Help on the paths of the Dead (All Souls)

skull-14682569868ykToday’s Gospel makes three points.  Firstly it adresses our feeling that when our loved ones die, God is far away and uncaring: if he really loved me, would he have let my loved one die?  As we see in this Gospel, when we lose a loved one, not only is Jesus is not far away – he is right at our side – but he too feels the loss of the loved one, he has real compassion.  When the Lord saw her he felt sorry for her.  As the lion Aslan in CS Lewis’ The Horse and His Boy, he weeps alongside us and feels that pain, better than any of those around us, more even than we do ourselves.  As one of the psalm says, the Lord carries our burdens with us: he carries the greater part of the burden.

A second point is that having Jesus around when we lose a loved one definitely helps.  We can notice that when Jesus says to the boy, ‘Young man, I tell you to get up.’ the boy’s body does not simply lie there ignoring him.  Rather immediately the dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him to his mother.  To the extent that the dead let him, Jesus’ help is not an if but a when.

And this is the third point: it also shows us how crucial it is that when we die we die in Jesus with him at our side.  For once we are dead, who will guide us along the paths of the dead?  Who can help us not get lost in the darkness?  No one on earth, no matter how nice their ideology can help us: nor can anyone, the saints or even the Devil be of assistance.  Jesus alone is the only possible help, only he knows the paths of the dead, only he has destroyed their power.  As the psalm says, only he is the good shepherd who can guide us through the darkness to eternal life.  So let us turn to him today, not only entrusting him our loved ones, but also asking him to help us better stick by him, so when we die we die at his side, and find ourselves immediately not alone, but with him still there, the Light of the World.

Jesus went to a town called Nain, accompanied by his disciples and a great number of people. When he was near the gate of the town it happened that a dead man was being carried out for burial, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a considerable number of the townspeople were with her. When the Lord saw her he felt sorry for her. ‘Do not cry’ he said. Then he went up and put his hand on the bier and the bearers stood still, and he said, ‘Young man, I tell you to get up.’ And the dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Everyone was filled with awe and praised God saying, ‘A great prophet has appeared among us; God has visited his people.’ And this opinion of him spread throughout Judaea and all over the countryside.