IN THOSE DAYS, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and His disciples and a large crowd went with Him. As He approached the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow. And with her was a large crowd from the town. When the Lord saw her, He had compassion for her, and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then He came forward and touched the coffin, and the bearers stood still. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise!” The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Then fear seized the crowd, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen among us!” and “God has visited His people!”
"In those days..." is a phrase with which the Gospel lesson in church often begins. It means to imply that what we are about to read happened in those days, that it is a historical event. And so the given Gospel lesson for Sunday describes an event that happened in history - Jesus encountering the funeral procession and resurrecting an only son of a widowed woman.
But it also says something that is not verbally described, namely that status and condition of this woman. In those days, the only way a woman could do anything in the society was through her husband. You see, a woman was not considered to be equal to a man. In terms of being a human being, not that men and women are the same (because they are not, of course. Anyone who's ever seen a woman and a man knows that they are not the same).
In those days, for example, a woman could be one of many wives of one man, but she never had many husbands. A woman was not allowed to support herself by working, unless it was prostitution, in which case she was considered to be even less of a human being. A woman could not divorce her husband, but husband could divorce her. She could not even go to court to give a testimony because women were not trusted. Her husband had to go to the court and give testimony for her.
So, the woman had already lost her husband, and now she was burying her son. If the husband died, she would depend on her son for support, and now she lost even him. You can imagine her grief. This funeral procession might as well have been for her as well.
And then "the Lord saw her." He saw her, a woman, a mother, and a widow. He did not see someone for whom He could perform a miracle, but someone on whom He could show His compassion. The word com-passion means to suffer with. Jesus saw her and He shared her grief, He suffered with her. Think about it one more time, God suffered with a human being.
And that's how God sees us. He sees us with compassion and sympathy. He sees us in desperation, and there is no tear that goes unnoticed, no sigh that goes unheard. Nothing about us is concealed from God's sight. He looks at us with mercy, understanding, and compassion. And because the Son of God is also a human being, God knows also our infirmities, He recognizes our feelings.
To be seen by God is not always a pleasant experience because He sees us as we are. But it is humbling and reassuring to know that God has compassion on us, even as we are. He understands our suffering, and through His mercy He is constantly giving us a chance to show similar compassion to others, and through that become a little bit like Him.
Last year's reflection can be accessed here.
Yours in the Lord,