DISCIPLESHIP LESSONS FROM A NAVY SEAL


Hi everyone, here's my homily for the THIRTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - June 26, 2016. The readings for today's Mass can be found at http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/062616.cfm  Thanks as always for stopping by to read this blog; for sharing it on Facebook, twitter, Reddit and elsewhere on the Internet - and for all your feedback and comments.  God Bless You and Yours and have a great week! Fr Jim


Quick commercial... as we enter into Summer, it's time for the NEWMAN CATHOLIC 2016 SUMMER APPEAL - please check out our website for information:  http://www.msunewman.com/#!appeal/cbjb  We appreciate your consideration and your support!
 


HOMILY:
A couple of years ago, an author visited Montclair State University to speak about his new book.   Just the title was intriguing - "The Heart and the Fist: The Education of a Humanitarian, the making of a Navy Seal."  The author, Eric Greitens  had studied  at some incredibly prestigious institutions like Duke and Oxford.  He became a Rhodes Scholar, then spent time outside of the classroom on mission experiences that brought to places of great need like Rwanda and Croatia and then decided that he wanted to become a member of one of the most specialized military forces – the United States Navy Seal.  It was definitely one of the most unique stories, journeys that I’ve ever heard.  He gave such an incredible presentation that even though I have a pile of books that have collected dust and not been opened, it just seemed to be a "must" read.

One thing that has always fascinated me – whether it’s the SEALS or the Marines or some other elite military group – is what these individuals endure physically and mentally to complete their training.  To have that something it takes to become a SEAL.  They go from some minimum goals like having to complete a mile and a half run in 11 minutes to doing some seemingly impossible, grueling and increasingly difficult challenges for 12 weeks of training, culminating in the appropriately named "Hell Week" in order to become this warrior.  It’s something few will succeed at.  I think Mr. Greitens said that his class started with 200 candidates -- in the end only 21 would graduate. And Greitens was able to pinpoint the reason,  the difference between those who would make it and those who wouldn’t.   While obviously a person needs to be in good physical shape, the biggest thing was the person’s mind.    The thoughts, the mental toughness of the candidate would ultimately determine if they had the mindset to go all the way.

He shared an example from "Hell Week."  That is the week – which is make or break time - the instructors work the recruits non-stop.  They get something like 3 hours of sleep the entire week - while undergoing all kinds of tests: Running, swimming, experience terrible extremes in weather.  They endure a "Drown Proofing" exercise where their feet are tied together, their hands are tied behind their backs - and they are expected to swim fifty meters like that, retrieve a face mask from the bottom of the pool with their teeth, and bob up and down a bunch of times.


Throughout this entire week, they can quit at any time - which is something their instructors remind them of constantly.  In fact they make it very easy for them.  There’s a bell mounted outdoors, right near where they candidates are training.  That bell is visible throughout this entire experience that at any moment, they can just go and ring it, and they’re done...

This one particular day they had just finished one of these torturous exercises.  The men were exhausted and struggled to remain standing at attention.  At that, the instructors said to them, "OK the next thing we’re going to do is have a nice 5 mile run, so you can go grab your gear, and lets move out." At that, Mr. Greitens said you heard "DING" – one guy quit; and then another "DING" - and then several more "DING’s".    That one afternoon was the moment where they lost the most guys at one time than at any other time that week.  Moments after the last guy quit and was walking away, the instructor looked at the remaining candidates and said "Just kidding, let’s go have lunch."

Can you imagine?  I know, that would’ve been me - one of the dings would’ve been me (probably a lot sooner than that if I’m really honest).  I kept picturing the last guy ringing the bell, just starting to walk away and hearing the "just kidding, let’s get lunch" and thinking "that would be me."  It sounded just so cruel.  But Greitens said that epitomized this essential part of this whole test.  It’s part of this process... those guys at that moment they showed they didn’t have the mindset of a SEAL.   Because the thing that made the difference was that those who quit at that point weren’t even willing to take one step on that 5 mile run – weren’t even willing to give it a try.  They had made that decision completely in their minds that they couldn’t, they wouldn’t even attempt to go any further.  Once they had done that, there wasn’t anything else that could be done.

