We’ve all had the experience of going to visit a family at a wake. We walk in, and because of the circumstances of the person’s death or the age of the deceased the grief in the room is tangible. We wish we had the power, the ability to turn things around. We wish we could say, “young man, young woman arise.” We wish we had the ability to turn this time of grief into a time of joy. Both Elijah and Jesus did just that in our first reading and in the gospel.
To put the first reading and the gospel into context we have to appreciate the reality of widows in scriptural times.
In these readings of course the sons are dead. They were the only sons. So, in a way the mothers of these young men were dead too. Without any significant males in their lives to take care of them these women are as good as dead in their society. Though they still possess physical life, it is bereft of meaning.
These widowed mothers, who lost their sons, lost everything of value in their worlds. Even their lives lost meaning. But to have their sons restored to life by Elijah and Jesus they were both given a new lease on life.
In the gospel we are told Jesus was moved to compassion by the sorry sight of this widow following her only son’s funeral procession. In the gospel of Luke Jesus told his disciples, “be compassionate as your heavenly father is compassionate.” His compassion leads to action. He raised the young man and gives him to his mother. Compassion always calls us to action, to move toward those in need.
Every Sunday we pray for those whose pains are known to themselves alone. We all know people who are grieving over the death of a loved one. We know people dealing with chronic health problems, we know people dealing with depression, marital problems, unemployment and other ailments that go hand in hand with living. We could say they are carrying the dead weight of their conditions whatever they may be. We may feel we don’t want to intrude; we don’t want to embarrass them, invade their privacy. We don’t know what to say or do. But can we take the risk to do or say something? There was a song, ‘Where were you when I needed you?’
We can, by a call, a card, a text message or a visit let others know we are thinking of them, praying for them, we are there for them. By such simple gestures we can give them a new lease on life. We let them know they are not alone.
One day I was driving along the 401 and I was behind a school bus. A young girl was looking out the back window. She wasn’t looking at anything in particular but she had a sad and worried look on her face. I tried to catch her eye and when we did make eye contact I smiled and waved at her. Her face lit up in a beautiful smile and she waved back. I passed the bus. I had no idea what difference my wave and smile made in her life but for a moment it got her out of her sombre thoughts and we both moved on. I felt better for giving her that wave and smile.
As I said, we all know people who are facing troubles or challenges in their lives. Are we willing to take the risk to let them know we care for them and that they are in our thoughts and prayers? Are we willing to be a compassionate person?