Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Fr. Roger J. Landry

9/17/2013 (7 months ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The healing of the son of the widow of Nain shows us how Jesus meets us on the pilgrimage of life and seeks continually to raise us from the dead.

When we began this Year of Faith, Pope Benedict wanted us to ponder the fact that the life of faith is a pilgrimage, a journey, an exodus of a lifetime. One of the greatest discoveries on that pilgrimage is that there is another pilgrimage going on. As we are journeying toward the Lord, we discover that he is coming to meet us. There's perhaps no greater illustration of this spiritual reality than today's Gospel from Nain.

Article Highlights

By Fr. Roger J. Landry

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

9/17/2013 (7 months ago)

Published in Year of Faith

Keywords: Widow of nain, Year of Faith, healing, raising the dead, pilgrimage, spirituality, Homily, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, healing, Fr. Roger J. Landry


FALL RIVER, MA (Catholic Online). When we began this Year of Faith, Pope Benedict wanted us to ponder the fact that the life of faith is a pilgrimage, a journey, an exodus of a lifetime.

One of the greatest discoveries on that pilgrimage is that there is another pilgrimage going on. As we are journeying toward the Lord, we discover that he is coming to meet us.

There's perhaps no greater illustration of this spiritual reality than today's Gospel from Nain.

Two processions met. The first procession was a large funeral cortege involving a large crowd of the residents of the city, transporting to the cemetery the body of a young man whose life was cut down in the springtime of life.

The mourning was intense, as it always is whenever someone with so much life ahead of him suddenly dies. And what could be more poignant than a mother's weeping over the death of her only child?

In this case, however, the darkness was even worse.  She was a widow. In Jewish culture and throughout the Middle East, it was a man's duty to provide for a woman. When a husband died, it was the duty of the eldest son to care for a mother. Without a man to provide for her, and no social welfare state, she was now going to be reduced to being a beggar, a beggar of her fellow residents, a beggar among her family of origin, destitute and abandoned.

But as this death march was heading out through the gates of the city to the burial ground that was also located outside of the city walls for reasons of space as well as public health, they met a very different procession. Jesus of Nazareth was heading in, surrounded by his disciples and a large crowd of followers.

When Jesus saw the woman, his heart was moved with pity. There are two other times in the Gospels when Jesus raised someone from the dead, when he raised his friend Lazarus after he had been in the tomb for four days and when he raised the daughter of Jairus the synagogue official. In both circumstances, prior to their deaths, Martha and Mary had written Jesus that Lazarus was dying and asked for him to come and Jairus had come up to Jesus to ask him to come and heal his daughter lest she die. Jesus worked both of those miracles in response to faith

In this case, however, the woman didn't do anything. We don't know if she had faith or not. Her son was dead on a bier and most of her had died with him. But Jesus was moved with compassion and made the first move, in order to bring her and the residents of Nain to faith.

Jesus always makes the first move. Pope Francis, the sixtieth anniversary of whose vocational call in a Buenos Aires confessional will take place this Saturday, never ceases to describe how God makes the first move, that when we journey, we discover that God was waiting for us. As he said to a vast crowd assembled in St. Peter's Square on the Vigil of Pentecost this year, "In Spanish we have a word that explains this well: primerear - the Lord always gets there before us, he gets there first, he is waiting for us! To find someone waiting for you is truly a great grace."

In Nain, Jesus who had gotten their first and was waiting with compassion, began by doing a couple of things that were totally unconventional and, on the surface of it, terribly cruel.

He first told the grieving mother, "Do not weep." I wouldn't suggest anyone try saying that at a wake to mourning family members. It's comparable to what Jesus said to those outside of Jairus' house who were lamenting the death of the synagogue official's young daughter, "She's not dead, but sleeping," words that got them to ridicule him for his insensitivity and even idiocy.

But it got worse. Jesus stepped forward, touched the bier and got all the pall-bearers to stop. It would be like someone's walking out into the center of the road and stopping a hearse on the way to the cemetery. Out of respect for the dead, no one ever dares interrupt a funeral procession. But that's exactly what Jesus did.

And then, after those startling words and shocking action, he said and did something that no one had requested, that no one had dreamed possible. He said, "Young man, I tell you, arise!" The boy sat up, began to speak and was restored to his mother.

