At that time, Jesus went to a city called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. As he drew near to the gate of the city, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a large crowd from the city was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” And he came and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And the dead man sat up, and began to speak. And he gave him to his mother. Fear seized them all; and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!”
Crying is one of the more normal things that we as humans are able to do. Most other animals in this world do not have the ability to show this emotion, not only of sadness, but of immense joy.
Tears can come in many forms. We cry when we heard sad news. We cry when we hear happy news. Sometimes we laugh so hard that tears come to our eyes. Sometimes we scrunch up our face, and have a good cry when watching some silly movie or reading a book. Crying is one of the most ordinary things. Except of course for men, because real men don’t cry.
Think back, what is the shortest verse in the Bible? “Jesus wept.” He was at the grave of his close friend Lazarus, whom he was about to raise him from the dead, and yet He wept. Jesus was human as well as divine, and at this moment, we see His humanity coming through loud and clear.
Today in this Gospel reading we look upon another who is weeping. A widow has lost her only son, and her grief is extreme. I do not have children, but I do know that parents are not supposed to bury their children; it just does not work that way. But now we have this woman, who is a widow so we believe she has buried her husband already, and now her son, her only son, has died. She does not know what to do. With no family, she will be outcast and have no way to support herself. She will end up on the street and become a beggar just to survive.
It was during the funeral procession that Jesus came into contact with this woman for the first time. Scripture tells us, “When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her.” He had compassion on her.
Compassion is defined as pity for the suffering or distress of another, with the desire to help or spare. Jesus saw this woman, saw her suffering, and decided at that moment that he was going to help her.
Jesus always had compassion on people. We see it time and time again in Scripture. He healed people, fed them, and was concerned for their well-being. We hear of the Centurion that came to him because his daughter was sick but did not want Jesus to come to home for fear of persecution. Jesus did not tell him to go away or go to his home; Jesus healed his daughter out of compassion for the man.
The role of the Church is similar. We are to show compassion on people and to help ease their suffering as best we can. The Church is to be the voice of those who have no voice in society, we are to be the hands and feet of Christ in the community and in the world, not looking for anything in return, but because we have compassion for people. In the Gospel of St. Matthew we read, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.” The Church is to be the beacon, a light that shines in this darkened world to lead people to safety, to bring them home, and into the loving arms of God. That is our mission.
I have said this before, the entirety of the Gospel message is love, not love for material things or even for ourselves but the love of others.
Yesterday, the Church celebrated the feast of St. Innocent of Alaska. Innocent came to the Alaskan wilderness in 1824 to continue the work that had begun there by others. The parish church that he was assigned to covered a broad stretch of the Alaskan coastline and several islands. He traveled to these islands by the use of a canoe often battling severe storms in the Gulf of Alaska.
His parishioners had been converted before his arrival, but they still held too many of their pagan beliefs and Innocent had enormous compassion on them, often putting his own life in jeopardy to bring them the love of Christ. Innocent is just one of many who sacrificed their lives so that other might know the love of Christ.
The life of a Christian is not static, we cannot just sit and say we are Christians, we are called to action. We are required to do something as Christians. St. James writes that faith without works is a dead faith. He goes on to say, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” In other words, we have to show compassion on those who need our help the most.
At the end of today’s Gospel story, Jesus raises the widow’s son from the dead. He restores him to her so that she will be able to survive. Notice he did not raise the son for the sake of the son, he raised him for the benefit of his mother. She would not live out her days alone, and she would have someone to provide for her. Jesus restored the son to life, so that the mother would have life.
This is the Gospel in a nutshell, Jesus was raised from the dead, not so he would have life but so we would have life. The earthly ministry of Jesus is meant to be a model for us on how we are to live our lives. Jesus never did anything for himself, he sacrificed himself for others, he provided for others before he even provided for himself, and this is what we are called to do not only as individuals but as the church.
We are Church when our attention turns outside of these walls to the community that exists, not in here, but out there. Yes we need to care for each other, but that comes after we care for everyone else. This is the essence of the Gospel. This is the life of a Christian, and this is the purpose of the Church.
Just as Jesus brought hope to the woman who had lost her son, we need to bring hope into the world that has lost hope. Just as Jesus told the woman not to weep, we need to help the world, one person at a time, and bring them hope so they will not weep. Do not weep, because the God that created you loves you and cares for you and wants you to know His love.
We are a city built on a hill, it is no mistake that our Church sits atop this hill, we are a beacon for those who are lost, we are that guiding light that will show the way to safety and security to those who are lost, and we are the light of the world.