He stepped forward and touched the coffin;
at this the bearers halted,
and he said, “Young man, I tell you, arise!”
Jesus did this for the son of the widow of Nain.
Jesus said to Lazarus, after four days in the tomb,
“Lazarus, come out!”
Jesus said to the daughter of Jairus,
“Talitha koum,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!”
The promise that we have as Baptized Christians is the promise of eternal life. Jesus says to us,
“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”
“Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.”
Jesus hates Death. Jesus destroys Death, and restores us to Life. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Life is his promise to us.
The Gospels show Jesus in direct combat with evil on one of its main combat areas, the arena of death. Death was vanquished on the Cross. Three days after the Crucifixion, Jesus rose again forever. Death has no more power over Him.
Jesus told Martha, the sister of Lazarus,
“I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live.”
If we believe in Him and follow him in the Sacraments of the Holy Mass and Communion, and seek reconciliation with him for our sins, in the Confessional, we will also share with Him victory over death. That is His promise to us.
Now, to be sure, the son of the widow of Nain, Lazarus and Jairus’ daughter did not immediately experience the Resurrection. Jesus resuscitated them, showing his power over death. He was also preparing his followers to understand the Resurrection.
The Gospels show us a feeling Jesus, especially when he took pity on the widow, who had lost her husband and now her only son, just as had happened with Elijah and the widow of Sidon.
The challenge for us is to appreciate the roles that death and the hope of resurrection should play in our lives, here in our parish.
I am often dismayed that we only have eleven or twelve funerals per year. It’s as if people don’t really believe in the Church any more, or the authority that Jesus gave to the Church. I’m hearing too many people say, “Oh, I don’t want all that, just cremate my body and that will be enough. But the Church has the power to say with Jesus, “Arise”, “Awake”.
Jesus gave to the Church the authority to forgive sin. Within the Church we pray for one another. Within the Church, the entire Church at a funeral is saying to those who die, like Jesus,
“Wake up!” … “Arise!” … “Come out!”
At a Catholic funeral we offer the sacrifice of the Mass, our greatest treasure, as a sacrifice for the redemption and resurrection of our loved ones whose body dies. We pray that their sins will be forgiven. We don’t simply mourn their passing, like pagans, although the loss of earthly life affects us deeply, just like it did to Jairus and the widow of Nain. Our pain is real. Jesus knows this.
But our hope is greater than our pain. Together we say to the soul of the one who passed away,
“Awake, O sleeper, arise from death.”
“Wake up!” “Arise” “Come out!”
And we trust that Jesus is saying this to them at the same time, on the other side, “Arise!”
Who will call you to arise and wake up, if you don’t have the Church calling to you with Jesus, to “Arise” with Him?