None of the mourners could fathom it. It was the last thing that anyone thought would occur as they were accompanying a corpse to a cemetery, as they were mourning with a mother in misery. But the death march had collided with Jesus' liturgical procession of life - and life triumphed over death.

The people of Nain responded by "glorifying God" and saying that "God has visited his people!" Little did they know that they were literally true.

What do we learn from this dramatic scene for our own growth in faith in this Year of Faith and beyond it in the lifelong pilgrimage of faith? I think several things.

First, we learn of God's incredible compassion for those mourning the loss of loved ones. Jesus himself wept at the tomb of his friend Lazarus, even though he knew he was going to raise him from the dead. Likewise, for any of us who have buried a husband or a wife, a mother or a father, a son or a daughter, a brother or sister or good friend, Jesus has compassion on us.

We need to remember, he never intended death. Death is a consequence of sin. But Jesus didn't leave it there. He entered into our world, took on our human nature, even took on human death, in order to redeem it all and make eternal life possible.

Just as the multiplications of the loaves and fish were foreshadowings of the far greater miracle of the Eucharist, so these physical resuscitations of Jairus' daughter, Lazarus and the young man of Nain foretell the far greater miracle that Jesus wants to give our loved ones and us, the miracle of resurrection from the dead. Resuscitations are temporary. Resurrection is forever.

Jesus, who is rich in mercy and compassion, particularly wants to share his compassionate touch with us around the time of our death and the death of our loved ones. Jesus' compassion gives us hope for the salvation of those we loved. It also helps to alleviate some of our fears toward our own death. In death, Jesus wants to touch us and say, "Young man, I tell you, arise!"

Knowing this, we come to the second big lesson of today's Gospel. The same two processions we witness in the Gospel continue down to the present day. One procession is a death march, i a funeral cortege, a journey toward death. The second is a procession of life that involves walking together with Jesus. Which procession are we on?

The procession of life is a procession in which Jesus seeks to bring us fully alive. The life, the triumph over death he wants to give us, is not so much an event as a relationship. Jesus says "I am the Resurrection and the Life," and for us to experience his risen life, both now and in the future, we have to enter into that deep relationship with Jesus. It means not just to hear him, but to follow him, step by step, teaching by teaching, prayer by prayer, beatitude by beatitude, commandment by commandment.

The path of death is to structure our life apart from Jesus Christ. Many times people are dead men walking, ambulatory spiritual cadavers. Some are totally empty on the inside. Others are decomposing, full of hatred, envy, lust, anger against others and often against God. They often don't recognize it because they surround themselves with a big crowd of people heading with them to the necropolis, not knowing that already they're in the city of the dead.

Some of the most tragic cases on this cortege of corpses are those who mistakenly think they're alive because they have some intellectual knowledge of Christ and his teachings, they may know some Biblical verses, have crucifixes, even occasionally pray or regularly come to Church, but Christ really isn't alive in them because they've fatally wounded their relationship with Christ through mortal sin. They're going through the motions of faith but at the level of their soul, at the deepest levels of their being, they're not in relationship with Jesus, they're not walking with him.

In the Book of Revelation, Jesus spoke to the Church in Sardis, saying, "I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you."

There are many who have the reputation for being alive, for following Jesus, for walking with him on the procession of life, but instead, like the Christians of Sardis, they're dead.

Jesus describes, however, the path to life. It involves waking up, remembering what he has taught us, repenting, and keeping his word. Jesus wants to touch us all and bring us fully alive. The way he does this most poignantly is through the Sacrament of Confession, something that is essential for us in the journey of faith.

The patron saint of priests, St. John Vianney, used to say that what Jesus does in the Sacrament of Penance is greater than one what did for the Lazarus', Jairus' daughter and the widow's son. Raising a soul from death, he stressed, is an even greater miracle than resuscitating a body. And that's what happens in the Sacrament of Penance, when as Jesus taught in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, God the Father says, "My son was dead and has been brought back to life again." Every reconciliation is meant to be a resurrection, which is why Jesus fittingly founded this Sacrament on Easter Sunday evening. The life-long pilgrimage of faith, the path in which we follow Jesus, the way on which he touches us with compassion and raises us up, passes through the confessional.

The third and final lesson we can glimpse today from this episode is that Jesus' procession of life is also a procession of death, but a different type of death.

