10 Sunday of the Year C
1Kgs 17:17-24; Gal 1:11-19; Lk 7:11-17
Introduction: This is a homily/Scripture reflection in a book, titled: ‘Every Week God Speaks We Respond’, Cycle B, intended to be published in the future by Reverend John Tran Binh Trong.
It was published in Vietnamese in the US 2008 and republished in Viet Nam 2011. To keep the author’s writing style, this homily has not been edited and may not be by a hired hand. However, if readers would like to point out mistake(s) in spelling and grammar and/or to suggest English phrases and expressions, it would be greatly appreciated by the author, whose English is not his mother tongue and who did not live in the US until his adulthood. Passive sentences are used intentionally in this context as to avoid using the first personal pronoun ‘I’ when applicable, that might be associated with any idea of egotism, in accord with the French saying, known as: ‘Le moi est haissable’ (The ego is detestable).
Jesus’ compassion is part of his human nature in him. In the person of Jesus, there are two natures: the divine nature and the human nature. Jesus came, taking the human nature, being suffered and put to death for the sin of humankind. He also showed compassion and mercy. He cried for the people of Jerusalem (Lk 19:41) at the prospect of being destroyed. In the Garden of Gethsemani, he prayed in his anguish (Lk 22:44).
Jesus also shared the human suffering with the hungry, the sick, the suffering and the bereaved in body and spirit. Today when coming to Nain, Jesus saw a funeral. Attending a funeral was a sad occasion. Those attending a funeral, dress in black or white depending on different cultures, with downcast countenance to share the suffering with the deceased’s family. Attending a funeral of a young man, the only son of a widow added more sadness. Moved with pity, Jesus commanded the dead man to rise: Young man, I bid you get up (Lk 7:14).
To show mercy, one must know how to share. Sharing on a funeral is to share the sadness, the suffering with the widow and the bereaved family. In order to share the suffering, one must know how to sympathize. Not to be able to sympathize, one cannot share.
Today’s Gospel tells us when Jesus saw Marta weeping and the Jew also weeping: He was troubled in spirit, moved by the deepest emotions (Jn 11:33). In addition, when they took him to see the tomb, he began to weep (v. 35). His weeping showed that he also had the human feeling with a heart, which can be touched at the suffering of the two sisters.
Because of his compassion for the widow of Zarephath, the prophet Elijah prayed asking the Lord to raise her son to life (1Kgs 17:21-22). Then, she realized Elijah as a man of God (1Kgs 17:24). If anyone asks: did Elijah also have the power to work miracles like Jesus? Is there any difference between the power to work miracles by Jesus and Elijah? The answer is there is a big difference. To raise the widow’s son to life, Elijah had to stretch himself out over her son and cried out to God three times, asking God to have mercy on her who had let him stay in her house (1Kgs 17:21). As for Jesus, he just touched the young man’s litter and bid him rise (Lk 7:14).
To be able to show compassion, we need to ask ourselves whether we share and sympathize with the sufferings of others. No need to see far away, we can find people around us suffer in body and spirit, such as in hunger, poverty, disease, accident, handicap and family breakdown. God wants to use human beings as his instruments to ease human sufferings.
In the society we are living, people tend to be self-sufficient and independent. Therefore, people hesitate to show their emotions with others in public even with family members. We can meet people who seem to be normal, but carry within themselves sufferings in body and spirit such as poverty and hunger, family breakdown or oppression. In one family, members also need moral support from one another. Living far away from parents and relatives, many people had to carry their own suffering by themselves. When a wife encounters a hardship without support from her husband, she might seek support from somebody else of the opposite sex. That might be a threat to her married life.
In an annual retreat for priests of a certain diocese, a retreat master mentioned an opposite relation between outside pressure and the state of mind. When one is demanded in office, family or parish, that one has not satisfied, one would feel low in spirit. On the contrary, when one is not under pressure, one would be relaxing. The retreat master also told a story in one diocese. The diocesan priests complained not to be supported by a diocesan bishop when they were opposed. The bishop responded when he was opposed, why did they not support him?
How can we face those sufferings physically and mentally if not supported by others? The answer is we should learn to see those sufferings in body and spirit not as a dead end without escape, but to unite our sufferings with the sufferings of Jesus. We offer our sufferings to mingle with the sufferings of Jesus for the remission of the sins of the world and our own sins. To bring the meaning of atonement for sin to our sufferings for the love of God, will help us carry our sufferings in a lighter way.
A prayer asking to have a heart that knows how to be touched:
Lord Jesus, rich in compassion!
You have the heart that shows compassion
before the suffering of humankind.
We ask you to touch our hearts
so that we may share the sufferings of others:
and thus lessen their sufferings.
Transform me into your instrument of love. Amen.
John Tran Binh Trong