It’s just another example that - What you think;  how you think; is one of the most important factors in determining who you are.  That’s not just a truth in becoming a Navy Seal, or in our personal lives, but it’s a truth in the spiritual life as well. 

That came to mind looking at today’s Gospel.  Jesus sounds tough today.  Harsh even:- Foxes have dens...birds have nests... the Son of Man has noplace to lay his head ...

- Let the dead bury their dead ...

- No one who sets his hand to the plow and looks to what he left behind is fit for the kingdom of God. 


But if we look closely, Jesus is being clear, honest, upfront about all that’s required in following Him.  It’s not just enough to let our hearts buy into a romanticized notion of discipleship.  It’s a serious commitment with great demands.  So we need to be clear, to get our minds right...

-Are we willing to give up security and sign on for the unpredictable adventure that comes when we set our feet on the path and follow Jesus?  That means our mind has to reject the natural impulses – that even foxes and birds have – of their instincts, their habitats in order to make the choice to let Jesus direct our paths, our agendas. 

- Are we willing to risk the comfortableness of our lives - the relationships, the projects the plans, that we’re attached too when Jesus is calling us to something that upsets them?  Jesus telling the young man to "let the dead bury their dead" isn’t an insensitive response and an unreasonable demand made to a grieving son.  Most likely, the young man was saying I want to follow you Lord - but I have things to do, things to attend to here - once my father gets old and dies, then I will follow you.  Christ wants us to heed him without delay.

- Are we prepared to expect difficulties in following Jesus?  When you see fields of crops or flowers - you see the beauty of the finished project.  Rarely do we realize the difficulty, the dedication, the perseverance required to get those fields from seedlings to an abundant bounty.  Once we start pursuing Christ, it’s tough, it’s hard - particularly in a world that is growing increasingly hostile to Him, to His message, to His followers.  Jesus isn’t asking for a perfectly cultivated field but that we keep pushing, keep plowing with all that we have within us.

Very beautifully, in today’s second reading, St. Paul made the point that Jesus has set us free from the "yoke of slavery"; we’re to use that freedom to make a choice to be clear, unhesitating, unambiguous and whole-hearted in our commitment to be his disciple.  The work of establishing God’s kingdom of justice, reconciliation and peace has no time for "yeah but first..." "In a minute" or "on second thought".  The Gospel is not some noble ideals we aspire to or words that we memorize - but a spirit we commit ourselves to; a mindset that we need to daily embrace, struggle with, work for.  When we struggle, when we get exhausted, when we feel ready to quit and "ring the bell", we’re not to give up - but to call on one another as brothers and sisters to strengthen our resolve.  In those moments we do fail, we need to call on the Lord to experience his mercy, especially in the Sacrament of Reconciliation where we confess our sins, and they are forgiven and we start over re-committed. 

May you and I have that mindset, recognizing that discipleship is not about being spectators of God’s presence -but rather a commitment to engaging in the hard work of building up the Kingdom of God, no matter the cost to us. Knowing that when we do, we’re following the one who always has us in mind, and always has our good in mind.

A WEEK AFTER ORLANDO - GOING BACK TO BASICS


Hi everyone, here's my homily for the TWELFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - June 19, 2016. The readings for today's Mass can be found at http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/061916.cfm  Thanks as always for stopping by to read this blog; for sharing it on Facebook, twitter, Reddit and elsewhere on the Internet - and for all your feedback and comments.  God Bless You and Yours and have a great week! Fr Jim


Quick commercial... as we enter into Summer, it's time for the NEWMAN CATHOLIC 2016 SUMMER APPEAL - please check out our website for information:  http://chernjam.wix.com/classisite#!appeal/cbjb   We appreciate your consideration and your support!
 HOMILY:

Since early Sunday morning, we as a nation slowly came to learn of the horrific atrocity that took place at a night club in Orlando Florida, when a terrorist went in, and doing what terrorists do - targeted innocent people, minding their own business, living their lives - and slaughtered them, robbing them of their lives, inflicting unimaginable pain and heartbreak on families and friends who lost loved ones in one of the most horrific ways imaginable, and ultimately spreading fear and terror throughout the world, which is probably the primary goal of evil individuals like this.