We know that Jesus was journeying to Jerusalem where another mother would watch her son die and carry him to be buried outside the city walls. But it was through his loving death that he made resurrection possible for all of us, teaching us the principle that in order to save our life we must lose it and that unless we fall to the ground and die like the grain of wheat we will bear no fruit.

The path of life, the journey of true faith, is a path in which we lose our lives for God and others, in which we love others as Jesus has loved us first, in which we sacrifice our own needs and desires so that others may live. The path with Jesus, the relationship with Jesus, always involves this type of self-emptying love.

Pondering the Gospel today, we can think about one application, our sharing in Jesus' care and compassion for those who have lost dear loved ones, by trying to bring Christ to them in their time of grief.

That's important for us to do we people we know experience a death in the or when someone we know dies and we go to console the members of their family.

But it's important for us to recall that, according to his humanity, as far as we are aware, Jesus didn't know this widow in the Gospel. His compassion, however, led him to crash the funeral anyway. I think that that's an important lesson for those who seek to follow Jesus.

I'm very impressed that there are some people here in Fall River who are always seen at funerals. They attend wakes and funerals Masses all over the city. In many cases, they don't know the deceased or the deceased's family personally, but they're there anyway, expressing their condolences, praying at the funeral Masses. Nobody but the priests really notice them at the big funerals, but at the small funerals, their presence is very conspicuous and very consoling.

It's a testimony of compassion that they recognize that whenever any of us dies, a spiritual brother or a sister dies, and they sacrifice their time in order to come to bring a little bit of Jesus' love to a family grieving. This is a witness that their loved one didn't live in vain or die in vain, but lived and died as a member of a loving community.

All of us can learn from this example. If we recognize that there's a funeral in our parish of someone we didn't know or barely knew, we should try to go to the wake or the funeral anyone, so that Jesus vicariously through us can continue to touch others through your presence. If we can't attend personally, we send a card or say the Catholic prayers for the repose of the person's soul and the consolation of the family. We can participate in a bereavement ministry or, if one doesn't yet exist at a parish, work with the pastor to begin one.

So many people have returned to God and the practice of the faith precisely because of the way the Church - which is far more than the priest - responded to them with compassion when one of their loved ones died. Life erupts in that experience of death and people remember how much they need God in their life and need others.

Today, on altars all across the world, Jesus wants to touch us all. Today he is about to work a far greater miracle than raising a young man from the dead. He is about to change simple bread and wine into his body and blood so that we might, in receiving his risen body, have life through him.

The altar is the place from which Jesus wants all of us, whether we headed to Church on a procession of life or one of death, to leave following him on a procession of life all the way to the heavenly Jerusalem.

God still visits his people. May we, like those in ancient Nain, return from this pilgrimage glorifying God and spreading news of him through all the surrounding regions.

-----

Father Roger Landry is pastor of St. Bernadette Parish in Fall River, MA and national chaplain of Catholic Voices USA. His homilies and articles are found on catholicpreaching.com

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for April 2014
Ecology and Justice:
That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick: That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.



Comments


More Year of Faith

Reflection on the Catholic Catechism: Understanding the Bible Watch

Image of

By Michael Terheyden

How we interpret the Bible is of immense importance! It directly affects what we believe about Christ, the Church, and our faith, but it is also related to many of the grave problems in our society and the world. Yet, despite the gravity of this situation, we have good ... continue reading


Christ the King, the Year of Faith and the Catholic Counterculture Watch

Image of On this Solemnity of the Feast of Christ the King, the Year of Faith inaugurated by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI comes to a ceremonial end. However, in reality, it cannot and will not end, because Jesus Christ is King! The Year of Faith was only the beginning for those who choose to live the Life of Faith.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

We celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. It is one of many opportunities the Catholic Church year offers to each one of us to consider the creature called time, receive it as a gift, and begin to really live our lives differently.  This is one of ... continue reading


The Bones of Peter, the Successor of Peter: Close of the Year of Faith Watch

Image of The bones of St. Peter the Apostle

By Deacon Keith Fournier

On the Solemnity of the Feast of Christ the King, the Sunday which marks both the end of the Church Year and the end of the Year of Faith, inaugurated by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Pope Francis greeted thousands of the faithful and presided over Holy Mass and the ... continue reading


Fr Randy Sly on Becoming a House of Prayer Watch

Image of Jesus drives the money changers from the temple. 

