St. Luke, frequently emphasized the compassionate side of Jesus. This Gospel is a classic example. In restoring the widow’s son to life, Jesus showed that He is the Lord of life. But in the mind of St. Luke, the story is incomplete without focusing clearly on the widow herself. This is the emphasis on compassion.
Most widows at that time were in bad shape. There was no help from the Roman occupied state: no pension, no welfare, no social security, no unemployment insurance, no tax exemption, and most especially no food stamps. When Jesus came across the funeral precession, we can assume that someone informed Him about the circumstances. A poor woman, who had already lost her husband, was about to bury her only son.
St. Luke observes that Jesus was moved with pity when He saw her. His sympathy was mostly with the widow, not primarily with her dead son. Jesus knew that the widow’s most difficult time was not then; but, later when after the burial she would have to return alone to an empty house. The Lord realized that her sorrow would be deepened by fear about her future and how she could possibly survive. Most of all in His mind, Jesus could see a future widow after a crucifixion following the lifeless body of her only son to the tomb. And so He said to the widow: “Do not weep.” From anyone else the words would have sounded hollow, but from the Christ they gave both comfort and hope. Jesus spoke those compassionate words to the widow as He did with his own Mother. “Young man, I bid you get up.” And then St. Luke carefully adds: “Jesus gave him back to his mother.”
In this second reading St. Paul remarks on how favored he was that God revealed His Son to him so that he might spread the Good News. “But when God, who from my mother’s womb had set me apart and called me through His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son to me, so that I might proclaim Him to the Gentiles.” We of the 21st century are the lucky ones…we of Northern European decent are the Gentiles St. Paul is referring to. (How are we doing with the gift of faith and proclaiming it to the world as St. Paul did?) Let’s look at the first reading – note the difference between what Elijah did and what Jesus did when both confronted death. Elijah called out to God and prayed that He would restore life to the woman’s son. But Jesus spoke in His own Name and by His own Authority. The Christ spoke words of real power. Elijah was indeed a prophet of God; but Jesus is Himself the Lord of life.
We admire and honor the prophet, but to Jesus we look to our rising from the dead. We will all die one day (just as both widows’ sons inevitably died). Jesus will not, however, touch our coffin or tell the pallbearers to halt. Instead He will reach out His powerful Hand to lift us up from the dead on the day of resurrection. And then we will joyfully praise Jesus, the compassionate Lord of Life.