Gospel reflection for Luke 7:11-17
Today’s readings can be found on the USCCB website.
Several years ago I read a feature article on the plight of refugees of war. Interviewing a young mother, the author recorded that she couldn’t help but weep as she heard how this woman’s husband had been killed and in the crisis of immediate evacuation, in the hectic and confusing crowd pushing as everyone was fleeing to get out of the city, she lost her son. She had lost her only son, only a child.
Though I have never experienced the trauma of war, nor of fleeing war, my heart was rent reading this woman’s plight. I had two young children at the time I read the article. Even imagining for one second that I could lose one of them in the chaos of a city fleeing impending violence broke something within me.
My compassion for that woman losing her child felt overwhelming. I wanted to do something. I wanted to help her; to help those like her. I wanted to restore her child to her. I couldn’t just walk by on the other side of the road. My prayers were filled with asking intercession for those fleeing war and for those who had the power to stop it.
In the Gospel today we meet a woman who has lost her only son. Not only this, but she had also lost her husband at some point; she was also a widow. In that funeral procession, she was contending not only with the loss of her child, but also the terrifying fate before her: no protective support. She had no advocate, no voice in her society now. She likely had no income, so her life set before her was one of heavy grief, with no place in society, and no further income.
When the Lord saw her, he was moved with pity for her. 7:13
The Greek verb for ‘pity’ (ἐσπλαγχνίσθη) is perhaps more relatable by another translation: compassion. It is used only two more times in Luke’s Gospel, both parables: when the Samaritan is moved with compassion for the man left for dead (10:33) and when the loving father sees his son in the distance and is filled with compassion for his lost son (15:20). The common theme among all three of these is that of desiring and acting for restoration.
and Jesus gave him to his mother. 7:15.
Jesus himself breaks at seeing the plight of this broken woman and is so filled with compassion that he wanted to do something. He wanted to help her. He restored her child to her. He couldn’t just walk by on the other side of the road.
This compassion is what fills our Lord; it is what has led to the incarnation and to our salvation in and through the cross. Our Father lost his children when they chose to turn away from him, but his compassion for us necessitated the situation be changed. And so God acted to bring about restoration, our redemption. On that third day the Son was resurrected and, in a sense, restored. Not to the Father, but to humanity and in a greater way than before. For now we, too, are brought up into his divine life. We, too, receive the inheritance of his compassion. It is his compassion, his love, which is the way we enter into that fullness of life with him.
Will we choose to inherit his compassion, as the younger son did? Can we choose to look at the plight of our neighbours, be overwhelmed with compassion, and act in persona christi by responding to those in need?
And will we celebrate when they become found again?
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