooper” by cancelling on short notice when some rather expensive tickets had already been purchased, so I prayed ardently that my husband would recover. He did. In fact, he recovered so well that on Sat, he ate 2 huge pieces of deep-dish pizza, which one cannot do on an up set stomach. He seemed hale & hearty, so I drove up to Rockford for the day, and we had a wonderful time.
    On Monday, my husband started to go downhill again. During the week, his appetite was less and less. He was eating Saltine crackers and drinking 7-Up, and eventually could not even keep that down. He was too ill to attend the 5:00 p.m. Mass on Saturday. He did not tell me, but he had stopped being able to use the bathroom.
    On the next Monday evening, he was no better. Something told me, take him to the emergency room NOW! So, I did. Something happened on the drive over–he let out a help of pain, and was shaking he was in so much pain. I dropped him off at the door, and he went inside. He was the last patient they let in, as this E.R. is at one of the few remaining trauma centers, and the E.R. went on “stand-by” meaning that if unless it is a lifethreatening emergency or trauma, you have to find someplace else.
    The E.R. doctors and staff thought he had a bowel obstruction (which he did), and I found out for the first time he had not been able to move his bowels for 4 days, and had not been able to urinate for a day and a half. They admitted him around 3:30 a.m. Tuesday.
    That day, early, I felt the same unseen, kindly presence as before, telling me with extreme urgency, “get the Catholic priest over here IMMEDIATELY!! Do not delay!!” Somehow, it was communicated to me, that my husbanded needed to go to confession, that I should see to it that he received sacramental confession, Holy Eucharist, Extreme Unction, and the apostolic pardon with plenary indulgence for the time of death, all of which any Catholic priest with faculties can easily help out with.
    Our new Catholic assistant pastor came over and everything was handled very quickly on that Tuesday afternoon.
    It turned out, that was the last possible day on earth, that my husband could have received all those sacraments and blessings, and participated intelligently.
    The next day, he went in for a colonoscopy. He had an adverse reaction to the anesthetic, his blood oxygen levels dropped alarmingly, and he was never quite “with it.” That was Wednesday. They confirmed that he had a massive bowel obstruction of some kind, almost certainly an extremely aggressive cancer.
    They felt he was too weak to operate–but by Friday, decided they would go ahead. They got out the bowel obstruction thing, which was indeed a huge, extremely aggressive cancer. And also found a sac of pus. It turned out his appendix had ruptured, almost certainly on the way to the hospital.
    Saturday he was great.
    Sunday he started going downhill rapidly, and pneumonia and sepsis (from the ruptured appendix) set in. On Monday he was on life support, so I called again and the same wonderful priest came over, gave him Extreme Unction again, and the apostolic pardon with plenary indulgence at the point of death.
    My dear husband passed away around 4:10 a.m. Tuesday morning, Nov. 17.
    While there was, of course, a lot of shock and grief, I felt extreme consolation in knowing that everything possible to do for the eternal salvation of his soul, had been done, and that he had participated as much as he was able.
    Very many people told me at the wake and after the funeral mass (at the luncheon) that they had felt the same call to get the sacraments for a spouse or other loved one, but “blew it off” thinking there would be plenty of time to do all that after their loved one came home. But their loved one never came home! And, they were left with extreme remorse, knowing that not only did their loved one die without those final sacraments, but they were the reason their loved one had died without the sacraments.
    After the funeral mass, I prayed very ardently for some insight as to where my husband was, and his condition. There had been something of a “freak” November snowstorm and we had about a foot of snow on the ground; it was unbelievably cold and nasty. I felt as though the sun came out from behind a cloud, and was simply blazing down, very warm and approving!

  4. Sorry for the second message–I timed out.
    At any rate, my testimony is that Our Lord Jesus Christ is Eternal Truth, he is 100%faithful to his promises, and he does not lie! When He makes promises (those who complete the devotion of the 9 First Fridays will not die in his disgrace, nor will they die without the sacraments), He is utterly faithful to those promises!
    Also, I would strongly urge all of you readers, please, make the devotion of the 9 First Fridays (which is not at all hard to do) as well as the 5 First Saturdays (this takes some “doing” but is still very “do-able.”)
    The promises which attach to these devotions are so magnificent, that some theologians have opined that only the elect will be granted the grace to complete them successfully. Even if you “goof” up and miss a month, simply start over the next month. If you persevere and pray for help, you will get it, and eventually you will receive the grace to complete them successfully.
    And, once you do, by all means, continue making Holy Communions of reparation, to Our Lord Jesus Christ on the First Friday of the month, and to Our Lady on the First Saturday of the month. There are not nearly sufficient numbers of souls converting, or making these devotions with the proper dispositions. And, Jesus and Mary will reward you abundantly, even in the here-and-now, with those specific graces you stand in need of at the present time.
    I apologize for going on at such extreme length. However, Father, you did ask for our testimonies, and my testimony is that I received such a preview, such actual assistance at that time of urgency, and such super-abounding consolation and additional graces thereafter (and even helps in the day-to-day life), that I had to respond. Thank you!!

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