How many of you have had your shots? How did you feel when the doctor or nurse took a big needle and stuck it into your skin? First, there was a moment of fear, was there not? And then a moment of pain, but it did not last long.
Why do parents let their children suffer that moment of pain? Of course, because the pain of the vaccination is not that bad, while the suffering that results from disease, for example, yellow fever, is much worse.
We find this theme in today's Scripture readings. There are many trials and problems in this sinful world, but if we walk with the Lord, the difficulties of life are not that big a deal, especially in comparison to the joy and happiness that await us in heaven.
St. Paul prays, in his letter to the Ephesians (Eph.3:13-21), "that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. "
All of this world is stained by sin, and nobody can avoid all the consequences of Adam and Eve's fall. At times, however, God our Almighty Father allows us to suffer a little for our own good, to teach us how to avoid greater suffering. As Eliphaz says in Job 5:17-21, "Behold, blessed is the one whom God reproves; therefore despise not the discipline of the Almighty. For He wounds, but He binds up; He shatters, but His hands heal. He will deliver you from six troubles; in seven no evil shall touch you. In famine He will redeem you from death, and in war from the power of the sword. You shall be hidden from the lash of the tongue, and shall not fear destruction when it comes."
This is true, but it is not the whole truth. St. Paul also writes that Christ "is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us."
That is to say, although God may permit us to face trials and challenges in our lives, He always listens to our prayers and answers them in the most wondrous manner, although perhaps not in the way we expect.
Let us look at the parallel stories in our Old Testament lesson (1 Kings 17:17-24) and today's Gospel reading (Luke 7:11-16). In both stories, we find a widow with a son who has died. And, by the grace and pwoer of God, the life of the son is restored. In the first instance, God used the prophet Elijah, in the second, the son was revived by the command of our Lord Jesus Christ.
You should understand, according to the custom of Biblical times, the oldest son had the responsibility to care for his mother if his father died. So a widow who lost her only son often had no one to care for her. But, in both cases, the Lord heard the prayer of the widow in her need.
Here is one difference in the stories. What did Elijah do to save the widow's son in our Old Testament lesson? He stretched himself upon the child three times and cried to the LORD, "O LORD my God, let this child's life come into him again." Elijah cried to the Lord three times in a loud voice before the Lord answered him.
On the other hand, what did Jesus do? He did not cry to the Lord three times, but commanded the dead man, "Young man, arise!"
What does this mean. Jesus is the Lord Himself, Who has the power over life and death. Therefore, He is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think. However, the people did not understand this and still thought of Jesus as only a prophet, like Elijah.
But there also is a difference between this story and the other accounts of Jesus reviving the dead, as in the cases of Jairus' daughter and Lazarus, Mary and Martha's brother, and the story of His own resurrection.
In the other accounts, Jesus by His divine power extended the earthly lives of others. But, obviously, Jairus' daughter does not live among us in the flesh today, and neither does Lazarus. They died physically a second time. There is no hope for us in these cases by themselves, no promise of eternal life.
In His own resurrection, Jesus changed everything for everybody. He conquered death forever and gain for all of us the promise of eternal life. When we are raised as the Lord was, we will not die a second death.
Furthermore, Christ in His death and resurrection, conquered sin. That is why God the Father hears our prayers. By our own merits, we deserve nothing good from God. But by the righteousness of Christ, we have the right to bring our peticions to the Father.
This is the foundation of our hope and joy in this world and the world that is to come. The suffering, death and resurrection of Christ, thanks be to God. Amen.
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