The widow’s son at Nain
Now we return to Ordinary Time Sundays, having celebrated the Solemnities of Pentecost, Trinity Sunday and Corpus Christi. For the remainder of the liturgical year we will be encountering the Christ of Luke or of Christ from the perspective of Luke. Luke was a convert and had a keen sense of coming in from the margins as a Gentile convert. So it is that he has empathy for the outsiders in Jewish society. We see in the coming Sundays the compassion of Jesus for women as one of the interests of Luke in how he presents Christ. Might it be too bold to say that Luke was a feminist? We see today the woman who is widowed is also now childless and therefore in an incredibly vulnerable position in society. She is impoverished by this cruel twist of fate that sees her outlive her husband’s and her only son.
We are presented with this Gospel passage today alongside its counterpart in the Old Testament of Elijah raising a widow’s son. Elijah calls on God, but Jesus is God and has the power to raise the young man Himself. It is the clear and consistent action of Christ to raise up all those who are bowed down, or in Mary’s words in the Magnificat - also recorded in Luke - ‘he lifts up the lowly in their nothingness’(Luke 1:52).
The compassion of Christ is for the widow’s fate. In this month of the Scraed heart we are called once more to consider the Lord’s merciful heart – aheart filled with love, mercy and compassion. The Lord’s mercy is indeed truly astonishing to the crowd – ‘God has visited his people’!
Jesus does an astonishing thing in interrupting a funeral procession. He puts his hand n the wooden bier, and while that was considered unclean because of the close contact with a dead person, the fact that the boy is raised up means that there is no uncleanness ritually either.
The phrase common to both accounts, written centuries apart, is that ‘he gave him to his mother’ (Luke7:15).
Death loses its power. Jesus takes on death and ultimately triumphs. He is reversing the effects of the Fall, when death entered the world through sin. He will conquer death in the wood of the Cross.
In a great parallel at the end of His life, as Jesus’ hands were touching another piece of wood, the wood of the cross, Jesus gives ‘the son to his mother’ when He gives the disciple to Mary, calling him ‘your son’ …’and ‘from that hour the disciple took her to his own home’ (John 1:27).
Applications in our own lives
We may have had the experience of someone encouraging us, lifting is up, singling us out as it were for a word of consideration or kindness. We were not forgotten or neglected by them; we were made feel that we matter; we were made feel that we were of use, that we have an indispensable purpose in the order of things, and our dignity and sense of meaning was restored to us. Anyone who acted that way towards us has acted in a Christ-like manner. The challenge to us is to do likewise (Luke 10:37).
The message we can take from today’s passages is that God does not want us to feel abandoned or alone, in want or desperate. In fact ‘true religion is this – to come to the aid of the widow and orphan in their distress’ (James 1:27). We are called to reach out to the very same sense of compassion and empathy to the destitute, and to ‘raise them up’ as it were, in their need.
And at those times of desperation in our own lives, it is Christ's gift of His Mother Mary who can be our companion and our consolation in this ‘valley of tears’. Let us give ourselves completely to her, following the example of Blessed John Paul II whose motto was ‘Totus Tuus Ego Sum’ – ‘I am all yours’.
The raising up of the man also points to the resuscitation (through the Spirit) we experience in big raised up and restored to ‘Mother Church’ in the forgiveness of sins, restored to the Christian family, restored to the community, reconciled. Now again like the young man, we must truly live as is disciples.