From the Pastor – June 9, 2013

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.” (Lk 7:12-13)

This brief gospel story is filled with strong visual images.  There’s a large crowd, the gate of a city, a weeping mother, and the widow’s dead son.  It’s not something foreign to most of us who have experienced the untimely death of a young man. I experienced a similar experience Friday at the funeral of a friend, Rufus Brown who died of cancer at 57; his mother was present for the burial.

So what are we to make of the scene with Jesus?  Much is expressed in one word in the Gospel.  The word is translated in English by four English words.  We read that Jesus “was moved with pity.”  The Greek reveals a word with a somewhat deeper sense of meaning. The word is ?????????????, and it is a mouthful to pronounce in English: splag-chi-niz-omai.  It occurs twelve times in twelve separate verses in the Gospels. Nine of the references are used to describe Jesus’ response to a situation. In the other three instances, it is used to describe (1) the master of the unforgiving servant just before he forgives his debt, (2) the good Samaritan just before he goes to help the wounded man, and (3) the father of the prodigal son as the latter is seen from a distance on his return. It literally means that he was moved at the depth of his guts, because in the ancient world the guts were thought to be the root of compassion and pity.  We might say that Jesus was moved to the very depth of His being or the very depth of His heart.

The compassion of the invisible God is revealed in the human compassion of Jesus. And His compassion causes Jesus to reach out with His hand and raise the widow’s son from the dead.  At the same time, this story points to another large crowd, another city gate, another weeping mother and another dead son.  It’s Jesus being taken out of the city gates with the crowd to be crucified while His weeping Blessed Mother watches.  The compassion of Christ is not distant.  Jesus not only reached out to us in compassion, He allows us to experience compassion for Him and His Mother.

Jesus is as much the principal character in the story of each of our lives as he was in the story of the widowed mother of Nain.  Jesus has compassion for us.  And each Sunday at Mass we celebrate the mystery of the Cross in the Eucharist through which Jesus is present and gives Himself to us so completely that we share His life. The life-changing implication of gift is captured in the words of Saint Paul: “I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me.”

(Rev. Msgr.) Christopher H. Nalty