Jesus journeyed to a city called Nain,
and his disciples and a large crowd accompanied him.
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.”
He stepped forward and touched the coffin;
at this the bearers halted,
and he said, “Young man, I tell you, arise!”
The dead man sat up and began to speak,
and Jesus gave him to his mother.
Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, exclaiming,
“A great prophet has arisen in our midst,”
and “God has visited his people.”
This report about him spread through the whole of Judea
and in all the surrounding region.
This fragment of the Gospel we hear today is exclusive from Luke’s Gospel, and that is why we can analyze it with the intention of picking up some typical characteristics of the third evangelist. It is a task that will not be difficult. The miracle happens in Nain, a small village in Galilee about 6 miles southeast of Nazareth. It is not mentioned elsewhere in the bible.
The exegetes point out that Luke likes to relate Jesus to the prophet Elijah (see 1 Kings 17, 10-24) and also to the prophet Elisha (2 Kings 4: 18-37): in both cases they narrate the story of the resurrection of only children of widowed mothers. We also know that Luke pays particular attention to women, both in the third Gospel and in the Acts of the Apostles. Also, here the figure of the widowed mother who has lost her only son has an impact on Jesus, who “when he saw her, he was moved with pity for her and said to her,
‘Do not weep.’ ” (v.13). Jesus has a special place in His heart for the weak and the marginalized, and it is beyond doubt that the woman, in that society, belonged to this category of people because her livelihood would depend on the charity of others in Israel (Deut 26, 12). St. Ambrose said that the widow represents the Mother Church, crying for those who are dead in sin and are brought to life through the safety of the doors of the Church. The crowds who watch will praise the Lord when sinners are resurrected from the dead and restored to their mother.
Jesus touched the coffin, which was a shocking gesture. Although the Mosaic Law warns that contact with the dead leaves the Israelites unclean for a whole week (Num 19, 11-19), Jesus reverses this expected result with his powerful word, “get up”. By raising the dead to life again, he eliminates the very cause of legal contamination and, therefore, its unwanted effects. Jesus elsewhere raises the daughter of Jairus (Lk 8: 40-56) and Lazarus (Jn 11, 17-27) as signs of the arrival of the Messiah (Lk 7:22, CEC 994)
Finally, Jesus is hailed as a prophet; moreover, as “a great prophet” (v.16): according to Luke, this title has a peculiar burden of meaning. Jesus is a prophet not only for what he “says”, and he has manifested it since the first great speech delivered in the synagogue of Nazareth (4, 14ff), but also for what he “does” (actions and gestures) and, above all, , by the way he behaves (feels compassion, that is, is moved on the inside sharing the suffering of that mother). In this way, Jesus manifests himself as a prophet in the fullest sense of the term: not only because he carries the Word of revelation on God’s part, but also because he completely takes the side of men.
If we are disciples of Jesus we must offer all our talents and gifts to help others, acting with compassion for others so that our words and actions lift them from the culture of death in which we live.
Do your words and actions inspire others to be disciples of Christ?
Fr. Enrique Garcia