St. Edmund Campion Parish, Maidenhead

All Souls 2016 (02 Nov 2016)

All Souls

The widow of Nain had nothing left. No husband and now no child. The only child. No social system. Condemned to starve. Jesus is moved with compassion and says: woman no cry. Who can say that? He did out of compassion, but also because He has the power to give to her the son back. So the Lord wipes away the tears of her cheek. The widow is now filled with joyful trust in God though our Lord Jesus Christ.

What about us? Is Jesus' work just an experience of the past, of 2000 years ago? Are we condemned to live our lives without the consolation of that woman? Jesus is not doing this with us, this is just something from the times of the gospel, if not a fairy tale. But looking into it a bit, actually the problem of death was not sorted out once for ever for the widow. She had to face death in the future, like her son, and like Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary.

I think the point is another one. Jesus, with his compassion and his miracles, is not trying to sort out all of our problems. God doesn't intend to put himself in our place to face life and death. He wants to help us by coming himself to stay with us. He wants to challenge our freedom. Jesus uses his whole life, his miracles, his compassion, his capacity of friendship, to show us something new: that God is interested in us. That God is not just a judge, or someone in Olimpo not interested in us. God cares. God cares to the point of becoming one of us, suffering life and death with us. Emmanuel means God with us. This is the definition of Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us. God cares to the point of giving his life for us. Jesus wants to let us know that he is God with us.

So we are not spared the problems of life and death, as Jesus wasn't. But we are not alone. We face all prime sides of life knowing that there is a happy end. This is exactly the difference between tragic and dramatic. The happy end. The tragedy ends badly. The drama ends well. With Jesus life it is not more a tragedy, but a drama.

A note about the purgatory. We have the funny feeling that hell and purgatory have been invented to make us fear God and so behave. Pelagianism, Jansenism, and a certain Irish tradition spread in the last two centuries through the whole Anglo Saxon world are still very strong in our minds. Be nice, don't do something horrible and your reward will be heaven. This is paganism with a veneer of christian wording. More about this in the book by James Mallon in the porch. Things are different. Jesus doesn’t ask if we behave or not before doing miracles or being compassionate. St Paul says today: Christ died for us while we were still sinners. Christ saves us, forgives us. It is not about our achievements, but about our surprise. About being surprised by joy, using the words of Lewis. Having a real experience of being embraced by Christ, life changes. Life is then a friendship with him. A personal relationship, a joy of belonging to him, to his body, to the Church, to the parish. This transforms life. This starts a journey of discoveries until we will see him face to face. God is putting the pieces of our life back together again. The original unity of life comes back. Sometimes life is not enough to complete this work. Then purgatory prepares us for the face to face. Purgatory strips off from one person what is unbearable and from another the inability to bear certain things. So a pure heart is revealed and we can see that we all belong together in one enormous symphony of being.