And the dead young man sat up and began to speak and Jesus gave him to his mother (Luke 7:15)
In the gospel of Luke, this is the first time that Jesus raises someone from the dead. The event occurs in Naim, a small town in Galilee situated near Shunem where many centuries before Elijah had raised the son of a widow. It is narrated that as Jesus neared the gates of the town, he was met by a funeral procession. The funeral was for a young man (neaniskos) “the only son of a widowed mother.”
Widows — together with orphans — were the special object of Jewish social concern since they were vulnerable. This one just lost her only son; that means she also lost not only support but also the joy and fulfillment of being a mother and the possibility of being a grandmother. She was probably distraught in a way that is hard for us today to imagine. And Jesus had compassion on her.
The verb used here is splanchnizomai — a verb that graphically represented what happened within Jesus. It will be again used in the parable of the Good Samaritan as the reaction of the Samaritan to the man who was left for dead on the road to Jericho. This “compassion” leads to doing something for the other. Jesus, feeling compassion for the widow, first says to her “Do not cry”. Then he touches the bier — something that for a Jew was a big No-no since it made one unholy. But Jesus is the Holy One, and touching the bier, drew upon himself — not the unholiness associated with the dead — but death itself. He took upon himself the death of that young man so that he can replace it with Life — His life in an anticipation of the Resurrection.
The story’s conclusion is touching: Jesus restores the young man to his mother. St. Augustine illustrates his conversion in the same words, as his restoration to his widowed mother, Monica. The Church in fact gives us this story from Luke as the text to reflect on for the memorial of St. Monica, at the same time showing us that Jesus can also bring back to life the son of a woman who has been lost through the death of sin.
Lord Jesus, turn your compassionate eyes upon the Philippines, our Motherland. Give her the joy of seeing her sons and daughters live in peace and security and benefitting from the abundance — envied and desired by other nations — that she possesses. Resurrect her sons and daughters; save them from moral corruption that they may truly live for others and for God.
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