My dad retired from the Coast Guard in 1959. Because he had been in aviation and worked on planes, he got hired by the Boeing Company in Renton, Washington. We rented an apartment on Mercer Island for a few months and then my parents bought a model home in Lake Hills, a new development near Bellevue, Washington.
Our new house was surrounded by new construction. It was fun as a kid to play army in all the big holes and ditches. I loved to sneak up close to watch the bulldozers. In my 1959 mind they were the most powerful thing I had ever seen. They could move anything in their path, nothing could stop those bulldozers! John+
In today's Gospel, Jesus approaches the city gate of Nain. At the same time, a funeral procession was getting ready to leave the city. A widow had lost her only son- her hope of life security was lying dead. (A little background: In those days, when someone died they were buried the same day. A few men would pick up the body, place it on a stretcher, and begin to wander with the family through the village, people would join the procession and join in the wailing and mourning.) You could describe the procession as having a snow-ball effect, but that would be too pleasant an image. The funeral procession was more like a bulldozer: a bulldozer of death gathering everything in its path.
Jesus meets this bulldozer of death at the city gate on Nain. Death is bulldozing through the world and Jesus is the only one who can stop this procession of death in its tracks. Like so many battles, it takes place at the city gates. The majority see death having the upper hand in the battle. Death always has the best weapons. But Jesus' only weapon was compassion. He had compassion on the woman. Jesus goes over to the stretcher and brings the son back to life. He gives the son to his mother. For the widow, hope was restored. The bulldozer of death that plows through the world, gathering up so many with it, is stopped dead in its tracks by a more powerful force: compassion.
Last Sunday our reflection was on amazing faith. Faith, not just a mental act or feeling, but activated, acted on. What is our faith for, but to bring compassion to the world. Compassion is the only weapon (poor word choice) that can stop the bulldozer of death which continues to terrorize the world.
It's not easy to embrace living with compassion, especially toward those we don't like or who have harmed us. That's why Jesus taught us to love our enemies and do good to those who harm us. The world hates this attitude, or, I might say act-titude. To embrace compassion as Jesus is demonstrating in the Gospel, mean the collapse of so many beliefs we hold about right and wrong, retributive justice, and giving people what they deserve and not a penny more. To live with compassion means the loss or collapse of our faith convictions (like Saul) that we feel are essential to our security, and joining the crowd with Jesus and embracing his commitment to life: life in the face of death.
(After I wrote this, news of Muhammad Ali's death was announced. He left the cultural Christianity of his youth and became a muslim. He found the freedom there to live compassion and the courage to not allow a government to tell him who his enemies were and kill them.)
Jesus invites us in this Eucharist to leave the procession of death and join his procession of life. The Bread we receive and the Wine we drink are the foods of compassion, Jesus' own life. The Eucharist is the medicine that heals everything in us that prevents us from acting with compassion where the fear of death is everywhere. I need this medicine. Jesus people, armed only with compassion, can win the battle that is waging. Life will conquer death. (emphasis added size/color, Leonardo)
Saint Alban Episcopal Mission (English) meets for mass every Sunday at 10:00 A.M. (see welcome letter at sidebar) at Casa Convento Concepcion, 4a Calle Oriente No. 41, Antigua, Guatemala.
THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH WELCOMES EVERYONE