10th Sunday O T Year C – 16
I Kgs.17:17-24; Gal.1:11-19; Lk.7: 11-17
The boss asked one of the employees whether he believed in life after death. “Yes, Sir, the employee replied. “Well, then that makes everything fine,” the boss said “After you left yesterday to go to your grandmother’s funeral, she stopped in here in the office to see you.”
After the Season of Lent and the great festivities that followed we are now resuming the Ordinary Time of the Year. We resume from where we had left just before the Ash Wednesday, hence, this Sunday is the 10th Sunday in Cycle C.
We will go on in this sequence, listening to the Gospel of Luke, until the Feast of Christ the King.
The first reading and the gospel text of today narrate to us two stories of raising young men from the dead – one by Prophet Elijah and the other by Jesus. There is a similarity between the two stories, namely, both the dead men were young sons of widows.
But there are also dissimilarities between the stories. It is important to notice one basic difference that highlights the uniqueness of Jesus. In the first story, Elijah raises the dead boy through the power of the Lord God.
Elijah “stretched himself on the child three times and cried out to Yahweh, ‘Yahweh my God, may the soul of this child, I beg you, come into him again!’ Yahweh heard Elijah’s prayer and the child’s soul came back into his body and he revived.”
On the other hand, in the gospel story, Jesus “went up and touched the coffin and the bearers stood still, and he said, ‘Young man, I tell you: get up.’ And the dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him to his mother.” Jesus could directly command the dead man to get up.
The underlying difference is that one is a prophet – a great one at that; and the other, the Son of God! Let us focus on a few more details in the gospel story of today so that we may really appreciate what Jesus brings to us, and in so doing we may be drawn to the person of Jesus.
Luke portrays a very dramatic scene at the gate of the town of Nain. There were two processions crisscrossing each other. One entering the city, led by Jesus, and “accompanied by his disciples and a great number of people.”
The great number of the people had witnessed Jesus’ miracles that Luke has already enumerated, and they were rallying behind Jesus. “Now when [this procession was] near the gate of the town there was a dead man being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow.
And a considerable number of the townspeople was with her.” So the second procession was a funeral procession leaving the town, and this too had a great crowd given the tragic death of a young man who was the only son of a widow.
The two processions of life and death meet at the gate. The Lord of life cannot let death overtake him. The principal aim of Jesus’ ministry was to proclaim the triumph and life over death. So the Lord had to act at this instant. He was moved with a great compassion.
Now why did Jesus move with compassion, because the man who had died was the only son of a widow. “When the Lord saw the widow he felt sorry for her and said to her, ‘Don’t cry.’” Jesus was moved with compassion. In the gospels, there are three stories of Jesus raising the dead.
In all the three he was moved with compassion (also translated as feeling sorry, or pity, or mercy, or loving kindness). In one story, Jesus is moved by the pleading of Jairus; in the raising of Lazarus, Jesus is moved by the crying sisters and the crowd and he himself weeps.
And in the story of today he is moved by the scene of the weeping widow who had lost her only son. After all, as it is implied in the gospels, Jesus also was the only son of a widow. Perhaps, Jesus understands the implications of the loss of the only son of a widow.
She has no one in her immediate family to rely on. Moreover, Jesus wants to reiterate that “the Lord hears the cry of the poor” (Lk 22:24). In the Hebrew Scriptures the poor would include the orphans, widows and strangers (Dt.10:18; Ps 146:9; Jer.22:3).
Yes, the widow of Nain is in a desperate situation and she needs to be reached out. Jesus reaches out to her in compassion. Jesus’ purpose of public ministry was not simply to solve all the problems of humankind through his miracles.
His aim was to proclaim and demonstrate the existence of God, the Father, who is full of compassion. And Jesus’ miracles, including the one in today’s gospel, simply demonstrate the presence of the Compassionate God – even in the person of Jesus.
The final focus of our reflection is on the fact that the son of the widow was a “young man”. He had died before time. He had died before having lived his life to the full. All the three gospel stories of Jesus raising people from the dead, suggest that the three individuals had experienced untimely death.
They had died before their time. Jesus offers a second chance to live – to live to the full! Reading these stories, and one of today’s gospel in particular, I cannot but think of the thousands and thousands of young people in the world today who die before their time.
In most of our cities, a lot of young people die on their motor bikes on the road; others die out of a back-street abortion that went wrong; still others take their own life, out of extreme frustration. These are physical deaths.
There are also a lot of young people who are morally dead. They have killed their conscience. They say, everything is alright – the loss of sense of sin. There are others who lack clear purpose in life. The absence of clear goal in life could also be contributed by the lack of opportunities.
There are also hundreds and thousands of other young people, across the continents, who are spiritually dead. They are really dead men walking! Witnessing these scenes, I see Jesus filled with compassion. He hears the cry of the parents of these young people. He is moved with pity.
He wants to reach out to those young people who don’t live their life to the full. He wants to reach out to them through the church. He wants this believing community to raise dead young men to life – new life, fullness of life. He challenges you and me to reach out to them!
So the central theme of today’s readings is that, in a world of broken hearts, God sees and cares for us in our grief. He shows compassion on our miseries and gives us His healing touch.
We need to become channels of God’s compassionate and healing love as Jesus was. Our deeds of love will transform the broken-hearted and help them to experience God as the Father who has come among His people. We need to ask God for the grace to become like Christ in our daily lives.
We need to be spiritually alive. This story should help us to look at our own situation and see, first of all, how alive we really are. When we live in mortal sin, we are physically alive and spiritually dead. We receive spiritual revival in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Let all of us bring our deepest hurts and broken relationships to Jesus and experience how he reaches out to us and grants us his loving reconciliation. Amen.