This isn’t what happens in the Gospel. Jesus, as Luke says for the first time in his Gospel, Jesus is Lord. Jesus is the one in whom resides the power and will to act in favor of the widow and her son. I would like us all to pay attention to what’s at the heart of both of these stories of healing and hope, of death and life. At the heart is deep compassion, the mercy of God. In the Greek, the root word for "compassion" literally means that His inmost being was moved, His insides were churned up.
To borrow from Pope Francis’ recent reflections…
“In the heart of Christ the Father’s love shines forth, and his love is limitless. It is never exhausted and it never gives up. There we see his infinite and boundless self-giving. There we find the source of that faithful and meek love which sets free.”
Focusing on the story in the Gospel, we hear about two crowds, powerful emotions and actions that inspire wonder and awe.
The two crowds represent life and death, hope and despair, joy and sorrow, comfort and suffering. They represent the choice that all of have in life and every day of our lives. They represent the need we have for a savior and the ongoing grace to overcome the challenges of life. From one direction comes a crowd on a journey of death and suffering. A widow mourns the loss of her only son and knows the life of suffering she is now bound to endure. From the opposite direction comes another crowd, lead by the Lord who brings life and hope.
They encounter each other, and Jesus ‘sees’ the widow, is moved to deep compassion for her. He raises the son to new life and to the widow he restores hope. It’s powerful to know that the word which Luke used for “arise” is the same one used to describe the resurrection of Jesus.
The two crowds become one, in joyful celebration of God. His mission is manifested: He is to encounter us in our sin and suffering and restore us to life and hope. Christ is moved by his depth of compassion to reach out to us and the power of His call for us to ‘arise’ empowers us to rise up, to live free and to lift our voices in prayer and praise, glorifying God.
Some of us here today were once on a journey of death and suffering as we lived for ourselves and in opposition to God, but we encountered Jesus. We were touched, healed, restored by Him. Some of us have been faithful followers journeying with Christ since the beginning although we might not have been perfect disciples all along the way. But, no matter when or how we first encountered the Lord, we have all come to be together in and through Christ. He is always first to meet us in our suffering and first to lead us into life. He connects us to each other through him. He brings us together and we become the Church the Body of Christ, the crowd who follows him and seeks out others.
The Church, you and I, not some impersonal institution, are the manifested mercy and compassion of Christ to each other and to a grieving world. No one can receive this mercy, the love of Father, Son and Holy Spirit and remain unchanged by the mercy that he has freely given us. We have encountered God’s consolation and powerful love. We have experienced inner peace, and we must become channels of mercy, for our salvation and the salvation of the world.
Peace doesn't just happen; it's made.
CampusPadre is a college ministry Priest Chaplain with 30 years experience in youth and young adult ministry, who strives to let the Holy Spirit lead and challenges students to seek holiness above all.