St Paul the Apostle Orthodox Church
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/ Weekly Message / Weekly Message 03-18-12: Third Sunday Of The Great fast

Third Sunday of the Great Fast


he who loses his life for my sake and for the sake of he gospel will save it Mark 8: 35.


What devoted believers gain by faithfully responding to Christ's first shown love, fl exceeds anything we could possibly conjure up as reward for fidelity to the Son of Go Today's veneration of the life-imparting, life-giving Cross points to his miracles over death.


Compared to his other signs and astounding miracles, Jesus raised relatively few people from the dead in his three year public ministry among us. Only three are described a any length; two young people along with Lazarus. This little group represents hundred of people each day who have not lived full lives, yet die, yet leave us remaining in the world, which all too often, and unfortunately, so many think is a far better place 1 remain than to go to the Lord for eternity. It was not the purpose of our Lord to revers the effects of the fall of Adam and Eve. People still die physically. Those three just mentioned eventually died again, permanently. But their temporary resurrection demonstrated that death is not at all final, just as Christ on the cross today for our particular attention teaches us Great and Holy Friday may have its success temporarily, for some three days to be specific, but Resurrection is permanent. Three instances recorded in Scripture Jesus shows us what death can be, death will be fnally be defeated just as He overcame the death that we sentenced him to by our sinful neglect.


The death defying miracles also had other objectives. They provided startling lessons in how far Jesus is willing to go to glorify his eternal Father. For example, He risks deep] offending his dear friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus by disappointing them in order to give them an even greater gift of delight! He purposely avoids running to the death scene of his friend so that He can raise him from the death after he breathes his Iast! And through it all, our God receives glory! By faith, then our own death will give Jesus yet another opportunity to glorify God! Let us keep that possibility in mind as w reflect on instances of the power of Jesus over death.


In his Roman epistls, St. Paul reminds us of broad truth: For I am reminded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord Romans 8: 38, 39. So we see that whatever world death introduces us to, the best covering preparation for it is to labor for the highest good of the world in which we live. But the exchange which death brings what it may, he who has spent his life in trying to make this world better can never be unprepared for another life in eternity. If we genuinely live here in this life, find our dearest work here, let love for God and man be the animating principle of our being and then, we can let death come when it may and carry us where it will, we will not be unprepared for it. We see the Lord was prepared for what occurred on the cross, what it would take to conclude his earthly life. He submitted to the will of our heavenly Father. He entered the realm of death to overcome it, to conquer it and emerge

victorious over it.


The rending of the veil which hides the secrets of the unseen world, the summons that calls us into regions unknown, but yet, not really unknown because the Lord has gone before us to prepare a place for us, need awaken in our breast no perturbing response or dismay for we cannot in God's all encompassing universe go where love and truth and self-devotion are things of nothing, or where a soul, filled with undying faith in their progress and identifying its own happiness with final triumph of goodness, shall find itself forsaken.


As he approached the gate of the town, a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother's only son and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town Luke 17: 12. The world has for him no chamber of terror or horror. He walks to the door of the sepulcher; the sealed cellar of his Father's house and calls for its four-day dead. He rebukes the mourners; He stays at the funeral; He gives back a departed child to the arms of devoted and loving parents. The roughest of its servants do not make him wince; none of them are so arrogant as to disobey his word; He falls asleep in the midst of a storm that threatens to swallow his boat. Hear now, on that same occasion, He rebukes his disciples! The children tremble at a gust of wind in the house! God's little ones afraid of the storm! Hear him tell the watery floor to be still. And hear him from the cross cry out in agony to heaven, Forgive them for they do not know what they do Luke 23: 34.


When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, "do not cry!" Luke 7: 13. Do we recall the widow of Naim who had only one son and when he died she went out to bury him? Jesus meets the funeral procession and touches the bier where the dead was lying. This was absolutely incredible to the Jews who were there. Surely Jesus defiled

himself by touching a dead body, but his touch resurrected, raised the young man and returned him to life. This was, after all, a widow's only son and she might now become destitute. Jesus simply says to her, " Do not cry!"


What does this short comment tell us about the heart of Jesus, our Saviour? He cares for women; He cares for mothers; He cares for this widow and He cares for her dead son. He touches the dead and they rise; because He is life; He is resurrection. That is how we recall and celebrate the veneration of the Cross today; it makes possible life for us; it imparts life and grace; it is a sign of God's redeeming and victorious triumph over the values of the world! So it is not so much a sad or agonizing event as one of enormous and deep truth, a literal plus sign for sinful man who take its blessed grace and utilizes it to achieve salvation in Christ's name.


Then he went up and touched the bier and those carrying it stood still He said, "Young man, I say to you, get up!" Luke 7: 14. Compassion is another important lesson Jesus teaches us today from the cross and it is repeated in the story of the poor widow and her son. Christ is not afraid to break with tradition and had little regret for the status quo because as the Son of God He gives everything a new meaning and new, elevated understanding, even the cross, even the enemy of mankind, death itself. One of the greatest examples is found in the funeral procession as it is also found in a more magnanimous degree from the place of Pilate to the heights of Golgotha. The poor widow's husband and now her son were gone. But Jesus had such compassion for this grieving woman he just stopped and touched the dead young man. He has such compassion for all mankind, He concludes his own final procession atop the cross and

touches us not physically, but spiritually in our souls. He tells in one instance the boy to rise while to us in the persons of Adam and Eve, He take us by the hand and raises them and us to their forgotten and lost and forsaken dignity.


Whatever the problem of a mother who has lost a child, suffered a miscarriage or suffers with infertility, or undergone an illness and do not have long to live. Today at the cross we see, whatever the problem, Jesus understands your grief. His arms are wide open to embrace you as they are spread upon the width of the cross to embrace the entire world in its sinfulness. He ascends the cross to touch us with his compassion, his mercy and his grace. May we all enjoy its benefits today.

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