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.”
The miracle of Jesus raising the widow’s son at Nain, is often compared to that of Elijah raising the son of the widow of Zarephath in our first reading today. 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 that accompanies Jesus. The other is the large crowd from the city in a funeral procession. 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!”
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 utter 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 utter 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.
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.” Be compassionate just as our heavenly Father is compassionate to us.