But something else happened this time. I’m not sure if this is new or it’s more pronounced or what - but it was definitely more obvious to me in the hours after the news first broke out of Orlando: We as a nation didn’t pause and unite and rally together - but seemed to be responding by fighting with each one another.

When 9/11 happened, and the Sunday after the terrorist attacks I stood in this very pulpit; the shock, the fear, the anger - these were all new things. We didn’t quite know what this was - terror in our midst - nor how to wrap our minds when confronted by evil in such a destructive manner. We filled this church - over 800 people crammed into every seat, people standing - in a deafening silence before a Eucharistic Holy Hour.

Fifteen years later, we’re not shocked by the carnage. We’ve become used to it. Perhaps that’s the result of too many similar atrocities occurring. We’re so desensitized now. We use an app and change our facebook picture complete with a hashtag to somehow indicate our care and concern. We say we’re praying for the victims and their families (not quite sure how many of us follow through on that)

A generation of children have grown up with these incidents happening - kind of like hurricanes or tornadoes - terrible things that they hope they never have to experience. And the adults, we have gotten into the pattern of retreating to our different corners, with our different agendas - speaking whatever talking points the leaders of those perspectives offer, and either trying to out scream one another on a cable news program; slam each other online in a virtual debate; and so forth. We don’t come together to unite in our grief in prayer. Which is perhaps the greatest success of this terrorist.

Even as Catholics - I saw many good priests who I respect for their ministries, their service - who seemed to jump into a whole host of other issues that are all important topics that we as a Church, we as a nation don’t want to talk about - gun control, LGBQT people, Immigration, mental health issues - and got into as spirited (and sometimes, sadly, as ugly) debates as you would see on any of the hundreds of news channels pitting politicians against one another. Which is another success of not just the terrorist, but the devil himself.

I really don’t want to add to that. It’s bothered me for some time, but as I see one side using this tragedy to advance one agenda and then another side to use this tragedy to advance some other cause - I just was sickened and saddened and angry. And as I prayed with the scriptures and prayed for the victims, I was trying to think of what to say today.

I really fear we’re so adrift right now and that we need to go back to the basics. Both as human beings and as Christians:

It should simply be a human response, to be empathetic to someone when they’ve suffered the loss of someone they loved. It should be a human reaction to be angry, to be sad, to be attentive to the victims and their families when they are killed in a terrorist attack. We shouldn’t have to hear details about who the victims were - or the political, religious, ideological backgrounds of the killers to decide what our reaction should be. It shouldn’t matter whether it’s 20 6 and 7 year old children and 6 teachers killed by a mentally troubled kid at school in Newton Ct; 9 people including a Senior Pastor at a prayer service killed by a Neo-Nazi, white supremacist in Charleston SC;  or 50 LGBQT people killed by a Muslim terrorist in a night club in Orlando Florida - the destruction of human life should be the thing that sickens us, repulses us, unites us to be against that evil act. How do we ever hope to confront the causes; how do we prevent these things from happening, if we can’t even find a starting place of love, of care, of empathy for one another.

As Christians, our basics demand even more than that. I couldn’t help but think about that reflecting on today’s Gospel. In it we heard Jesus asking his disciples "Who do you say that I am?" This is after he hears them share what the buzz around town is about Jesus - some say you’re John the Baptist; others Elijah; others one of the ancient prophets has arisen." In Luke’s version of this incident, Peter professes Jesus as "The Christ of God" - meaning the anointed one, the Chosen one sent by God to lead his people to peace to prosperity. Peter has come upon a profound truth and something that differentiates Jesus from all those proposed understandings, or other expectations or misunderstandings out there. Jesus is not a politician or revolutionary or ideological leader or Philospher. He is not some pundit, or commentator or community builder or ogranizer. His message will touch, affect, challenge all of these and more - in fact it will call each and everyone of them out in different and various ways. That’s why Jesus recognizes that the world would ultimately reject him.

