Compassion – Man or Sissy?
"And He said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak.” St. Luke vii. 14.
In today’s Gospel reading St. Luke recounts the story of Jesus raising a young man from the dead. Back then the medical expertise available was not as sophisticated as the modern medicine we enjoy today. As a result some people were mistaken for dead and buried alive. For example a person suffering from catalepsy which is a trancelike state of consciousness associated with catatonic schizophrenia would display symptoms such as a loss of voluntary motion and a fixed posture where the limbs remain in whatever position they are placed. You can see therefore how someone with this condition would have been mistaken for dead.
It is also interesting to note that this miracle takes place in Nian which is about a one day journey from Capernaum and is the same place where the prophet Elisha raised a mother’s son from the dead. Elisha was a respected Jewish prophet yet Jesus did not garner the respect of the Jewish Church leaders when he performed miracles such as this one and did so in the same place where a respected prophet had done the same thing. We know from other gospel stories about the miracles Jesus performed that the people themselves marveled at what Jesus did and viewed him as a prophet.
St. Luke tells us that Jesus was moved to the depths of his heart showing us the compassion of Christ. Some believed that to show compassion was not God like. The noblest faith in antiquity was Stoicism. The Stoics believed that the primary characteristic of God was apathy, being incapable of feeling. Their argument was if someone can make another sad or sorry, glad or joyful, it means that, at least for the moment, he can influence the other person. If he can influence him that means that, at least for the moment, he is greater than the other person. But no one can be greater than God; therefore, no one can influence God; and therefore, in the nature of things, God must be incapable of feeling. Yet here we are presented with the Son of God being moved to the depths of his being. For many that is the most precious thing about God and his son our Lord Jesus Christ.
I remember as a child being told that boys don’t cry only girls and sissy’s cry. The lesson for young boys was not to show their emotions, their compassion and caring for someone else. They needed to be strong and remain calm. In the poem “IF” Rudyard Kipling wrote:
If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
“If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you …
If you can focus your heart and nerve and sinew To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you Except the Will which says to them ‘Hold on!’”
And the poem concludes with; “And – which is more – you’ll be a man, my son!”.  
The poem talks about all the things a boy needs to do to survive in this tough world, staying focused on what needs to be done, waiting patiently and holding fast to the task at hand. For years these were the lessons young boys were taught. Our society needed strong men to fight in wars and build the economy that would fuel growth in the country. This was mans duty and it could not be accomplished by sissy’s.
But here in today’s gospel lesson from St. Luke Jesus teaches us that we need to be aware of our feelings, be compassionate and to use this to help us be better men and better Christians. Being strong, being a man and being compassionate are not exclusive qualities of today’s man. All these qualities are required to be successful in the complex world in which we find ourselves today. So as parents and grandparents we are faced with the challenge of helping our children and grand children understand what may seem to be conflicting qualities of man. And by man I mean men and women because the expectations of women in our society have also changed. No more Harriet Nelson or Edith Bunker.  It would be easy if children and grand children were like Opie who sat and listened to everything Pa had to say. But today if you want them to even acknowledge your existence you need to text or tweet them, even if they are in the same room as you. There is no magic formula or program that will ensure our children and grand children grow up to be successful and I am pretty sure our parents did not know of one either. But I do know that the lessons we as children learned from Jesus did not hurt us and in fact helped us to be good Christian citizens of this world. So maybe the magic is in what the Church teaches us about God and his son Jesus Christ.
It may well be that in today’s gospel story Jesus performed a miracle of diagnosis; that with his keen eyes he saw the young man was in a cataleptic trance and saved him from being buried alive. It really does not matter if the young man was truly dead or in a trance; the fact remains that Jesus claimed for life a young man who had been marked for death and showed us the compassion of God. And we can claim for life our children and grand children by sharing with them the gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
And now unto God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost be ascribed all might, majesty, power and dominion as is most justly due this day; world without end. AMEN