10th Sunday Ordinary Time
June 5, 2016
“When the Lord saw her he was moved with pity for her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’
He stepped forward and touched the coffin…”
from Luke 7:11-17
This Sunday Luke recounts something most extraordinary: Jesus happens to be on the scene at the precise moment that a burial procession is passing by. Did Jesus plan this encounter or was it just happenstance? We do not know. So often in our lives God works through and hides within “coincidences” and circumstances that appear to be unintended.
This is not just a coffin passing by, but an open funeral bier with a deceased young man visible to all the mourners who were accompanying it. This poor widow not only incurred the loss of her husband, but also an only son; and so, as a woman, she had lost her social safety net as well. She was truly both grief-stricken and potentially destitute. It is as if the whole tragedy of her human existence was playing out right before the human eyes of Jesus. Who among us has not mourned the loss of someone who may have died at too-young of an age? But these desperate moments are precisely where we can often find Jesus working most powerfully in our lives!
Jesus is moved with compassion for this widow and her dead son; and then, he does the most extraordinary thing: he touches the casket. What may seem like a simple gesture to us would have been unthinkable for the Jews processing along and grieving with this widow, for by this gesture Jesus has incurred ritual impurity for a week. Out of his compassion, Jesus is willing to take this impurity on himself, in order to heal and raise this young man from the dead.
Notice that Jesus does not come on the scene until after the young man has died! So often, the Lord will act after a situation seems hopeless or at the very last moment possible. God’s timing is not our own! When we come to him in the Sacrament of Confession, Jesus reaches out and takes our sins on himself, and brings us back, sacramentally, from the dead. In the anointing of the sick, Jesus shares our pain and brings it with him to the cross. Always, Jesus wishes to share in our sufferings, to take our sins and impurities on himself when we invite him in and, ultimately, to raise us from the dead. Jesus is very aware of our own life, processing by, in whatever condition we are in! If we are open to it, he will take a hand and take our pain on himself too, if only we allow him to do so by inviting him in.