Year C: Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Young man I tell you arise
Luke 7, 11-17
Soon afterward 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.
- Do you have any personal experience of an event you would call a “miracle” in your life?
- Where have you experienced the law, or religious and social customs getting in the way of your response to someone in need? Tell the story.
- When have you been faced with acting compassionately on someone’s behalf at the cost of your own reputation as Jesus was in this story?
- In what ways do miracles and miracle stories take center stage in your faith life over the deeper meaning of the Gospel message they are intended to awaken in you?
Margaret Nutting Ralph PHD
On the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ we commented on the fact that the story of the multiplication of the loaves does not fit the form of a miracle story. Today’s story, Jesus bringing the widow of Nain’s son back to life does fit the form of a miracle story.
When an author wants to claim a miracle he uses an identifiable form. First, a problem is brought to Jesus’ attention. In today’s story funeral procession passes right in front of Jesus and the disciples: “a man who had died was being carried out.” Next Jesus is specifically described as performing some action to solve the problem. Here Jesus steps forward, touches the coffin, and says, “young man, I tell you, arise! Then the author demonstrates that Jesus’ actions solved the problem: “The dead
man sat up and began to speak.” Finally the crowd reacts to the marvelous deed in such a way that the reader’s attention is brought to the identity- of Jesus: ‘Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, exclaiming, ‘A great prophet has arisen in our midst,’ and ‘God has visited his people.’
Luke is claiming that Jesus brought the widow’s son back to life. There is no question that those who knew Jesus, whether or not they were his followers, experienced Jesus as a person of great power. Jesus worked mighty signs as part of his preaching about the imminent in-breaking of the kingdom of God. In the light or the resurrection. However, the focus of miracle stories changed from the kingdom of God to the identity of Jesus. Notice, the people who witness Jesus’ mighty sign comment on Jesus’ identity They do not know what Luke has already told his audience, that Jesus is God’s begotten Son. They come to the conclusion that Jesus is “a great prophet, and that “God has visited his people.” The reader understands that there is a depth of meaning in the words of the crowd that those in the crowd do not themselves comprehend. In Jesus, God has visited his people in a unique way.
The story of Jesus bringing back to life the widow of Nam’s son appears only in Luke. It has many details in it that are typical or Luke’s Gospel. Luke emphasizes Jesus’ interest in and compassion for women. Here Luke tells us that a widow has lost her only son. This is a terrible fate for anyone who lives in a patriarchal society.
The woman will certainly be marginalized and vulnerable with no husband and no son. Luke tells us that Jesus “was moved with pity for her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’
Jesus cares much more about comforting the widow and restoring her son than he cares about the laws of ritual purity. Were Jesus a legalist he would not have touched a coffin, as this was expressly forbidden by the law (Num 19:16-21;.
On seeing the man brought back to life, the people call Jesus a “great prophet.” This title and Luke’s telling us that after bringing the man back to life “Jesus is gave him to his mother” are allusions to a story about the prophet Elijah. We read the story of Elijah in today’s Old Testament selection.
In Luke’s Gospel, immediately after this story, the disciples of John the Baptist come and ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” (Luke 7:19) The raising of the widow of Nain’s son is part of the evidence that Jesus advises John and disciples to ponder as they reach an answer to their question. Jesus: says, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the good news proclaimed to them (Luke 7:22). Jesus is the one to come. In him God has visited his people.
Deacon Ross Beaudoin
I often wonder what is going on in the virtual reality games that many people enjoy so much. That same kind of “reality” is present in countless videos and movies that bring in mega dollars at the box office.
One of the facets of these entertainments is the unreality that characters are killed and then reappear alive to continue their involvement in the plot. The question comes: How do these omnipresent virtual reality entertainments influence our understanding of actually lived reality? Is life cheapened when it ends and returns with no explanations or consequences? The level of violence in all segments of society would seem to indicate that some people have a reduced understanding of what life is and what is the value of human life.
What would today’s children think of a dramatization of the scene in today’s Gospel? They would find that a dead young man returns to life and continues where he left off. What’s different with that from the media they are used to? The real situation and the meanings of this scene may be lost on them. They may be lost on us, too, having heard this story for so many years. It seems so familiar and doesn’t jar us into awareness that a truly dead person is brought back to life through the power of God in Jesus.
What is first proclaimed in this passage from Luke is that Jesus is moved with pity on seeing the mother of the dead man. That is really important. Jesus says first off, “Do not weep.” Jesus has mercy on this woman, a widow, who is mourning the death of her only son. In that society, a woman without a husband or son would be left destitute. Jesus is not going to let that happen.
The next thing that happens is that Jesus goes forward and touches the casket of the dead man. This action took courage and disregard for his own reputation. The Jewish law forbade one to touch the casket of a dead person. Jesus would be reprimanded for not obeying the law. However, Jesus’ compassion for this mother and her desperate situation overruled this prohibition of the law.
Finally, Jesus speaks to the dead person: “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to speak. At this point, the Gospel says, “Jesus gave the man back to his mother.”
Was it awareness of his own coming death and of his widowed mother’s loss that moved Jesus to respond mercifully and dramatically to the loss and sorrow of this mother?
In the second reading today, St. Paul tells of his long journey to learn Christ Jesus after he had spent many years of his life persecuting Christ in his followers. Coming to accept Christ was a complete turnaround for Paul. Previously Paul would have been scandalized by Jesus’ conduct in this scene today. The converted Paul, however, would be ready to follow in Jesus’ footsteps in his encounters with sorrowing people.
Right now you and I, too, are called to be Christ to the widows and hurting people of our day. We’ll see the needs and sorrow. We’ll reach out — even if others won’t understand or agree with our actions. We will bring life to loss and death. Jesus’ ministry of compassion and mercy will continue.
Selections from Breaking Open the Lectionary: Lectionary Readings in Their Biblical Context for RCIA, Faith Sharing Groups, and Lectors—Cycle C, by Margaret Nutting Ralph, Copyright © 2006 by Margaret Nutting Ralph. Paulist Press, Inc., New York/Mahwah, NJ. Reprinted by permission of Paulist Press, Inc. www.paulistpress.com.