St. Silouan the Athonite Mission Parish

Sermons

Homily for the Story of the Widow’s Son

By Fr. Roberto Ubertino
St. Silouan the Athonite Parish 2005

The Gospel of Luke of the Fourth Sunday, like all the miracle stories, ends with the usual refrain of joy and praise to God. In the narrative of the Resurrection of the Widow’s only son, there is a particular addition. It reads that this joy is the fruit of “God visiting his people.”

In the same Gospel, Luke earlier puts in the mouth of the Forerunner’s father these words: “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has visited his people… the mercy of God, the day spring, has visited us.”

It is interesting to note that this also is the word that has kinship with the word “bishop.”

When a bishop comes to see a parish, we call that a visitation. A bishop’s visitation is a grace-filled event for the local parish. You could describe it as a home-coming event.

How does God then visit us if we take the Gospel as the point of reference for our discernment?

If you are like me, we may be at a loss. There are periods of our lives, certainly in mine, when I suffered from a twisted neck. It’s a spiritual hazard that comes from always looking up – at the beautiful dome, at the stupendous frescoes or the gorgeous architectural structures. The seeking the latest book on theosis, looking for the best spiritual father, finding the perfect passion cure, ravishing liturgical music, and finding the strictest rule on fasting and communion.

So often “our God” seems to travel only with imperial armies, with imperial clothing in imperial churches adorned with imperial gold. But honestly, is this the God that St. Luke today praises?

Is this what awakens our joy at God’s visitation at the village door of Nain?

The truth is that the God of the Christians is a God who visits us, walks our city streets, is moved to compassion at our sufferings, looks at the face of people who are in pain, looks at the widow, looks at the bum on the sidewalk, looks at us in the eyes! Touches us where we most hurt, where we feel dead or sad. Stops our processions to the grave. Gives us a word of hope where only despair could be.

He visits us in the disguise so often of those who have no value, no use in our world. The vicars of Christ are first and above all the poor.

The God who visits us is not surrounded by imperial armies, or TV cameras, and never makes our statistics or Gallup polls. That is why it’s so easy to ignore him, even by us church-going people.

I spent last weekend in a beautiful place. I was privileged to listen to people’s stories, praying and breaking bread. I saw God’s visitation in the love a couple for their handicapped child. I held the tears of an orphan as she recalled her story and met in her pain my own pain. I saw, in the care each person had for the other, the immense tenderness of God.

Most of all, in the liturgy served in the most humble of places, “the most unimperial way”! God visited his people when I learned to behold the resurrection of the widow’s only son behind each face, each tear, in each personal history. In each humble gesture of service and love. In each providential encounter with another. God visited us! The goal of the Christian life is not to impress God! Bigger and better churches, larger domes, more jewels on our chalices.

St John Chrysostom, in the fourth century, already was lamenting such pretension. “Ah! In the old days we used to have golden priests and wooden chalices. Now we have golden chalices but wooden priests … if you see a man wanting to give money for a church, tell him to give it rather to the hungry. No one has ever been condemned for not adorning a church but many have been condemned for not feeding the hungry.”

Rather, the beauty of the Gospel is to live in such a way as to be ready and free to rejoice at his visitation. Always ready to receive him, to delight in him.

As he comes to us. As he is.

As we will sing in a few moments: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the heights!” Amen!

Homily for the Story of the Widow’s Son
By Fr. Roberto Ubertino
St. Silouan the Athonite Parish 2005

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