ITm 3:1-13; Ps 101:1-6; Lk 7:11-17
How does one persevere in the way of integrity or walk with a blameless heart? Psalm 101 gives us an answer to this question. We must not set before our eyes whatever is base. We must not slander our neighbor in secret. Haughty eyes and puffed up hearts will never be ours if we dwell with the Lord and walk in the way of integrity. Then we will serve the Lord with blameless heart. This is the kind of heart that Saint Paul seeks for those who would serve in the church as deacons and bishops. This is the kind of heart that moved the Lord Jesus when he journeyed through Nain and he met the funeral procession of a man, the only son of a widowed mother. When the Lord Jesus saw her he was moved with divine compassion and said, “Do not weep.” So often when we say this we are asking someone to stop doing that which upsets us. The Lord Jesus, however, invites the mourning widow to trust in him and in his power to save even when all seems lost and hopeless.
If the office of deacon or bishop is to be a noble task, men who walk with a blameless heart must fill it. Indeed, any ministry must be done by those who seek integrity. Saint Paul goes on to set down guidelines for his disciple, Bishop Timothy. Those who are irreproachable can only accomplish loving service of the loving Master, Jesus Christ. Indeed, peace and security in the domestic church of a loving family is a clear sign of readiness for ministry in the larger community. It is not perfection that Saint Paul is demanding here; it is evidence of virtue. Those who serve the community as deacons and bishops must be models of Christian living. Such an expectation reveals a church in which every member is growing in virtue and uprooting vice from the inner garden of the heart that is seen in a life of passionate devotion and loving service. For it is just such a community from which worthy leaders can be called and confirmed. Consequently, this virtuous community needs and expects heroic virtue among those leaders who are going on before them with blameless heart. Virtuous Christians need virtuous bishops and deacons, priests and religious, married couples and families, single men and women. Virtue breeds virtue, and vice breeds vice. We know the tree by its fruits.
The Gospel for today’s liturgy raises the bar set up by Saint Paul. Indeed, the Lord Jesus is the faithful servant of the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit. He is the ultimate and final model we have for a live of virtue and service. Saint Luke recounts the Lord Jesus on his journey to Jerusalem. On his way the Lord Jesus continues to reveal the face of God, His Father, in his ministry of compassion. Setting aside the norms and expectations for external purity the Lord Jesus steps forward and touches the coffin. The Lord Jesus is less concerned with being pure according to the law and more concerned with the things of the heart. His heart of compassion reveals the Father’s compassion that has no boundaries and is not limited by the purity code that governs human behavior and human community. The Lord Jesus has heard the plea of the widowed mother. His tear-filled eyes are upon the faithful in the land that they may dwell with him. Out of his divine compassion the Lord Jesus speaks to the corpse, “Young man, I tell you arise!” No longer gripped by death the Lord gives him back to his mother. Now, the crowd is gripped by fear, and they glorify God. They exclaim, “A great prophet has arisen in our midst,” and “God has visited his people.” Here, the new Moses is proclaimed. Here, and now in this Liturgy we are summoned in faith to trust that the One who already fulfills his promises to us. Here, and now in this Liturgy we are summoned in faith to rise from the death of sin to the new life of grace and glory. In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high brightens our day and our eternity.