And the same is true today. As Christians, we can not allow Jesus and his message to be manipulated to fit any singular agenda, or cause, or ideology. We can’t simply quote Jesus in response to evil in a nice 140 character tweet. We can’t allow our biases to make us arrogant in the belief that we’re right because we believe or do certain things while others don’t. If we choose to follow Him, If we recognize Him as "The Christ of God" Jesus tells us what to do - deny ourselves, take up our crosses and follow Him. Back to basics my brothers and sisters -

Deny ourselves...

deny ourselves of the desire to be right;

deny ourselves of the attempts to convince someone they are wrong and I’m right;

deny ourselves of our comfort, deny ourselves our most precious resource: our time; deny ourselves of our selfish desires and choosing to be merciful, to be loving, to be selfless to those in need.

In the back and forth of the divisive debates over the last week that I kept seeing online, there’s a feature on Facebook that recalls things that happened or that you shared online in previous years. One memory from maybe 5 years ago was a quote that I had shared from Pope Benedict XVI. He said: "God personally looks after me, after us, after all mankind. I am not abandoned, adrift in the universe and in a society which leaves me ever more lost and bewildered. He is not a distant God, for whom my life is worthless. God looks after me."

I must have gone and looked, and read, and thought about that quote over a dozen times this week. So many people do feel adrift, do feel abandoned, do feel unloved. Don’t just think God is distant, don’t even think he exists. Which is the devil’s primary goal...

Can you and I simply as human beings start to work to recapture a basic respect for all life; Can you and I as Christians recapture a basic sense of our mission, our call as followers of Jesus by being selfless, being loving to all of our brothers and sisters whoever they may be - especially those who are in most of need of our love, our care, our concern? Then the basic truths become more apparent again:

The reality of God’s closeness, His care for each of us, personally,

That there is a reason, a purpose to this universe to our lives -

That evil works to undermine that and destroy it in every way possible.

That if we keep our lives fixed on Jesus’ call, despite whatever evil that is inflicted, we will never be lost.

In order to do that, we need to ask ourselves - Is God’s closeness a reality to me? If not, why? Have I distanced myself from Him and it feels like He is not around? Then I need to to reconnect with the One who loves me more than I can understand.

Once we grasp and apply the truth of God’s love, we are closer than ever to picking up His cross. Jesus denied Himself for us because of His great love; this is the model for us to deny ourselves for others. It all has to do with love. But not the trite "Hashtag Love" - but true Love, selfless, sacrificial love. Because True Love is at the core of all we are and do. The 10 Commandments came down to this: love God, love others. The first part, love God, means with everything we are and have. In doing this, that love spills over to part two, love others. Jesus did not say, "Love others if …." Humans seem to want to complicate the simple instructions.

May you and I start today by getting back to the basics: letting Jesus’ model be our model; His example be our example...And then the desire of so many to not let hate, not let evil win will see that reality in our professing who we think Jesus really is,... The Christ of God - who has come to lead God’s people to have life in it’s fullness.

ME BEFORE YOU? WHERE DOES GOD FIGURE IN?

Hi everyone!  This is my homily for the 11th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - June 12, 2016.   The readings for today can be found at:  http://usccb.org/bible/readings/061216.cfm.  Thanks as always for stopping by to read this blog; for sharing it on Facebook, twitter, Reddit and elsewhere on the Internet - and for all your feedback and comments.  God Bless You and Yours and have a great week! Fr Jim

Quick commercial... as we enter into Summer, it's time for the NEWMAN CATHOLIC 2016 SUMMER APPEAL - please check out our website for information:  http://chernjam.wix.com/classisite#!appeal/cbjb   We appreciate your consideration and your support!

HOMILY:

A week ago, the film Me Before You was released. To be honest, from the 20 second trailer I had already deemed this wasn’t going to be on my must-see list or that I’d be looking for it when it was On-Demand or Netflix. Quite simply it looked like a "date night movie" or a "chick flick" as we used to call it. You could tell pretty quickly that it was a love story and also that someone was going to die in it. So, like I said I hadn’t paid much attention to it at all.


Then a friend shared an article with a somewhat provocative headline caught my attention "Me Before You: Dear Hollywood, why do you want me dead?" The author, a 11 year old named Ella Frech calls out Hollywood in an amazingly eloquent, thoughtful and challenging piece as she begins:

Dear Hollywood,

Why do you want me dead?
Please don’t deny it. The movies you make tell me the truth about what you really think about me.

Me Before You comes out tomorrow. . . It’s the story of a guy who gets in an accident, and has a spinal cord injury, and has to spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair. A guy you think should want to die because he has to live a life that looks like mine.

