Ampleforth Abbey

13 December 2017

Raising of Son of Widow of Nain

Homily preached by Fr Chad Boulton OSB at the Conventual Mass in the Abbey Church on Sunday 9th June 2013, the Tenth Sunday of the Year. Fr Chad is the School Chaplain.

It was not a horror film, not a disaster movie - just infuriating. Their beloved dormobile had broken down, storm clouds were gathering as the sunset, and they were some way from their remote holiday cottage.  The road back was too long and windy for the whole family to walk, and they decided to cut across country. But the descending dark, the sudden rain obscured the path and they realised they were lost. Their heads dropped, a nervous silence fell as the thunder rolled. Then the eldest daughter looked up and lightning split the sky to her left. There, for the briefest of moments, she saw their cottage. But the darkness returned before she could show the others. As they stumbled on, she whispered to herself: ‘I know the way back’.

What would you do? Would you trust that one moment of insight? Would you have the courage to tell your family, to lead your family if they believed you, to leave your family if they did not? So often at this school we tell you to follow the others: come to house prayers and house Mass, come to the Abbey Church, come on retreat. Do what everyone is else doing. A good catholic follows the mainstream. And so, when you are at university, you follow the mainstream on a Sunday morning – and stay in bed. When you are at work, you do what everyone else is doing: you gently fiddle your expenses, you subtly bribe your customers, you carefully evade your taxes, you stumble in the dark with the others, hoping that somehow they will lead you home. And then the lightning reveals the need for a different direction.

What if following Christ today means going a different way from the majority? The Good News I preach is not a human message that I was given by men. It is something I learnt only through a revelation of Jesus Christ. Saul of Tarsus did not follow the mainstream: he abandoned those who had formed him to join those who he’d been persecuting. The lightning flashed and he changed direction.

In today’s gospel, the lightning flashed – did you see it? Two young men – one says to the other ‘get up’. The prince of life tells the lifeless corpse ‘get up’.  Some years ago there was a match here, a large crowd, a big occasion, a crunching tackle in the middle of the pitch, an Ampleforth player left flat on his back, knocked out. His mother rushed on. What would she say? The crowd fell silent. She looked down at her son, ‘get up’, she hissed, ‘get up’.

Jesus is not a battleaxe, telling you to man up, to get up. He is the sacred heart we celebrated two days ago, who speaks with unimaginable compassion. He says to same to you: ‘young man, young woman, get up’. Get up from death – the oblivion you seek in getting wasted, the escape you seek in getting laid. Get up from the death of your addictions to the screen, to the mirror, the things that seem attractive, that hold your attention, but draw you in and lead nowhere.

‘Get up’. It is the same voice that said let there be light, let there be life. It is the same voice that said ‘this is my body, this is my blood’: they seem like death but they are life. That was the lightning showing those frightened apostles the way through the horror of his death, those words they remembered and those words we remember. Have you seen any of God’s lightning? It is there, when the storm clouds thunder, in times of crisis, - the exams you’re struggling with, the uncertainties as you leave school, your disappointments, your grief, your depression, the voices within you saying you are not good enough, the bullies around you saying you are not good enough. Do not let your heads drop – look for the lightning that shows you the way home, that is the voice calling you, that is your vocation, that is how you are to walk, to live, a different way, a different direction. And if you say, ‘I can’t see any of this’, is it because there is no lightning or because you have stopped looking?