Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
1Kings 17:17-24; Gal 1:11-19; Luke 7:11-17
How much do we really give? Someone once said that the money and the riches we give away are the only riches that we bring to eternity. In other words, the money or riches we give are the only ones that we are counted in as our investment in Heaven. The rest, we leave behind – to be divided, and to even become a source of quarrel. And so the next time you think of giving little to others who are in need, think again. You may be giving too little for yourself, for eternity.
The miracle of Jesus raising the widow’s son at Nain, according to Fr. Ezeogu cssp in his homily on this gospel passage, is often compared to that of Elijah raising the son of the widow of Zarephath in our first reading today (1Kings 17:17-24). And yet there are some important differences between the two. First, it was the woman who took her problem to Elijah when Elijah raised her son in Zarephath. In other words, there was some kind of a prayer. In the case of Jesus raising the son of a widow at Nain, the woman did not approach Jesus and no one else did on her behalf but it was Jesus Himself who approached the widow. Therefore, no form of prayer was involved. Second, in Elijah’s raising of the widow’s son in Zarephath, the woman had earlier proven her faith in the God of Elijah when her jar of meal and jug of oil were miraculously replenished. In the case of the widow of Nain, there was no evidence of faith whatsoever. And third, the widow in Zarephath had done some good deed to the man of God. She had fed him and housed him. The widow of Nain had done no such good deeds that we know of. It is, therefore, easy to see why Elijah should perform a miracle for the widow of Zarephath. But why did Jesus perform this miracle for the widow of Nain? The only plausible answer is that Jesus is simply being true to his nature as God, a compassionate God; his nature to love unconditionally, especially those who are in most need of God’s mercy.
Today’s Gospel is about compassion. Among the four gospels, Saint Luke shows best the compassion of Jesus. Here Jesus manifests this compassion by raising from the dead the only Son of a widow. As Jesus enters the town of Nain in Galilee, two crowds meet, approaching from different directions. One is the large crowd (v.11) that accompanies Jesus. The other is the large crowd from the city (v12) in a funeral procession. Few processions, even today, evoke as much awe as that which wends its way to the cemetery. There is beauty in Jesus’ gesture in giving the young back to his mother after raising him up from the dead. This miracle provokes people to say: “God has visited His people!” And at the same time, He reveals to us about Himself that He is the Lord of life. He is really and truly ‘pro-life.’ All life comes from Him and belongs to Him. He created us to share in the fullness of His life forever. Jesus told us this very clearly in the Gospel of St. John: “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly,” (Jn. 10:10).
During Jesus’ time life in Palestine was hard and difficult especially for women. Social and economic life was male-dominated and women are second class and have to depend on their husbands as bread winners. When the husband of a woman dies, she becomes the responsibility of her grown up children. Without a man to provide for her, a woman is reduced to the status of a beggar. Now we can understand why Jesus, dying on the cross, has to entrust His mother to His friend, John, one of His apostles. He is fulfilling His duty to provide for His mother. Nobody in traditional Jewish society is more pitiable than a widow who has lost her only son. It is a double tragedy because she is to live out the rest of her life in abject poverty, sadness, and misery. By reviving her son and giving him back to her, Jesus is re-empowering her and giving her back a reason to hold her head high in the community. Jesus is restoring to this woman her personal integrity, her honor and dignity, as well as her economic and social lifeline that had been taken away by death.
So as His followers, in this gospel passage, Jesus teaches us that we should be like Him, have the spirit and act of compassion. We may not perform miracles as Jesus did but we can show compassion in various concrete ways like assisting a needy person. By inviting Himself also into the situation and turning it around, Jesus is making a statement that it is not the will of God for any human being to live in abject poverty, sadness, and misery. Jesus is protesting against those societal norms, cultural practices and economic policies that discriminate against women on account of their gender.
I read this beautiful story, which Cardinal Sin before used to tell but in different setting, that a group of salesmen went to a regional sales convention in Chicago, Illinois, USA. In their rush through the terminal, one of them accidentally kicked over a table which held a display of apples. Without stopping or looking back, they all managed to reach the plane in time for their nearly missed boarding.
All but one! He paused and felt a twinge of compassion for the girl whose apple stand had been overturned. He told his buddies to go on without him, and explained he was taking a later flight. Then he returned to the place where the apples were all over the terminal floor. He was glad he did.
The 16-year-old girl was totally blind. The salesman knelt on the floor with her, gathered up the apples, put them back on the table and helped organize her display. As he did this, he noticed that many of them had become battered and bruised; these he set them aside in another basket.
When he had finished, he pulled out his wallet and said to the girl, “Here, please take this $40 for the damage we did.” As the salesman started to walk away, the bewildered blind girl called out to him, “Mister….” He paused and turned to look back into those blind eyes. She continued, “Are you Jesus Christ?”
Let us always remember that we will be judged by God not by how much money we Have in the bank, not by how many cars we have in our parking area, but by how we have shown mercy to the “least” of Christ’s brethren. In the parable of the Last Judgment, the Lord will say: “When I was hungry, you gave me to eat, thirsty you gave to drink, sick and you visited me…Enter into the Kingdom of heaven.” (Read Mt 25:31 ff.).
Be compassionate just as our heavenly Father is compassionate to us.