A widow’s only son had died and was being carried out. This was the scene Jesus encountered as he approached the gate of the town of Nain. With him were his disciples and a large crowd.
When Jesus saw the widow, he understood right away her situation. Aware of the lowly status of women of his time, Jesus knew that in losing her only son, the widow also loses everything she has. Without a husband and a son to support her, she becomes nobody in her community. In other words, she becomes an outcast who is always at the mercy of others. The death of her only son is tantamount to her own death.
Moved with compassion, Jesus told her, “Do not weep.” Touching the bier, he commanded the dead man, “Young man, I say to you rise!” The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. By giving the resuscitated son back to his mother, Jesus also resuscitated the life of the widow. He restored her back to her community and gave her a new life filled with hope and promise!
Witnesses to this event were the crowds. Seeing before their very eyes the miracle, they were filled with awe, exclaiming “A great prophet has risen among us!” and “God has visited his people!” And they spread the word about Jesus throughout Judea and all the surrounding country.
What lessons can we derive from today’s gospel?
Meister Eckhart, the great Dominican mystic, says “You may call God love, you may call God goodness. But the best name for God is compassion.” The compassion of God is most perfectly incarnated in Jesus. The story of Jesus’ encounter with the widow of Nain shows us the way of compassion. Compassion challenges us to be stirred and disturbed in our depths by the suffering of others. The deep stirrings lead us to concrete actions/interventions that bring forth new life, fresh hope, deeper faith.
Sometimes all it takes to resuscitate life is a kind word, a sincere smile, a gentle touch, a quiet presence or a loving embrace.
May the season of Ordinary Time root us deeply in our relationship with God and help us grow in compassion. May it also be an extraordinary time of recognizing God’s visitation in the ordinary life!