Perhaps thinking of his own mother, Jesus extends compassion to the widow

     In this weekend’s Gospel (Lk 7:11-17), Jesus is traveling with his disciples and a crowd of followers when the group comes across a funeral.          Apparently, Jesus discovers, the deceased is the only son of a widowed mother.

     The only son of a widowed mother. That’s significant.

     In that ancient world in which Jesus lived, women dependent on the care of a man: usually her father, husband, brother or eldest son. Life could get desperate if a woman in this era did not have the umbrella of this male protection.  

     So here she is. She’s lost her husband and now she’s lost her only son. If she had any daughters, either they were too young and still dependent upon her or they were married and now lived with the families of their own husbands.

     The second thing that’s noteworthy is not just that Jesus raises the son from the dead. In the raising of Jarius’ daughter (Mk 5:21-43), Jarius, a synagogue official approaches Jesus: “Seeing (Jesus) he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, saying, ‘My daughter is at the point of death. Please, come lay your hands on her that she may get well and live.’”

     In the raising of Lazarus (Jn 11:1-57), Martha, his sister, also approaches Jesus.

     “When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home. Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. [But] even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.”

     But in the case of the widow’s son, no one seems to ask Jesus for help. We read that Jesus was “moved with pity for her. . .” What was it in this instance that struck Jesus with such compassion, for indeed, Jesus did raise the woman’s son from the dead?

     “Young man, I tell you arise!”

     As I often do, (most often an exercise in futility), I wonder what Jesus was thinking as he watched this mother mourn the loss of her only son. Arguably, his compassion was more for the mother than the son. Jesus knew the son was in a “better place,” so to speak. But what about the mom?

     Was Jesus thinking of what was to come? Did the pain and grief his own mother, a widow, would suffer when he died on the cross come to mind? Was Jesus thinking who, indeed, would watch over Mary after his own death?

     If Mary was there that day, (she often seemed to travel with Jesus), was the raising of the woman’s son a sign to Mary that even in the pain of death, death never had the final word?  Did it send a message of hope for the resurrection to come?

     “Moved with pity,” Jesus the man did what was in the power of Jesus, our God. This was a moment of profound compassion on the part of our Lord.

     Compassion is something that seems to have become a lost art in our time. We seem to have become hardened and immune to the plights of others who suffer dreadfully from hunger, violence, homelessness, displacement, abandonment and abuse. That which has become so hard to witness, do we now simply choose to not see?

     Jesus did not eradicate suffering, but choose to share in it. In his compassion, like one greatly loved – a friend – he shares in our suffering. He weeps with us. In a homily in 2015, Pope Francis told those gathered: “The great answer (to suffering) is to learn to weep. (Christ) wept for his dead friend; he wept in his heart for that family that had lost their daughter; he wept in his heart when he saw that mother, a poor widow, taking her son to be buried; he was moved and wept in his heart when he saw the multitudes like sheep without a shepherd.

     “If you don’t learn how to weep, you’re not a good Christian,” the pope admonished.

     When was the last time we wept for a stranger? On a scale of one to ten, what is our compassion rating today?


Debbie Bosak is the editor and general manager of Northwest Indiana Catholic Publications and a member of Ss. Peter and Paul Parish in Merrillville. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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