10th Sunday in Ordinary Time
June 5, 2016
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church
The story in today’s Gospel is one that is, unfortunately, often forgotten.
That’s probably because it’s only recorded in the Gospel of St. Luke,
and at Mass we only read it once every three years,
on the 10th Sunday of Ordinary time.
And the thing is, in a lot of years, the 10th Sunday of Ordinary time
winds up falling on the same day as
the Feasts of the Holy Trinity or Corpus Christi
so we read the gospels for those feasts instead.
Which means sometimes we don’t read this story at Mass for 6 or even 9 years.
And that’s a shame, because while it’s only a very short story,
it’s a beautiful and powerful story, rich in meaning.
Today let’s look at four important lessons we learn from it:
first, the revelation of the power of Jesus,
second, the mystery of the humanity of Jesus
third, the mystery of the compassion of Jesus
and fourth, a lesson in the love Jesus has for his Mother, Mary.
First, let’s consider the revelation of the power of Jesus.
In Luke’s Gospel this story comes right after
the story of the cure of Centurion’s servant.
That’s a little more famous: it’s where we get the prayer,
“Lord…. I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof….
Only say the word and my soul shall be healed”
—except the Centurion prays, “my servant be healed.”
In that story the Centurion has faith in the power of Jesus,
and that all he has to do is speak a “word” to cure his servant.
As he says,
“I too am a person …with soldiers subject to me.
And I say to one, … ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
And Jesus does say the word, and the servant is healed.
Right after that Jesus goes to the village of Nain,
and does the same thing, only on a much more astonishing scale.
The young man in Nain isn’t sick, he’s dead.
Jesus performed many amazing miracles,
but none shows his divine power more than
the 3 times he raised the dead back to life:
of course, Lazarus,
and the daughter of Jairus,
and the widow of Nain’s son.
Who can raise the dead, but God alone?
In today’s first reading, Elijah goes through an elaborate ritual and prayer,
but in the end it’s all to ask God to raise the boy from the dead.
And yet Jesus doesn’t ask his Father a thing: he raises the dead himself,
with just a few simple words:
“Lazarus come out!”
“Talitha koum,” … “Little girl, I say to you, arise””
and “Young man, I tell you, arise!”
The power of the word of God,
spoken in the flesh by the Word of God made flesh, Jesus.
This leads us to the second lesson we learn from this story,
about the humanity of Jesus
—the Divine Word who became a flesh and blood human being.
As St. Paul tells us, “he was like us in all things but sin.”
God the Son stripped himself of his divine heavenly glory
to enter into and share in our humanity,
so that as a human being he could
show us an example,
represent us before His Father,
and, most wonderfully, so he could suffer with us and for us.
And so as he walks the roads of Galilee,
not far from his childhood home in Nazareth,
walking on the road from Capernaum to this little village of Nain,
like so many of us walk from place to place every day.
And he comes across a funeral procession, and encounters a very human thing:
death, a funeral.
But not only death, but what death leaves normally in its wake:
a grieving family member.
St. Luke tells us:
“a man who had died was being carried out,
the only son of his mother, and she was a widow.”
Think of this: “the only son of his mother…a widow.”
Jesus sees this poor woman, who, having already grieved for her dead husband,
now has to grieve for her dead son.
They say there is no sadder thing than for a person to bury their spouse,
except for a parent to have to bury their child.
And so Jesus enters into this all too real human situation,
one many of us in this room have experienced, in one form or another.
And he enters into the deep grief of this poor mother for her son.
But not only her “son,” but her “only son”!
We can imagine what she must be thinking:
she’s lost the two most important people in her life,
her husband and her only child.
But not only that, she suffers in another way
—a much more practical and mundane way,
but every bit as real for this poor woman.
You see, back then, without a husband or a son,
there would be no one to support and protect her: she was destitute.
And so she had not only lost the family she loved,
but she was now faced with the fear a very uncertain future for herself.
And Jesus sees all her suffering, and makes it his own.
Notice, he isn’t so much moved for the dead man:
which is no surprise since he knows that death is nothing to fear
for one who loves God.
His attention is toward this mother.
And so we read:
“When the Lord saw her,
“he was moved with pity for her and said to her, “Do not weep.”
