“Compassion Leads to Action”, by Fr. Reu

What belongs to Jesus – his authority and triumph over death — he first shared with the lowly.

Both the first reading and the gospel present two almost similar stories of God’s action of bringing bring back to life a dead person. It is easy to rationalize these events especially in terms of acknowledging God’s power over death – the forces of evil and death are no match compared to the forces of good and life and that God never allows suffering and sorrow to overshadow compassion and comfort. Let us reflect on some of the details specifically on the gospel.

The weeping of the mother, a widow, for her only son is essentially for herself than for her son. While death brings sadness, it also frees the person from so many concerns and responsibilities in order to overcome the different challenges of life. The cultural setting of this widow and mother placed her in isolation, alienation and in the margins — or worst, as a non-existent person in the community because she has no husband or a son to protect and to give her identity. Her son’s death is hers too. In this context, to be physically dead is better than the suffering of emotional death or having physical life but bereft of meaning.

On the part of Jesus, this is not the first time he encounters people going to bury a dead person for his was a mobile office … he was always with people on the road. His compassion to this widowed mother flowed out from his knowledge of his Father who is compassionate and to which he invites his followers to be like him. Jesus acted upon what he saw and felt for this weeping mother by giving back life to her son so she may have life as well. It makes us think that this new life for the son is not for himself but for his powerless mother – God’s way of taking good care of God’s partner in nurturing and propagating the precious gift of life.

The prophetic side of Jesus’ action is his ability to use his authority and power to ensure that those considered insignificant are not relegated to the sideline or to the margins but are protected and that their dignity are preserved. What belongs to Jesus — his authority and triumph over death — he first shared with the lowly. This is truly the Gospel incarnate in the person of Jesus – the action of Jesus at Nain — God telling us to reject all forms of evil, of separation, alienation, marginalization and deprivation that leads to human suffering. Truly, it is Jesus’ compassion that leads to life-giving action.

as published in the Parish Bulletin, June 16, 2013