All believers are moved when they hear the accounts of the miracles
wrought by Jesus, our Lord and Savior, though they are affected
by them in different ways. Some are astounded at his wonderful
physical cures, but have not yet learned to discern the greater miracles
that lie beyond the world of sense. Others marvel that the miracles that
they hear of our Lord working on people's bodies are now being
accomplished more wonderfully in their souls.
No Christian should doubt that even today the dead are being raised
to life. Yet, while everyone has eyes capable of seeing the dead rise
in the way the widow's son rose, as we have just heard in the Gospel,
the ability to see the spiritually dead arise is possessed only by those
who have themselves experienced a spiritual resurrection.
It is a greater thing to raise what will live for ever than to raise what
must die again. When the young man in the Gospel was raised, his
widowed mother rejoiced; when souls are daily raised from spiritual
death, mother Church rejoices. The young man was dead in body,
these latter are dead in spirit. Those who witnessed the lad's visible
death mourned openly and visibly, but the invisible death of the dead
in spirit was neither seen nor thought about.
The Lord Jesus sought out those he knew to be dead; he alone knew
they were dead, and he alone could make them live again. Unless he
had come to raise the dead the apostle would not have said: “Rise up.
Sleeper,” of course, makes you think of someone slumbering, but when
the apostle goes on to say “rise from the dead,” you realize that he really
means a dead person. The visibly dead are often said to be sleeping
and indeed for one who has power to wake them they really are only
sleeping. A person is dead as far as you are concerned if he does not
waken no matter how much you slap or pinch or even wound him. But
for Christ, the young man he commanded to rise was only sleeping,
because he immediately got up. Christ raises the dead from their
graves more easily than another can rouse a sleeper from his bed.
Our Lord Jesus Christ wished us to understand that what he did for
people's bodies he also did for their souls. He did not work miracles
merely for miracles' sake; his object was that his deeds might arouse
wonder in the beholders and reveal the truth to those capable of
A person who sees the letters in a beautifully written book without
being able to read them will praise the skill of the copyist because he
admires the graceful shape of the letters, but the purpose and meaning
of these letters he does not grasp. What he sees with his eyes prompts
him to praise, but his mind is not enriched with knowledge. Another,
praising the artistry, will also grasp the meaning; one, that is, who is
able not only to see what everyone else sees but also to read it, which
is a skill that has to be learned. So too, those who observed Christ's
miracles without grasping their purpose and the meaning they had for
those able to understand, simply admired the deeds. Others went
further: they admired the deeds and also grasped the meaning. As
pupils in the school of Christ, we must be such as these.
(Sermon 98, 1-3: PL 38, 591-592)
Augustine (354-430) was
born at Thagaste in Africa and received a Christian education,
although he was not baptized until 387. In 391 he was ordained
priest and in 395 he became coadjutor bishop to Valerius
of Hippo, whom he succeeded in 396. Augustine’s theology
was formulated in the course of his struggle with three heresies:
Manicheism, Donatism, and Pelagianism. His writings are voluminous
and his influence on subsequent theology immense. He molded
the thought of the Middle Ages down to the thirteenth century.
Yet he was above all a pastor and a great spiritual writer.
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