With hearts clear and focused on our Lord, we can follow the advice of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Everything starts with prayer. Love to pray--feel the need to pray often during the day and take the trouble to pray. If you want to pray better, you must pray more. The more you pray, the easier it becomes. Perfect prayer does not consist of many words but in the fervor of the desire which raises the heart to Jesus. (Fr. Randy Sly)

By Father Randy Sly

Becoming a House of Prayer is the best discipline we can take on. St. Ephraem of Syria states that Virtues are formed by prayer. Prayer preserves temperance. Prayer suppresses anger. Prayer prevents emotions of pride and envy. Prayer draws into the soul the Holy ... continue reading


Jesus Weeps and Offers the Path to Peace Watch

Image of

By Deacon Keith Fournier

If this day you only knew what makes for peace- but now it is hidden from your eyes. For the days are coming upon you when your enemies will raise a palisade against you; they will encircle you and hem you in on all sides. They will smash you to the ground and your ... continue reading


The Kingdom of God is Among You. What Did Jesus Mean? Watch

Image of The Christian vocation is, of its nature, a vocation to the apostolate as well. Indeed, we call an apostolate every activity of the Mystical Body that aims to spread the Kingdom of Christ over all the earth. (CCC#863)

By Deacon Keith Fournier

In Jesus Christ, the Kingdom has been inaugurated. Upon his return it will be made complete and fully manifested in a new heaven and a new earth. We are members of the Body of Christ which makes it present here and now - as seed and sign for a world which is in labor. ... continue reading


Year of Faith: Bringing the Feast of the Presentation of Mary to Life Watch

Image of The Feast of the Presentation of Mary is celebrated in both the Eastern and Western Churches. It recalls the day in the life of the Jewish girl named Mary (Maryam) when her parents, Joachim and Anne, presented her to the Lord in the temple and dedicated her life to Him.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

On this Feast of the Presentation of Mary, let us make the choice to surrender ourselves to the same Lord who Joachim and Ann honored when they presented their dear daughter in the temple. Their daughter, Mary, became the Second Eve. The New Creation was born through ... continue reading


WEDNESDAY HOMILY: Our Lady's Encouragement Watch

Image of

By Fr Samuel Medley, SOLT

I got off the subway at Termini station and went up to the busy streets of Rome.  I had to walk past the place where all the prostitutes gathered.  I looked down at the street and began to pray in fear.  Suddenly I heard a feminine voice say, "Be a man!" ... continue reading


Tuesday Homily: Conversion and Perseverance in the Life of Faith Watch

Image of Zacchaeus climbs a tree to see the Lord. Such an act could have led to great mockery for a middle-aged public figure. But Zacchaeus didn't care about others' seeing him and the derision that might ensue. He wanted to see the Lord and no obstacle was going to stop him. His example challenges each of us to consider what is the extent to which we go, what trees or obstacles we'll climb, in order to see Jesus more clearly

By Fr. Roger J. Landry

As the Year of Faith draws to a conclusion, we, like Zacchaeus, are called to repent all those times that we haven't set an example of faith for others. And through the intercession of the martyrs Eleazar and Polycarp, we ask God for the grace to set such an example of ... continue reading


We Are all Going to Die. The Important Question is How Are We Living? Watch

Image of We decide whether we use time for bearing good fruit or are used by time as a tyrant who frightens us as we fruitlessly try to resist his claim on our perceived youth. This act of choosing rightly helps us to develop a disposition; a way of living that involves the proper exercise of our human freedom aided by grace. When time is welcomed as an opportunity for bearing the fruits of love and holiness, we receive it in love, perceive it as a field of choice and build an environment for holiness

By Deacon Keith Fournier

As we consider the timeline of God's unfolding plan, the redemption of the whole cosmos, the God who gives and governs time, invites us to re-dedicate ourselves to living differently, in time.  We are to live as though time really does matter. We are invited by ... continue reading


All Year of Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Acts 3:1-10
1 Once, when Peter and John were going up to the ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 105:1-2, 3-4, 6-7, 8-9
1 Alleluia! Give thanks to Yahweh, call on his name, ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 24:13-35
13 Now that very same day, two of them were on their ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for April 23rd, 2014 Image

St. George
April 23: Pictures of St. George usually show him killing a dragon to ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter