The Gospel for Tuesday of the 24th Week provides a kind of prescription for peace in a world of woe. Let’s look at it in four stages.
I. The Place – 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 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.
Thus, we have the first prescription for peace. The world, with all its woe, never loses the 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 – Fair though this world is, the very next thing we encounter in the text is pain: 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.
Having simple sobriety about this provides a strange kind of serenity. If we are willing to accept them, there are certain hard truths 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 – When the Lord saw her, he was moved with pity for her. This woman’s sorrow becomes His own. While there is a mystery to God’s allowance of suffering, we must never think that He 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, “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 – [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.”
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.
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; they are 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 he has already given of that promise.
Here, then, is a prescription for peace in a world of woe:
- 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.
- 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 because our resentment that we do not live in a perfect world goes away. Accepting that this world, with all its beauty, also has hardships, brings peace and a determination to journey to the place where joys will never end.
- 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.”
- 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.
This motet from Night Prayer is by John Shepherd. The translation of the Latin text (In pace, in idipsum dormiam) is “In peace, in the self-same, I will rest.”