Raising of the Widow’s Son
Last January 21, 1985, the late Former U.S. President Ronald Wilson Reagan delivered his second inaugural address as a President. In his speech he said: “We have already started returning to the people and to State and local governments, responsibilities better handled by them. Now, there is a place for the Federal Government in matters of social compassion. But our fundamental goals must be to reduce dependency and upgrade the dignity of those who are infirm or disadvantaged. And here a growing economy and support from family and community offer our best chance for a society where compassion is a way of life, where the old and infirm are cared for, the young and, yes, the unborn protected, and the unfortunate looked after and made self-sufficient.” Wow! What a beautiful and compassionate words about compassion itself.
There were studies made in social psychology showing that bystanders often do not assist needy victims when in the presence of others, there are situations in which people do intervene. For example, researchers have found that individuals are more helpful to others when they are in a good mood, when they have time to help, when they see someone else offer help, when they are in a small town rather than a big city or when they believe that the help-seeker is deserving of assistance. Research also confirms that people sometimes offer help to those who need it for purely altruistic reasons, out of a sense of empathy and compassion (taken from Encarta 2007).
The word COMPASSION is derived from the Latin. The verb ‘pati‘ is to suffer and ‘cum‘ means with, giving a literal translation: Compassion is TO SUFFER WITH. According to Fr. Henri Nouwin, compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion and anguish. It challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those are lonely, to weep with those in tears. It requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable and powerless with the powerless. It is not a bending towards the underprivileged from a position from a privileged position; it is not a reaching out from on high to those who are less fortunate below; it is not a gesture of sympathy, or pity, for those who fail to make it in the upward pull. On the contrary, compassion means, going directly to those people and places where suffering is most acute and building a home there.
There are many instances the gospel records that Jesus was moved to the depths of his heart. Why was Jesus so moved with compassion on this occasion? Somebody said that Jesus showed the depth of his compassionate concern for a woman who lost not only a husband, but an only child as well. Anyone who has experienced the death of a loved one knows what a heartbroken experience it is. Not only that, her son’s death headed her for a life of destitution since her deceased son had been her last means of support. And maybe He was thinking also of another widow who would soon accompany her only Son to the tomb, His Mother Mary.
The Bible makes it clear that God takes no pleasure in the death of anyone (Ezek 33:11). He desires life, not death. Jesus, however, incurred grave risk by approaching the bier, since contact with a dead body made one ritually impure. But His touch restored life, brought freedom and wholeness to soul and body. Jesus is Lord not only of the living but of the dead as well. When Jesus brought this dead man back to life, he did so out of love and compassion for the widow.
Let us lift up to the Lord all those who suffer, who are marginalized, who are in need of spiritual or material help. Perhaps He will show us how we can personally help them. Do we trust in the Lord’s power to give life and hope in the face of misfortune and despair?