Well, what’s wrong with a life that looks like mine?

My mom says this isn’t the first movie where a handicapped person had to die for being paralyzed. There was one called Million Dollar Baby where a woman is a quad and bravely chooses death instead of an imperfect life.

So I’m asking you again, what’s wrong with my life? Why do you think I should want to die?

You sit there with your able bodies, and look at people in chairs and think you feel pity for our sad little lives, but the truth is you’re afraid. You don’t want to imagine that you might be one of us one day. You think you can be perfect, and think you’d rather die than have parts that don’t work right.

I think that’s sad.
The idea of what my life looks like bugs you so much that you didn’t even show the truth about it in Me Before You. Would people be upset and weirded out if you showed someone transferring into the car, or using a bath chair, or needing a little help with a ramp? You think that makes people like me weak, and you aren’t OK with weak.

Her entire essay is well worth reading, (which you can right here: http://aleteia.org/2016/06/02/me-before-you-dear-hollywood-why-do-you-want-me-dead/) for a variety of reasons - but that last line "you aren’t OK with weak" really stayed with me.

In fairness to Hollywood (who is in the business simply to make money) they are often catering to whatever the general population wants. When the Passion of the Christ premiered over 10 years ago - and made massive amounts of money - Hollywood didn’t suddenly become OK with religion as they all of a sudden went into this mad rush of producing a bunch of "religious films." They were trying to cash in on what the movie-going public was interested in.

This doesn’t diminish young Ella’s point. In fact it makes it more brutal - because I think she’s hitting on something: a great number of people, perhaps a majority of the population - maybe even you and I - we aren’t OK with weakness.

When that - that not being OK with weakness causes us to not be limited, not be defined by our weaknesses...propeling us to do things, overcome obstacles, become people we might have never imagined possible - that can be great, healthy and inspirational.

But when not being OK with weakness
-causes us to fear the unknown;
-forget that despite how independent we think we are - none of us willed ourselves into existence and that our each and every breath is in a sense a miracle, a blessing;
-that we see others in their weakness, their fragileness, their vulnerability as a threat to whatever lie, whatever false image we’ve created for ourselves... that’s most definitely not ok.

Isn’t that’s what is blinding Simon the Pharisee’s vision; what’s sullying his heart and soul in the gospel we just heard? Here he has invited Jesus into his home for a meal. Obviously something has peaked his curiosity about who Jesus is that he wanted to see and experience for himself. Perhaps it was the buzz, the news of the tremendous deeds that Jesus had done, miracles that defied explanation. Maybe it was the charismatic words, the sermons he was preaching that were drawing multitudes to come and hear.


What we can tell is it wasn’t Jesus’ love and compassion that captured Simon’s attention. Because when this woman (who’s name is unknown, but whom is identified as a sinful woman -so she wasn’t completely unknown) enters, washes Jesus’ feet with her tears and wipes them with her hair, and kisses them as she anoints them with ointment and Jesus doesn’t dismiss her immediately, Simon is scandalized.

Often times when I’ve read this gospel I just pictured Simon as this pompous, arrogant, self-righteous Pharisee. But that’s where young Ella’s opinion piece helped me see this in a different light. As she addressed Hollywood in her article, she added - You may not believe in God. You don’t have to, and I can’t make you. But I do, and because of that I believe in the value of all people. I believe we are all made in His image and likeness. That’s why I believe all people are worth something. If you believe that people only get their value from each other, then people can take that away. But if our value comes from God, then nobody has the right to say someone who walks is worth more than someone who doesn’t. Maybe you need to find God again, because living without Him has made you mean.

And that’s kind of what stands out as we try to picture this Gospel story playing out in our minds. That Simon is being really mean. Here "the sinful woman" was doing customary acts of hospitality in the humblest of ways possible - obviously expressing in as intimate and personal a way her love for Jesus, her sorrow for her sinfulness, her desire to be worthy to be in His company. Yet, those pompous, arrogant, self-righteous thoughts Simon had were symptoms of something deeper. Simply that in his heart, Simon wasn’t ok with weakness - in the sinful woman, and in himself. He wasn’t ready to admit his own sinfulness, his own weakness. He didn’t know or didn’t want to express his need for Jesus - not as some wonder-man, miracle-worker, eloquent preacher; not for the popularity and fame that was spreading. Bur rather, his personal need for Jesus to save him from his sinfulness.

