I would rather make mistakes in kindness and compassion than work miracles in unkindness and hardness. – St Teresa of Calcutta: (1910 – 1997: Founded the Missionaries of Charity)
Gospel Text: (LK 7:11-17)
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.
These few words, "Do not weep", encompasses one of the many reasons why Christ's coming to the world. Today's moving gospel reading from St. Luke reminds us that Jesus came to wipe away our tears, to soften our pain, and to lighten the burden of life. One can only imagine how painful must have been the grief of the widow on her way to the cemetery to bury her only child - a son. St. Luke tells us that a "large crowd from the city was with her", but no matter how many people around her, she was now alone and aware only of her pain and grief. In the beautiful city of Nain in the region of Galilee, all she could see was two graves - that of her husband and now that of her only son. Now we might hastily think that this is simply the tragic story of one woman. But isn't it really everyone's story? Life can be and is beautiful but inevitably the day comes when it is no longer so. There is suffering; there is trouble; there is war; there is death. The result of all this is grief - an utterly painful experience that all of us must at some point in life come to terms with.
But how does one handle grief effectively? In the twentieth century we live in an age of miracle drugs. There are few pains which science today cannot lessen or eliminate completely with medication. Yet there is no pill or sedative that can ease the anguish, loneliness and suffering of a grieving and broken heart. Medical authorities tell us that the mismanagement of grief causes all sorts of illnesses from ulcers to psychosis. It may even lead to suicide. Now some people feel that the greatest cure for grief is time. Yet time alone will not heal grief completely. Time can do terrible things to grief. It can turn it into bitter resentment which can poison the body and the mind. If we are to cure grief we must co-operate with time in ways which are constructive.
Unfortunately in our culture we often equate tears with weakness. We even say, "If that person had enough faith as a Christian they would not cry." Yet tears have nothing to do with weakness or lack of faith. When Lazarus died, St. John clearly tells us that "Jesus wept" (John 11:35). And the next verse says very simply but profoundly; "And the Jews said, 'See how much he loved him.'" The fact that Jesus wept teaches us that sorrow is natural. Jesus wept even though he is the Source of life. Tears are an expression of love. Even the sure knowledge of eternal life will not take all the grief out of the human heart when we lose a loved one.
St.Paul says, "Do not grieve as others who have no hope." He is not saying that we should not grieve, but that we should grieve with Christian hope.
"I am the Resurrection and the Life," said Jesus. "Whoever believes in me, though they die, yet shall they live. And whoever lives and believes in me shall never die" (John 11:25-26). Amen.