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” (Lk 7:13-14).
Jesus saw a widow and her only son in a casket. In the time of Jesus, this woman would have had little means to support or protect herself. Jesus’ immediate response for her was pity or compassion. The original Greek word used was splanchnizomai, meaning that Jesus was moved from the very depths of his bowels. The emotional depths to which Jesus was moved to reach out and help the widow of Nain, shows us his humanity. Jesus’ healing of the widow’s son, bringing him back from the dead, shows us his divinity. The entire event shows us the best of who we ought to aspire to as his followers.
Instead of fear, judgment, prejudice, or indifference, may we seek to understand, to place ourselves in the shoes of those who feel vulnerable, misunderstood, and find themselves on the margins. May we be moved from the very depths of our innards with the same compassion of Jesus toward those, who, like the widow, are vulnerable, at risk, and on the peripheries. We in the Church need to be welcoming, hospitable, willing to walk with others, to share their journeys. We also need to go out beyond the walls of our churches, and be present, be willing to listen to the stories and needs, the pleas, and seek, in collaboration with those who we encounter, to discover options to address those needs. At each step of the way we need to do so such that we respect and empower those we walk with as human beings created in the image and likeness of God.
Does anyone come to mind? Let us take time this day to pray that God may open our hearts and minds to see the vulnerable among us, to be aware of those in our midst, maybe even in our own families, those who are in need, those needing someone to be present, to be understanding. Especially, those who we may have in the past discounted, or have come up with rationalizations of why they ought not to receive any help, even if not from us. If someone or a group of people come to mind and you are unsure what to do or how you can help, begin by praying, praying for someone to help, praying that we can come to see those who come to mind as human beings like the widow that Jesus had compassion for. If we can see others as human beings, as brothers and sisters, not as somehow less or other, but with dignity, we will be moving in the direction of being able to act with the compassion of Jesus.
Painting: “The Resurrection of the Widow’s Son at Nain” by James Tissot, 1890, online collection of the Brooklyn Museum