Christ is Risen!
As we continue our festive celebrations of THE Resurrection, we hear today throughout the hymns and scripture readings this Sunday about three other types of resurrections. In the Gospel reading we heard about the raising of the paralytic by our Lord at the pool of Bethesda, and in the reading from Acts, we hear about St. Peter raising up a paralytic who had been bed ridden for 8 years. It is this third raising however (perhaps the more striking of the three) that I want to turn our attention to this morning, because I know that it holds a special place in the hearts of several of us, who had the chance to visit the very room of this miracle, where St. Tabitha was raised from the dead by St. Peter.
When St. Luke wrote this account in the Acts of the Apostles, he began it by saying: “At Joppa, there was a certain disciple named Tabitha, which was translated Dorcas. This woman was full of good works and charitable deeds which she did.” For some reason, St. Luke adds that extra detail about Tabitha’s name for us, which goes a long way in describing just what type of person she was!
Dorcas is the Greek word for “Gazelle”, or as we more commonly see here in Michigan, a deer. For those that don’t live in the countryside, seeing deer on our property always feels like a special treat. Time for us seems to slow down and stop for a few minutes while we watch them, because in the midst of all the power lines, concrete roads, street lights and industrialization, deer are a reminder to us of the beauty, simplicity and majesty of God’s creation.
Just like we name our children after the Saints of the Church, the Gazelles were so beloved by the Judeans, that they often named their children after them, hoping that they would lead a life with that same beauty and simplicity. St. Tabitha (which was the Hebrew Word for Dorcas) was a credit to her name! She lived a very Christ-like life in the city of Joppa, not too far from the sea. We learn from scripture, that unlike someone who had gained notoriety by being rich and famous, she simply used the gifts that God had given her in order to help others who were in need.
St. Tabitha used her abilities as a seamstress, to make clothes for orphans and widows, all of whom recognized and returned the love that she offered to them. When she became sick and died, all whom she helped mourned, and immediately sent out for St. Peter, whom they heard was in a nearby city. When he finally arrived, we hear how all of the women and children showed St. Peter all of the clothes that she had made for them. All of St. Tabitha’s spiritual treasure was revealed to the Disciple, who then immediately knelt down and prayed, before raising this Holy Saint from the dead.
We don’t know much of what happened afterwards St. Tabitha, but we can only imagine what kind of Disciple she became, having experienced life not only on this earth, but also (for a short time) in the Kingdom of Heaven after the gates had been opened by our Lord’s Death and Resurrection!
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, we can certainly learn a lot from this short account of the life of St. Tabitha, but perhaps the easiest way to remember and emulate her attributes, is to once again reflect upon the two adjectives that describe a “Dorcas” for which she is named:
The first adjective that is often used to describe a deer is “simple”. Just as St. Tabitha spent her days caring for those who were around her, deer are simple creatures who spend their days searching for food in nature and caring for their families.
There are times when our lives in this world become so complicated. Everyone has schedules to keep, appointments to make, conference calls to be on, shows to watch…all of life’s distractions can sometimes take away from thesimplicitythat is called for in the life of a Christian. It takes away from what our Lord says is the “One thing that is needful” …simply sitting at our Lord’s feet and instilling His Words into our lives.
Second, and perhaps the best way to describe a deer, is that because of the simplicity in their way of life, they can be stunningly beautiful. St. Tabitha is a reminder to us all that true beauty doesn’t come from how we look or what type of worldly stature and power that we have, it comes from the way that we live our lives. True beauty is defined by the works that we do, by the faith that we have, and by the love that we show for God and for others.
We saw this beauty very clearly in the life of St. Tabitha, who spent her days offering her love to those who were in need. Imagine what would have happened if she didn’t do these things, got sick, and died. Would there be so many who would have rushed to find St. Peter, in order to have him come and perform a miracle? When he would have arrived to the upper room where St. Tabitha was sleeping, what gifts of love from the widows and children would have been shown to St. Peter?
Today’s scripture readings are a wonderful reminder to us, that it was the beauty of her love that resurrected Tabitha from the dead. Imagine, brothers and sisters, what the beauty of our love of God and of each other, can do for the rest of the fallen world.
Christ is Risen!