We are currently in what Pope Francis has called a Jubilee Year of Mercy. It’s meant to be a special time where the entire Church focuses it’s attention on the Mercy of God as the foundation of faith - as something that is central, the heart of the Christian message. The hope is that not only will each and everyone of us be renewed as we come to experience the joy, the radical love of Christ for each one of us in God’s forgiveness of our sins - but that we in turn we will be merciful, strive to radically be merciful as well.


Sadly I think we’ve not embraced Pope Francis’ call to enter into this year of Mercy as profoundly as he hoped in part because we’re not okay with weakness. We’re not okay with it in others. And we’re not okay with it in ourselves. And if that is the case, sadly we find ourselves relating more with Simon the Pharisee than the sinful woman.

In his book, The Name of God is Mercy - Pope Francis very beautifully calls out to us to change that perspective, as he writes:




There are no situations we cannot get out of, we are not condemned to sink into quicksand, in which the more we move the deeper we sink. Jesus is there, his hand extended, ready to reach out to us and pull us out of the mud, out of sin, out of the abyss of evil into which we have fallen. We need only be conscious of our state, be honest with ourselves, and not lick our wounds. We need to ask for the grace to recognize ourselves as sinners. The more we acknowledge that we are in need, the more shame and humility we feel, the sooner we will feel his embrace of grace. Jesus waits for us, he goes ahead of us, he extends his hand to us, he is patient with us. God is faithful. Mercy will always be greater than any sin, no one can put a limit on the love of the all-forgiving God. Just by looking at him, just by raising our eyes from our selves and our wounds, we leave an opening for the action of his grace. Jesus performs miracles with our sins, with what we are, with our nothingness, with our wretchedness."

Are we able to see that we are all fallen beings? Looking in the mirror of our soul, doing inventory on our thoughts and actions, can show us how far from perfection we are. But the important part is not to wallow in it, but to even more daring - to be thankful for weakness. Not in some false humility sort of way - but rather appreciating who we are, seeing those areas that we aren’t happy with and asking the Lord to enter into them, knowing he very much wants to... to heal them... to forgive them... to glorify Himself through us in those very areas. That is what we call Good News.

May this Year of Mercy, May this Gospel we have just heard, open our hearts ever so slightly to being ok with our weakness only because in Jesus we have the answer, the savior who wants us to transform them, transform us, into his glorious new creations.

HEALING ALONENESS

Hi everyone, here’s my homily for June 5, 2016 - the 10TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - The readings for today can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/060516.cfm Thanks as always for stopping by and reading this blog; for all your shares on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, etc. and your feedback and comments... Have a great week! God Bless - Fr. Jim

Quick commercial... as we enter into Summer, it's time for the NEWMAN CATHOLIC 2016 SUMMER APPEAL - please check out our website for information:  http://chernjam.wix.com/classisite#!appeal/cbjb   We appreciate your consideration and your support!

HOMILY:


Can you ever imagine a moment, a time, an experience where you felt completely alone. Not that you were physically alone with no one around you like you were in some desolate location - an igloo on some glacier, in the middle of some desert or the top of a mountain without any other human contact for an extended period of time. But worse than that - when there are people around and feeling alone. When you feel that:

No one truly understanding what it is you’re experiencing.

No one knows the pain, the fear, the doubt that plagues your heart.

No one can relate to the anxiety that keeps you awake at night.

That experience of feeling completely alone is probably a bit more common and might have affected many (if not all) of us at some time. What’s so challenging is that it can be such a vicious cycle. Especially when we have friends or relatives for whatever reason aren’t equipped to help us deal with what it is we’re facing... When no one seems to have the ability to bring healing, speak words of comfort to whatever trial it is. People can become more isolated, feel more disconnected when they are going through whatever challenge it is that caused this aloneness in the first place. Yes, I’d venture to say that experience of aloneness we’ve experienced at some time or in some way in our lives.