It reminds us of very similar words in the story of Lazarus:
“When Jesus saw [Mary] weeping …
he became …deeply troubled,…And Jesus wept.”
Jesus understands this mother’s suffering, in all its many aspects.
This reminds us that Jesus understands all of our sufferings too,
in all their aspects.
From the pain of terrible physical suffering like he endured on the cross,
to the humiliation of rejection and persecution,
to ordinary and simple but devastating grief of sickness and death,
or the fear of hunger and poverty, or the loss of love and loneliness.
Christ, the incarnate God, the word who became flesh and dwelt amongst us,
has fully experienced our humanity in all its joy and in all its suffering.
Which brings us to our third lesson today:
Jesus, as God and Man, has compassion on us.
Friday the Church celebrated the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus,
pondering the mystery of Divine Love united to the Human love of Jesus.
This love is not an empty love.
It’s a love lived out, first of all in compassion
—a word that comes from the Latin words “cum passio,”
literally meaning, to “suffer with.”
So, in his great love, Jesus loves us with the fullness of human love,
but human love made boundless by its union to the infinite love of God.
And so Jesus looks on the pain of the widow of Nain
not only with understanding,
but also with the fullness of compassion,
as his infinite love leads him to suffer with her,
and in doing so, in a very real sense, suffering even more than she does.
And in that love, lived out in compassion, he acts to heal her suffering,
and with the divine power of his divine love he gives her son back to her.
And he does the same for all of us all the time.
We see this compassionate love so sublimely on the Cross,
as he saves us from sin, death and the fires of hell, if we accept it.
But we also see it in the mundane things of life,
as he showers us with his grace in our everyday suffering.
Maybe he doesn’t raise the dead,
but he gives us the grace to cope with death and loss,
and even become stronger and holier and closer to him because of it.
On the other hand,
how many times has he brought someone we loved, even ourselves,
back from the brink of death
—from some seemingly incurable illnesses, or unrecoverable injury?
How many times has he restored hearts that seemed dead,
but are now alive in His joy?
And finally, the fourth lesson we learn from this story:
the very real and ever-present love Jesus has for his mother, Mary.
Again, this speaks to his humanity,
like most of us, Jesus had a unique and special love for his mom.
Imagine then, as Jesus came upon this scene in Nain,
a village just a few miles away from Nazareth where he grew up
and where his mother still lived.
He sees a widow, and in her he sees another widow, his mother Mary,
who had lost her husband St. Joseph years before.
And he sees a mother whose only son had taken care of her for many years,
just as Jesus had taken care of Mary for many years,
working as a carpenter.
And he sees a mother taking the dead body of her only son to be buried
—a “young man,” as Luke tells us;
and he sees his Mother Mary taking the dead body of her only son,
a “young man” of 33,
down from the Cross and laying him in the Tomb.
And as the widow of Nain weeps,
Jesus looks into the future, and sees His Mother Mary weeping as well.
He wouldn’t spare his Mother this pain, he couldn’t
—he had to die and she had to share his suffering.
But he could spare the widow of Nain,
and remembering his love for his own Mother, so he did.
And when he can spare us our suffering, he does that too
—especially when we ask him to,
and especially when we ask his mother to ask him with us.
But sometimes he can’t spare us our suffering
—sometimes, in his great plan for the salvation of the world,
we, like Mary whom he loves so tenderly, we must endure suffering.
Not because he doesn’t love us, but because he does love us,
just as he loves his momma and lets her share in his salvific mission.
There are so many stories in the life of Jesus,
filled with so many lessons about his extraordinary love and grace
and about how to live our ordinary human life filled with that love and grace.
Sadly, so many are forgotten or seldom spoken of,
and so their lessons go unlearned, not to mention unheeded.
In the story of the Widow of Nain we learn about Jesus’ Divine power,
His humanity, His compassion, His love for His mother,
and so much more.
Let us pray that we may always remember this story,
and learn from its lessons.
And let us pray that by this simple story,
so often forgotten, and yet so important to remember,
we may be inspired to a new appreciation of
Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition,
and to prayerful consideration of the profound meaning of
the simple and dramatic events in the life of Christ
and the simple and dramatic events in our life lived with him.