The definition of Grace according to our Catechism, page 409 in the Book of Common Prayer (CPWI) is, “God’s favour toward us, unearned and undeserved”. In our Gospel reading for today (Luke 7:11-17) our Lord stops a funeral procession and raises a mother’s son from the dead. There are several things about this text that are troubling.
First: The widow did not ask for Jesus’ help.
So: My point here is, without seeking Jesus, without showing faith, without even any gratitude after the fact, Jesus raised the son anyway. This story then is pure grace. There is nothing we can do on our part that matters. The Lord will be gracious unto whom he will be gracious.
Second: The widow showed no great sign of faith.
Third: The widow showed no gratitude. At least there is no record of it.
The detail which stands out in my mind most is that Jesus “touched” the coffin (verse 14). Our Lord could have raised the young man in a variety of ways, for instance, he could have simply called out to him as he did to Lazarus (see John 11:43). But he did not, why? Perhaps Jesus is trying to teach us something about our need for contact with him. I wish to suggest that a wonderful way to experience Christ and better appreciate the Lord’s grace is through the Sacraments.
We may know many things about a particular person for instance, even details of their personal life. However, no one would say that we have any sort of relationship unless we have actual contact with the person and they also learn things about us. Scripture tells us that God knows everything about us, even the number of hairs on our heads. God knows us for sure, but how do we get to know him? We get to know God through our study of Sacred Scripture and the truths of the faith as well as through prayer. Prayer being the two-way communication which makes friendship with God possible.
However, study and prayer alone are not enough. We also need to have contact with Jesus as did the young man in today’s Gospel. Through the Sacraments of the Church we have direct contact with God. Jesus really touches us in each of the Seven Sacraments. This is most clear in the Eucharist though it certainly happens in the other six as well. For this reason, we should frequently let ourselves be touched by Christ as he touched the coffin of the young man, especially in Holy Communion and Sacrament of Penance. When we hear these stories, and this story of pure grace especially, we should be inspired to seek, to believe, and to give thanks for all his goodness.
Rev’d. Fr. Colin Humes