10th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jesus journeyed to a city called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd accompanied him. As he drew near to the gate of the city, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. A large crowd from the city was with her. When the Lord saw her, he was moved with pity for her and said to her, "Do not weep." He stepped forward and touched the coffin; at this the bearers halted, and he said, "Young man, I tell you, arise!" The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, exclaiming, "A great prophet has arisen in our midst," and "God has visited his people." This report about him spread through the whole of Judea and in all the surrounding region.
Introductory Prayer: Jesus, you are the Lord of life and history. You came to give us life and not death. When we die to ourselves we come alive in you. I believe in you, I put all my trust in you. I love you, for when I was dead to God in sin you gave me life through the power of your own death and resurrection.
Petition: Lord Jesus, help me guard and make grow your life within me. Let me be a communicator of that life to all I meet. Help me to imitate you and go about doing good.
1. A man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, a widow. Luke continues, he was moved with pity. This scene of the widowed mother burying her only son must have struck him in a special way. He was on his way to Jerusalem, he was aware that very soon he would suffer and die, and in this woman he must have seen something of the grief and suffering that his own mother, also a widow, would go through at the death of her only Son. Perhaps an even more terrible suffering, for she would receive in her arms the lacerated and pierced body of her Son who had done no wrong and yet was counted as a criminal, who came to bring life and for that was condemned to death. Here, in the scene before him of the dead son and his grieving mother, Jesus is confronted with a graphic reminder of his own mission: suffering and death are the fruits of sin, and he is the Redeemer who will overcome sin, give a new meaning to suffering and restore us beyond death to a life that never ends. Sin puts a wall between us and the Father, Jesus has come to restore our relationship with him. Moved with pity: words that open to us a window into Jesus’ heart. They tell us how close he is to us. They tell us he has not simply “understood” our sorrows, but he has lived them too, with a human heart, with deep human emotions, with an empathy and sympathy that have their deepest roots in who he is as God-made-Man. They tell us so much about how he looks on each one of us, on every sinner, on everyone who suffers.
2. Do not weep! Young Man, I tell you, arise! The scene immediately previous to this passage in Luke’s gospel also tells of a raising from the dead—the centurion’s servant. There, the centurion had sent for Jesus, but here no-one has asked him directly, so the whole event brings out in a special way the sensitivity of his heart and the depth of his mercy. Jesus praised the faith of the centurion, but here the woman doesn’t even ask, she makes no act of faith. In the time of Jesus, a widow without a son to take care of her faced a very difficult life, generally one of poverty and want, sometimes extreme. This woman didn’t appeal to him with words that expressed a profound faith and trust—it was the depth of her need that cried out to him. If we were more like Jesus we wouldn’t be waiting to see if those in need ask us for our help or if they deserve it, we wouldn’t be waiting either to see if Jesus calls me to serve them. If we had the eyes and heart of Jesus we would recognize and be moved by the needs of the individuals and the world around us, and we would perceive that Jesus in his mercy is already asking me through them Whom shall I send? and we would surely feel his Spirit moving us to answer with Isaiah, Lord, send me! (Cf.: Is 6,8)
And Jesus gave him to his mother. As he was dying on the cross, Jesus instead gave his mother to us; he also gave us to her, not so much so that we would take care of her but for her to take care of us.
3. Raised from Spiritual Death. The Church, often called Mother Church, rejoices when her sinful children return to a life of grace through the sacrament of confession. Saints Ambrose and Augustine saw this Gospel story as reflecting this truth. St. Ambrose tells us that the Church is a mother who intercedes for each one of her children like the widow for her only son (Commentary on Saint Luke’s Gospel, V, 92). Saint Augustine points out: The widowed mother rejoiced at the raising of that young man, and our Mother the Church rejoices every day when people are raised again in spirit. The young man had been dead physically; the sinner, dead spiritually. The young man’s death was seen and mourned visibly; the death of the sinner was invisible and unmourned. He seeks them out who knew them to be dead; only he can bring them back to life (Sermons, 98, 2).Christ, in his endless mercy, wants eternal life for each one of us. The treasury of his compassion is inexhaustible, as Saint Faustina tells us. In his mercy, Jesus gave his earthly, ministerial priests the power to forgive sins (John 20:22-23). When our venial sins are confessed and forgiven, we grow in the life of grace and draw closer to Christ, receiving strength to avoid mortal sin. When our mortal sins are confessed and forgiven, we not only receive grace and draw closer to Christ, but we are raised from the worst kind of fate, namely, spiritual death, the eternal death of our soul.
Conversation: Lord Jesus, teach me to love as you love; grant me a compassionate and sensitive heart to be moved by the needs and sufferings of others; grant me a share in your willingness to take the first step, to go out beyond the limits of bare duty and justice and give myself as you gave yourself. In my own life, let me never doubt your mercy, and enable me to recognize how you have first sought me out to give me life.
1. What has this passage taught me about Christ?
2. What has it taught me about myself?
3. What do I need Christ to heal me of, right now?