Comings and Goings

This week in Chapel we had two sets of readings: one from Luke’s Gospel about the widow of Nain for the Junior School and Grade 10 services on Monday and Tuesday, and one from the sixteenth chapter of John’s Gospel read on Thursday and Friday. Each in their own way helps us to think about the radical teaching of the Resurrection that makes visible what is present in the Passion of Christ. It reveals what underlies and gives meaning to the comings and goings of our own lives. Ultimately, the comings and goings of our own lives find their purpose and meaning in the comings and goings of God in the motions of the divine life itself.
The story of Christ’s compassion towards the widow of Nain is quite powerful and moving. It follows immediately upon the story read last week about the healing of the Centurion’s servant by the word of Christ. “Say the word.” God’s word in Christ heals and restores; such is the power of the Word of God in creation and redemption which, unlike our words, creates and restores. In the story of the widow of Nain, we see the power of the Word and Son of the Father who when he “saw her, he had compassion on her.” It is an expression used several times by Luke.
Everything turns on how we see one another. Do we look at one another with hostility and fear? In hatred and envy? As enemies and opponents to be beaten and conquered? The conflict narratives of our world and day diminish the sense of our common humanity. It is the failure to respect one another and ourselves because we have lost sight of who we are in the eyes of God.
Respect is one of those big little words that mean so much more. We forget that respect has very much to do with how we look at things. Looking at things is contained in the word respect itself. In this story, it leads to compassion, another interesting word which refers to the inner being of a person understood in terms of the liver, or the womb or the heart. To have compassion is to take the other into the very being of oneself; in short, to see yourself in the other and the other in you. It means to grasp the essential nature of our humanity. In Christ, compassion means placing the experiences of sorrow and grief, of sin and suffering, in the very heart of God. For that is what the Passion and Resurrection ultimately make visible.
The passage is one of three times when Jesus meets us as mourners. Here he meets the funeral procession of a young man, the only son of the widow of Nain, who is being carried to his grave. The whole community is there in grief and sorrow. Is Jesus just another mourner? Another member of the community of the sorrowing? Yes and no. The realities of grief and sorrow are neither denied nor dismissed. In his engagement with us in the comings and goings of our lives something happens. Words of life come out of his looking upon us in our broken humanity. Words of love and compassion. He says to this woman who has lost everything and everyone, her husband and now her only son, “weep not.”
It seems at first glance harsh and unfeeling but what it actually means is ‘don’t go on weeping,’ ‘don’t always be weeping.’ Don’t define yourself by your loss. There is something more that has to do with the underlying principles of life and love made visible in the suffering and death of Christ through his Resurrection. Such ideas are present each in their own way in any number of spiritual and religious traditions. Arjuna learns from Sri Krisha about the meaning of his dharma, the law of his being, in the face of an unbearable family conflict in the Bhagavad Gita. The Buddha confronts the sufferings of the world, arriving at the way of the four noble truths and the eightfold path of right thinking and action that belongs to the overcoming of the problem of suffering (dukkha) in the classical Buddhist understanding.
That is what this story, too, wants us to see and feel. Its meaning belongs to the second readings in Chapel taken from the 16th chapter of John’s Gospel. The passage follows upon what was read last Thursday and Friday about our sorrows being turned into joy in and through Christ’s going from us and going to the Father.
Here Jesus is explicit about placing us in the eternal motions of the mutual love of the Trinity, God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit made visible in his comings and goings with us. “I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father.” And far being a matter of tribulation and loss at being bereft, his going to the Father is peace and good cheer: “In the world, you shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.”
This signals wonderfully the gathering of all things to God. Our comings and goings are found in the comings and goings of God which make visible the love and life which always abides and upon which all things depend. The overcoming of the world is not about conflict and conquest, domination and power. It is about redemption and respect for the whole of God’s creation. The land in which we are placed is not there for us to twist and destroy for our own immediate interests. It is to be the place where God is honoured and honoured in one another. Thus, the compassion of Christ is the love of God which moves in our hearts and minds in our being gathered into his eternal and abiding love.
What is special about these readings is that our comings and goings are made part of the pilgrimage of God in his comings and goings into Creation and Redemption. We are gathered into the motions of the eternal love of God himself. Such is the compassion of God that arises from Christ’s seeing and loving our wounded and broken humanity. Such things have the power to change our whole way of thinking and feeling both about ourselves and one another and the world.
(Rev’d) David Curry
Chaplain, English & ToK teacher
Chair of the Department of Religion and Philosophy

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King’s-Edgehill School is located in Mi'kma'ki, the unceded ancestral territory of the Mi’kmaq People.