May 30, 2016 by
David Jackson in
Reflections on Sunday Gospels
Rising to new life here and hereafter.
Previous to this reading Luke tells of Jesus’ boundary breaking ministry to the slave of a Roman Centurion. The slave was restored to health. This was done without a word or touch. Today we hear of a widow who has lost her only son. She is doubly vulnerable. She has no husband and now has no son to care for her. In the world of Jesus time this would be like unto death. In our own day there seems to be a fascination with tragic deaths. Pope Francis has challenged us not to be part of the “globalization of indifference.” As we see in this story, Jesus was not part of “indifference”.
Widows and orphans hold a special place in the Hebrew Scriptures and into the New Testament. The Letter of James 1:27: JB “Pure, unspoilt religion, in the eyes of God our Father is this: coming to the help of orphans and widows when they need it, and keeping oneself uncontaminated by the world.” This Gospel story is an example of Jesus practicing unspoilt religion. He shows compassion to a widow who has lost her only son. Luke’s Gospel has several specific emphases. One of these is that Luke takes special care to present the tenderness of Jesus for the lowly and the poor. Luke also contrasts this with Jesus’ severity towards the proud and towards those who abuse their wealth
This story is another example of Jesus’ power. He touches the coffin and simply says, “Young man, I tell you arise!” In the previous story he had cured the slave of the Centurion. Here he raises a dead man to life and gives him to his mother. In Jesus’ time contact with a corpse made one unclean. Jesus was uncontaminated by this prescription. He saw a widow in distress and weeping. He acted to change that.
In John’s Gospel Jesus will exercise compassion for his own mother a widow who also will suffer the death of her only son. He will say to John, “Behold your Mother.”
How are we called to imitate Jesus’ tenderness for the lowly and the poor? Who do we think of when we use the words “poor” and “lowly?” At the personal level we are called to exercise this tenderness and compassion. There is a profound lesson to be learned from Bishop Helder Camara. He said something similar to this, “when I showed compassion to the poor, people praised me. But when I asked why are they poor, they accused me of being a Communist.” We are called also to work against structural elements which cause people to be poor. Are these two aspects part of my Christian commitment? To What is Jesus calling me by his example in this story? How am I part of “global indifference?”