Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time- Widow of Nain Luke 7:11-17 – June 9, 2013 – Rev. Emmett H. Carroll, S.J.
TENTH SUNDAY Ordinary Time
WIDOW OF NAIN (Luke 7:11-17)
June 9, 2013
Rev. Emmett H. Carroll, S.J.
The television station, I think that it was CNN, recently brought together both a victim of the Boston Marathon bombing and a good person who tended to that victim. When a bomb exploded near the marathon’s finish line, one person was severely injured; one leg was shattered and the other leg was damaged. A nearby person who escaped personal injury helped the other person with the wounded leg. Using her dress belt as a tourniquet, the Good Samaritan staunched the flow of blood; next, not being a trained medical person, the Good Samaritan remained to encourage the wounded survivor. The caring stranger, in the noise and confusion and fleeing from the scene, nonetheless cared for the victim, moved only by a humane and solicitous compassion.
These two were strangers. In short time, the first responder arrived and cared for the injured person, transporting her to the hospital. The injured woman suffered amputation of one leg; she managed to retain the other leg, although it was damaged.
Of immediate interest to us, however, is that the injured amputee did not know the name of the person who had cared for her. But the TV station managed to discover the Samaritan, and that station brought them together. That was an emotional meeting of two strangers coming together in a hospital.
This recent event suggests to me the episode that Saint Luke records of Jesus who with a crowd approaches the city of Nain. That would be about ten miles south and slightly east from Nazareth where Jesus grew into maturity. The crowd—Jesus is the central figure—is going into the city. The people with Jesus share liveliness; they walk with the teacher, and they enjoy his presence.
At the same time, a funeral procession passes out through the city gate on its way to the cemetery. A funeral crowd would include mourners wailing loudly. And the widow cries and weeps; the funeral atmosphere taints the very air of the slow moving casket bearers. Funerals evoke sadness, for in a funeral group we realize our inability to restore breath to the cold, unmoving corpse. Helpless at the tragedy that confronts us, we offer our dull sympathy to the pallid survivor.
This woman was already a widow, her husband having died previously. Now she has lost her one and only son; he alone offered her economic security in this male society. Furthermore, she has no companion, no other child or adult with whom to face the societal and familial challenges of her lot. The woman has lost her single support!
Jesus feels compassion for this woman. The sight moves Him. Also in other situations, Jesus manifests emotional concern; Jesus cried at the tomb of His friend Lazarus (John 11:35). When he viewed the city of Jerusalem, for instance, Jesus foresaw its destruction, and he wept over it.
“The days will come upon you [Jerusalem], when your enemies will set up ramparts around you, and surround you, and hem you in on every side. They will crush you to the ground, you and your children with you, and they will not leave one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God” Luke 19:43-44).
Jesus moves toward this funeral procession and speaks directly to the central person, to the widow who has lost her son. “Do not cry,” Jesus tells this distraught woman. How, we wonder, could this woman refrain from tears?
And then Jesus moves to the stretcher on which lay the shrouded corpse, and Jesus firmly grabs it while stopping the slow cortege.
Unlike the great prophet Elijah who repeatedly prayed for restoration of life to a deceased boy, Jesus speaks and on the instant even the departed spirit hears. “Young man, I say to you get up!” The infinite power of the life-giver speaks in quiet command. As surely as God gave life to Adam, so surely does life flow from Christ to the inert figure on the bier.
“The dead man sat up and began to talk.” Spirit returns, and breath fills the lungs, and the heart beats anew, and amazed speaking surprises the onlookers. Even the dead have heard the Lord’s command. And Jesus places the boy’s hand into the mother’s arms.
Like the strangers in Boston’s madness, so here at Nain we know only Jesus’ name. Neither the boy nor the mother has left us a familial name. Surprise and awe pass through the crowd, and then the multitude witnesses God acting within their midst. A sense of divinity excites them; may the giver of life receive our wonder and devotion and fullness of gratitude for this extraordinary marvel.
“’A great prophet,’ they say, ‘has appeared among us. God has come to help His people.’ The news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.”
Jesus’ words to the young man, “I say to you, rise,” suggest other Gospel events. The angel at Jesus’ tomb will declare that Jesus Himself has risen; the disciples will announce, “This Jesus, God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses” (Acts 2:32). Paul points to our own life beyond the grave: “Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died” (1 Cor. 15:20).
During His human existence, Jesus manifested all human emotions. In this instance, compassion for the widow has moved the Lord even to His restoring life to the deceased son. Jesus our Lord has thrown in His lot with us. The divine lives here among us. Amen!!!