Through a glass darkly: With God there is always more
''Jesus 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'" (Lk 7:14-16).
In my experience of reading the New Testament, particularly the Gospels, despite my training and my years as a priest, I comprehend these words in only a limited way, and this is understandable. To be able to see into the depths of God's Revelation, we need to have in us the mind of Christ Jesus, who is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit. So often we consider a scene, as in the raising of the widow of Nain's son, in a shallow fashion, taking it at face value.
Death has a way of rattling us to the core. Of late, we have been exposed to so many horrors, and our ability to communicate these horrors is both a blessing and a curse. Our hearts break for those in war's way, and we feel helpless to do anything to stop the violence, save our fervent prayers. Jesus' own horrible death is reflected in scenes of immense suffering, brought swiftly to our phones and laptops and on television.
In the simple story of a widow, her deceased son, and Jesus bringing him back from death, we hear of immense sorrow but also of the compassion of Christ and his absolute power over death. But there is more. We could consider the cultural context, the traditions of the mother whom Jesus encountered, the way of conducting a funeral in the Palestine of her day, and so on. Any of that would bring us to a deeper comprehension of the meaning of this event. But even with all of that, we would only be scratching the surface to concoct an interpretation that fits our ability to comprehend.
With God, there is always more! For if, in fact, Jesus is God incarnate, and if he indeed brought a young man from the dead, then the implications cannot be limited to reason and the senses.
-- "Young man, I tell you, arise!"
We are told that reports of what happened spread throughout the entire region, even without Facebook, and 2 millennia later, we know what Jesus did for that poor woman who had lost her husband and her son. In that day and age, she would have had nothing left. But God visited his people, in the person of his divine son.
In these days of international tension, protests and war, which are always devastating and gruesome, we walk by faith and not by sight. In a world plagued by sin and death, awareness can happen, hearts can change: one person, one family, one parish at a time. And it needs to happen, because unless we walk by faith, we will perish, and the signs of the times are like dark, ominous clouds rolling in.
Beyond that, death is our curse. Like Lazarus, the widow's son eventually and finally died. Of course, so will we. The whole month of November prompts us to "memento mori," to remember death, and prepare for it. Bear in mind that, in the end, Jesus is our only hope. There is no one, and nothing else, that will save us.
"For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then, I shall know just as I am known" (1 Cor 13:12).
- Bishop Robert Reed is an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Boston, pastor of Sacred Heart/St. Patrick Church in Watertown and president of the CatholicTV network.