St Luke 7:1-16

Chapter 7 of St Luke opens with two raisings from the dead:

1 Cum autem implesset omnia verba sua in aures plebis, intravit Capharnaum. 2 Centurionis autem cujusdam servus male habens, erat moriturus: qui illi erat pretiosus. 3 Et cum audisset de Jesu, misit ad eum seniores Judæorum, rogans eum ut veniret et salvaret servum ejus. 4 At illi cum venissent ad Jesum, rogabant eum sollicite, dicentes ei: Quia dignus est ut hoc illi præstes: 5 diligit enim gentem nostram, et synagogam ipse ædificavit nobis. 6 Jesus autem ibat cum illis. Et cum jam non longe esset a domo, misit ad eum centurio amicos, dicens: Domine, noli vexari: non enim sum dignus ut sub tectum meum intres: 7 propter quod et meipsum non sum dignum arbitratus ut venirem ad te: sed dic verbo, et sanabitur puer meus. 8 Nam et ego homo sum sub potestate constitutus, habens sub me milites: et dico huic, Vade, et vadit: et alii, Veni, et venit: et servo meo, Fac hoc, et facit. 9 Quo audito Jesus miratus est: et conversus sequentibus se turbis, dixit: Amen dico vobis, nec in Israël tantam fidem inveni. 10 Et reversi, qui missi fuerant, domum, invenerunt servum, qui languerat, sanum.11 Et factum est: deinceps ibat in civitatem quæ vocatur Naim: et ibant cum eo discipuli ejus et turba copiosa. 12 Cum autem appropinquaret portæ civitatis, ecce defunctus efferebatur filius unicus matris suæ: et hæc vidua erat: et turba civitatis multa cum illa. 13 Quam cum vidisset Dominus, misericordia motus super eam, dixit illi: Noli flere. 14 Et accessit, et tetigit loculum. (Hi autem qui portabant, steterunt.) Et ait: Adolescens, tibi dico, surge. 15 Et resedit qui erat mortuus, et cœpit loqui. Et dedit illum matri suæ. 16 Accepit autem omnes timor: et magnificabant Deum, dicentes: Quia propheta magnus surrexit in nobis: et quia Deus visitavit plebem suam. 

And when he had finished all his words in the hearing of the people, he entered into Capharnaum. [2] And the servant of a certain centurion, who was dear to him, being sick, was ready to die. [3] And when he had heard of Jesus, he sent unto him the ancients of the Jews, desiring him to come and heal his servant. [4] And when they came to Jesus, they besought him earnestly, saying to him: He is worthy that thou shouldest do this for him. [5] For he loveth our nation; and he hath built us a synagogue. [6] And Jesus went with them. And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent his friends to him, saying: Lord, trouble not thyself; for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof. [7] For which cause neither did I think myself worthy to come to thee; but say the word, and my servant shall be healed. [8] For I also am a man subject to authority, having under me soldiers: and I say to one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doth it. [9] Which Jesus hearing, marvelled: and turning about to the multitude that followed him, he said: Amen I say to you, I have not found so great faith, not even in Israel. [10] And they who were sent, being returned to the house, found the servant whole who had been sick. [11] And it came to pass afterwards, that he went into a city that is called Naim; and there went with him his disciples, and a great multitude. [12] And when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold a dead man was carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow: and a great multitude of the city was with her. [13] Whom when the Lord had seen, being moved with mercy towards her, he said to her: Weep not. [14] And he came near and touched the bier. And they that carried it, stood still. And he said: Young man, I say to thee, arise. [15] And he that was dead, sat up, and began to speak. And he gave him to his mother. [16] And there came a fear on them all: and they glorified God, saying: A great prophet is risen up among us: and, God hath visited his people. 

Commentary (de Lapide)

...“There was a dead man carried” without the city. Because, for sanitary and other reasons, the Jews had their burial places without the walls.

So the sepulchre of Joseph of Arimathæa, in which the body of Christ lay, was without Jerusalem. So also the valley of Jehoshaphat, the scene of the judgment to come and the general resurrection, is the common burial-place of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, with the exception of the kings, for whom David had provided a sepulchre in Zion. 1 Kings ii. 10. For similar reasons the Romans, who were forbidden by the twelve tables to bury their dead within the city, used the Campus Martius as a place of sepulture, until Theodoric revoked the law; and there is abundant evidence to show that the Christians also, in the time of the persecution, used the crypts which they had excavated without the city for purposes of interment, but afterward, when peace was given to the Christians, they consecrated burial places within the walls near the temples in which they were wont to worship:

1. That the remembrance of death might be continually presented to the faithful as an incentive to a holy life. Like as the Spartans were commanded by Lycurgus to bury their dead within the city, in order to teach their young men that death was to be honoured and, not to be feared.