In the Gospel we just heard, as is often the case, we can focus solely on the miraculous event and miss the deeper message. Which is understandable because this miracle is truly spectacular. To hear how this funeral procession, in front of a crowd of people in this city of Nain turns into a resuscitation party - a coming back to life party, is pretty amazing.

But there’s something deeper that Jesus is trying to teach us that is far greater than that singular spectacular event. The Good News of the Gospel is that even when we feel our greatest despair, desolation, and we feel utterly alone - we aren’t. When our feelings betray us, our friends and family are inadequate, whether because of their lack of ability or their choosing not to - God never takes his loving gaze off of us. God will not leave us alone.

We learn that with just a few details from this passage. Actually when we think about it - there’s so few details, we don’t even know important things like the widow’s name or the name of her deceased son. But we do know the sense of aloneness she was experiencing. She’s already lost her husband. She’s now lost her only son. In that day and age, that wasn’t just an emotionally devastating loss of those closest to her; her livelihood, her security was gone too. She's lost everything that mattered, everything that was of value and importance to her. So we can understand why she’s weeping; why she’s inconsolable as she walks in a crowd.

We can imagine random people saying well intentioned things like "he’s in a better place," "at least he’s not in pain now" or "I know how you feel" - which could make her only feel feel worse and more and more alone. Because no one could no how she felt. And all those well intentioned words probably caused her to wonder What’s this better place that my family has gone to, leaving me abandoned...

All this pain is in this woman’s heart. Her tears cannot revealed the depths of sadness she was experiencing. Depths that no doubt some mourners in that funeral procession probably were uncomfortable with - you can imagine some of them wanting to race through these funeral rites in their unease over her pain and their uncomfortableness in the face of it.

That’s what makes this Gospel so beautiful because look at what happens next. Despite Jesus’ busyness with his own crowd that he’s travelling with, this woman's pain, her grief, her aloneness catches Jesus’ attention. He sees her broken heart. He hears her cries and He steps into that isolation, that pain as He goes to her. He lovingly but firmly utters commands: "Do Not Weep" – and moments later "Arise"- not just to bring the young man back to life, but words addressed to this widow. ARISE! - In that, the entire city -- in shock, in fear, in awe proclaims "God has visited His People!"

Jesus continues to do the same thing in our day and age; in our own trials and situations... He meet us in our aloneness. He speaks to our fears, our doubts our anxieties - words of Hope, words of comfort, words of healing. Jesus bring to our isolation his loving presence. He removes whatever blinders, whatever obstacles there might be from seeing Him, experiencing Him.

It never ceases to amaze me to see the amazingly beautiful and unique ways Jesus’ continues to do this, some 2,000 years later. Not too long ago, I was asked to go visit a woman - who I had never met - who was in hospice care and had not been a practicing Catholic for many years. Because of the prayers of members of her family, and their openness to not simply be with her in the midst of her illness, but love her, pray with her and ask her if she wanted to meet Jesus - Sacramentally in the Last Rites (to prepare to meet Him in eternity) she was open to that. When I arrived, she had deteriorated a great deal already. And despite years of non-practicing she wanted to receive the Sacraments. She was the most responsive during the entire visit as we prayed the Our Father. And while the miraculous, instantaneous healing that I would have loved to have seen the Lord work at that moment didn’t happen, I couldn’t help but witness a great number of other miracles:

- As she was dying, surrounded by nurses, doctors, family and friends coming in and our of her room - she was beautiful, gentleness of Jesus coming to her at a moment of extreme aloneness. Her fidgeting, her nervousness abated as we prayed with her. You could physically see her demeanor change.

- Even more, Jesus presence and action was able to bring healing to that family. Some members who were anxious and estranged were able to experience some measures of peace, and reconciliation that had eluded them. And she was able to pass away to meet Jesus face to face the next day not feeling alone, but rather knowing He was there to guide and lead her.

Jesus wants the world to come to experience the Good News: "God has visited his people" and continues to do so. In the darkness of our lives, may we look for Him for his light and love. In the call to be his disciples may we be the bearers of His light, the enfleshment of His love to those lost, struggling and feeling abandoned. Then the miracle of the city of Nain won’t be limited to that small city thousands of miles away, thousands of years ago but will continue to be experienced in our cities in our time.