Losing a Son

Written by Sr. Rosemary, O.P.
Reading from: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/091719.cfm

When I read today’s familiar gospel story about the poor mother who lost her only son, I thought again how devastating a time it must have been for my own mother when she lost her first and only child at that time, a son named Dennis.  My Dad, also completely devastated, was half way round the world serving in the military when it happened.  Dennis was 18 months old when he died of a brain tumor. He was not only their only child, but he was the only grandchild on both sides.  To my parents’ credit, their faith, and the strong support they had during that time, they always shared Dennis’ beloved memory with their next 9 children, and he continues to live in our hearts to this day.

It makes me wonder about the woman in our gospel. What was her name and how long had she been a widow?  How did her son, her sole protector and provider, die?  Was it sudden or had she spent her days caring for him? What a sad scene it must have been:  a crowd of people making their way down a narrow street in a funeral procession… a little Jewish woman being almost carried along by her family and friends… the sounds of her constant crying.  Her grief must have been overwhelming, but she did not go unnoticed.

Jesus saw her crying and was moved to compassion.  Making his way through the grief-stricken crowd, he went over to the coffin and gently said: “Young man, I tell you, arise.” Imagine this woman’s total joy and delight when her son sat up, and the crowd’s outbursts of praise and glory.  How their lives were changed as a result of this encounter with the compassionate Christ.

Compassion is a surely a quality much needed in our time.  The word itself means to suffer with, to be conscious of others’ distress and to have a desire to alleviate their suffering.  It’s the ability to be really present to someone in need, to be tender and kind.  We may not be able to perform miracles for others like Jesus did, but we are still called to help others.  In their suffering, as followers of the compassionate Christ, we see the face of God. 

It’s certainly not a stretch for us to have compassion and show generosity for the people of the Bahamas, or the people of Haiti, or the homeless in our cities.  But sometimes, it’s hard to be compassionate to those who are closest to us, who try our patience, who can be somewhat annoying.  By showing them Christlike compassion, however, we can not only be present and serve that person, but our hearts can be changed as well.  And in the process, we are helping to repair our broken world with kindness one person at a time.

May we reclaim Christlike compassion in our hearts, our homes and our world.