2. That by their consecration they might be secure against the wiles of the devils, who are wont to dwell in the tombs and possess the bodies of those departed. S. Luke viii. 27.

3. And also that the faithful when on their way to worship might be led to pray that those who lay buried around might be released from purgatory, and counted worthy of a glorious resurrection at the last day, and also that they might be partakers in the holy sacrifices offered in the temples and might benefit by the merits and by the prayers of those Saints who either lie buried, or are in some way especially commemorated therein. Thus Constantine the Great wished to be buried in the porch of the Church of the Holy Apostles at Constantinople, and Theodosius in the Church of S. Peter at Rome. And so, as most of the churches at Rome show the Christians built altars over the tombs of the martyrs, for reasons which I have given in my comments on the text, “I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain.” Rev. vi. 9.

The only son, μονογενὴς, i.e. the only child of his mother, and therefore the sole object of her love. For he was to her her hope and her future, the support of her declining years, and the light of her eyes. Hence the mother’s grief was of the bitterest kind, like to that which the prophets tell of: “They shall mourn for him as one mourneth for his only son,” Zech. xii. 10. And again, “0 daughter of my people, gird thee with sackcloth and wallow thyself in ashes: make thee mourning as for an only son, most bitter lamentation.” Jer. vi. 26...

...Allegorically. The widow is the Church who mourns her sons—those who have fallen into mortal sin and forfeited the grace of God—as dead, and seeks by her tears for their restoration; and in answer to her prayers, Christ—1. Causes the bearers to stand still, checks those evil passions which gain the mastery over the young, and breaks their power. 2. Touches the bier, i.e. the wood of the Cross, and by it raises the dead to life. For by virtue of Christ sinners are moved to repentance, and restored to favour with God. Hence, 3. The dead man sits up and begins to speak, begins to lead a new life and give praise unto God, so that those who are witnesses of this marvellous change are filled with admiration and are led to give glory unto God. So S. Ambrose and others.

Of this we have a living example in S. Monica, for she mourned unceasingly for her son, who was dead in trespasses and sins, but recalled by her prayers to such holiness of life that he afterwards became a chief doctor of the Church. S. Augustine, Confessions.

Again, more particularly, the widow is the Church, the son the people of the Gentiles enclosed in the bier of concupiscence, and borne along to hell as to a sepulchre. By touch of the bier, i.e. by the wood of the Cross, Christ gave life to the world

Figuratively. By the example of the widow we see how a priest or director should act when any of his spiritual children have fallen into mortal sin and are being borne to the grave of everlasting misery. He should follow the bier with weeping and much lamentation, for thus he will receive comfort from the Lord who—(1.) Touching the bier will cause the bearers to stand still, i.e. cause evil lusts and passions to cease; (2.) will recall the dead to life; and (3.) will raise him up to the performance of good works, so as to confess his sins and tell of the loving kindness of God.

Thus at last he is restored to the Church, his mother, whose past sorrow will be eclipsed by her present joy, and thus also many will be led to extol the goodness of God.

Again, the widow represents the soul, her son the understanding, inactive and dead. When such a soul laments her spiritual death, especially if others also join in her mourning, Christ will grant an awakening. The bier is a conscience in a state of false security. The bearers, the evil enticements and flatteries of companions which stand still, i.e. are restrained at the touch of Christ. Bede. Or, as Theophylact interprets it, the widow is the soul which has lost its husband, i.e. the word of life; the son is the understanding; the body, the coffin or bier.

To sum up. We read that Christ on three occasions recalled the dead to life.

1. The daughter of the ruler of the synagogue in the house, i.e. one who sins in thought and intention.
2. The son of the widow at the gate, i.e. one who sins openly, and imparts his guilt to others.
3. Lazarus in the tomb, the habitual sinner who lies as it were buried in sin without hope of recovery or release.

The first, Christ raised to life by secret prayer apart from others; the second by a word; the third by crying with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. Hence different degrees of sin have different remedies, but to rescue the habitual sinner from the death of sin there needs no less than the voice of Christ speaking loudly to the sinner’s heart.

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