June 5, 2016
10th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jesus journeyed to a city called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd accompanied him. As he drew near to the gate of the city, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. A large crowd from the city was with her. When the Lord saw her, he was moved with pity for her and said to her, “Do not weep.” He stepped forward and touched the coffin; at this the bearers halted, and he said, “Young man, I tell you, arise!” The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, exclaiming, “A great prophet has arisen in our midst,” and “God has visited his people.” This report about him spread through the whole of Judea and in all the surrounding region.
While this text is about Jesus restoring a young man who was dead to life, the central character in the story is the young man’s mother. A large crowd has gathered to be with her as she buries her son. Typically, the body would be carried out of the city and buried on the same day as the death. This was to avoid ritual impurity of coming in contact with a dead body. Jesus and his disciples encounter the burial procession as they are leaving the city. Jesus is moved with pity and speaks to reassure the widow. In this unusual miracle, Jesus responds from his compassion and not out of some expression of faith from a person approaching Jesus as an expression of faith. Jesus approaches the corpse and touches the body and becomes ritually impure, but he also restores life to the widow’s son and gives him back to his mother.
This mother’s situation would have been dire. She has already lost her husband. While she may have had other children, she is burying her only son. With the loss of her son, she has lost everything that gave her status in her world and gave her life meaning. Given the situation it is no surprise that Jesus is moved with such compassion that he takes on ritual impurity to restore life to this widow’s son. When Jesus restored her son to life, he also restored her life. The response of the people shows that they recognize that they have experienced the divine presence. They call Jesus a great prophet and they recognize that God has worked in this situation.
1. Do you know people who have the gift for being present to people who are mourning?
2. When have you been moved with compassion that led you to interrupt your plans in order to respond to the needs of the other?
3. What range of responses do you think Jesus would have received from this gathering when He told the widow “Do not weep”?
4. The text says that Jesus stepped forward and touched the coffin, and at this point the procession and those carrying the body came to a stop. Do you think Jesus was aware that he would become ritually impure when he touched the body of the dead man?
5. What were the consequences of ritual impurity for people in Jesus day? What does that tell you about the degree of Jesus’ compassion toward this widow?
6. Who are the people in your life who have witnessed to that kind of compassion?
7. Who are the people in your life who are in need of the compassionate presence of another?
8. Do you think it a bit odd that we do not know the name of the young man whose life was restored, or the name of his mother, but only the place where this occurred? What does that say to you?
9. Where are the places of compassion in your community?
10. What in this text draws your attention? What do you think God is saying to you about what God desires for you?
On Wednesday of each week, the Gospel and reflection questions for the upcoming Sunday are posted at the following link: http://il-ritiro.org/gospel-reflections.aspx. You are invited to share your own reflection and comments with others at this website. The reflection and questions are written by Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM. They are edited by Sister Anne Marie Lom, OSF and Joe Thiel.
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