“The joy of the Lord must be your strength.” The fourth week of Lent is marked by the importance of joy in the lives of the faithful. Today’s Gospel bears witness to Jesus’ unique ability to transform sorrow into joy. He does this by healing – not just the physically ill, but those who are afflicted in spirit. Joy returns to the heart when wholeness is restored. Most of us suffer brokenness that goes much deeper than what can be seen on the surface of our lives. It is a hidden brokenness, and we are unsure to whom we ought to expose it. If by exposing it we can receive healing, we can have the courage to do so. If we lose hope in the possibility of being healed, we carry around that brokenness as bitterness.
The Lord’s command, “Do not weep,” certainly seems frustrating – as though there were a more obvious appropriate response. In the past healings we’ve seen in Luke’s Gospel, some kind of request was made – Jesus was asked to heal. In today’s Gospel, we see that the tears of a mother weeping over the death of her only son is stronger and more pertinent than the various forms of intercession. Jesus does not wait for her to ask something of Him: her tears and her devastation are enough to move Him. God does not remain unmoved by our suffering or grief until we make some kind of effort to pray. The Word became flesh so that flesh itself might become instrumental in our healing and our relationship with God. The young man is brought back to life in the flesh at the mere touch of Jesus. That contact, that physical gesture, brought the full power of the Word of Life to bear on the flesh of the dead.
The reproach of St. Paul is devastating and it is hard to not hear how it echoes in our own day. Once immorality becomes known the Church has a responsibility to root it out – if we do not and try to justify it out of pride, the whole lump of us will rot. We have nothing to boast about as a Church if we begin to condone what is wrong or simply fail to pronounce judgement in a way that demonstrates clearly that sin separates us from God. The Church can only remain attached to Her Spouse if she detaches Herself from sin. On the one hand, each of us are personally held accountable before God for our own sins and failings – we are called to repentance so that the Lord’s mercy may heal us and we may convert our lives with the help of His grace. On the other hand, we are collectively responsible for the holiness of the Church – this is where the practice of excommunication came from. Certain errors and sinful practices, when they become publicly known and defended must be removed, and if that means individual persons are no longer held to be in communion with the Church, it is for their good and the good of the Church. They cannot be saved if they do not understand their need to convert in order to return to communion. The Church cannot be a sacrament of salvation if it espouses the lies and practices of Satan.