Jesus and compassion

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19 September 2017

The raising of a widow’s son.

Today’s gospel story about the raising of the widow’s son only appears in Luke.

We are told that the young man being carried on the funeral bier was the only son of his mother and that she was a widow. In the times that Jesus lived, a woman who had lost her husband and her only son was in a dire situation indeed. To lose all the male members of the family placed her in a very doubtful position in relation to property rights, which remained with male relations. On top of the massive grief of losing her son, this woman was effectively left destitute.

In the Jerusalem Bible the translators have gone with ‘When the Lord saw her he felt sorry for her and said to her, ‘’Don’t cry.”’

A more literal reading of the Greek would be that upon seeing the widow’s plight the Lord was ‘moved deep in his guts’. You will have noticed that Jesus’ capacity to be deeply moved by the pain of others is a major theme in the gospels. Whether it is seeing crowds who were ‘harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd’ or a leper on his knees saying “if you want to, you can heal me”, Jesus moves from deep gut compassion to a manifestation of Kingdom power. In today’s story that extends to raising a young man from the dead. It seems not even death can stand before the authority of this Jesus who feels the pain of those he encounters.

For us, following Jesus’ example of compassion-lead action is going to require some help from the Holy Spirit. Let’s pray for the grace to move in greater compassion when faced with others’ suffering. Can I be an instrument for healing and hope for someone in pain today?

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