The raising of the widow's son was a lesson to us all.
as told by Deborah
Shortly after healing the captain’s servant, Jesus and his disciples headed for the town of Nain, and a big crowd followed along.
Just as Jesus reached the entrance to the town, a man who had died was being carried out for burial. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow; and a number of people from the town accompanied her.
When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” He walked over and took hold of the stretcher on which the body lay. The bearers stopped in their tracks. Jesus said, “Young man, I tell you: arise!”
At that the dead man sat up and began speaking, and Jesus gave him to his mother.
Everyone there was in awe, and they praised God for what they had seen; “A great prophet is right here with us!” “God helps us!” “God cares about us!” “God loves us!” And the word spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding countryside.
I think Jesus is the only one who has a right to say those words — and only at the moment when he is going to take action “to wipe away every tear” from the mourning mother’s eyes. People cry: it is a normal, healthy human reaction to sorrow, not something to repress.
And yet, when faced with grief, we’ve all all heard — and said — well-meaning comments that serve to shut down tears. “He is in a better place,” “It’s God’s will,” “We should be happy that her suffering is over.” “Don’t cry; it will be all right.”
Those words may be true… but they can’t heal the heart. The one who has died is gone, it is the survivors who are hurting; our crying is the cry of pain. We weep for ourselves: for our losses and our loneliness. It is not “all right” right now.
We do not need to be told: “Don’t cry, it will be all right,” but “It’s OK to cry.”
And as we cry, we heal; but only a little at the start. It takes many tears to ease the pain, and gently clear a space for peace and gratitude to grow.
Tears are not a sign of weakness, but a necessary aspect of the healing of our souls. There is no shame in crying; even Jesus wept.
“In the midst of life we are in death; ashes to ashes, dust to dust ...”
A friend from seminary has always insisted that phrase shouldn’t be in the funeral service; he thinks that it sounds so hopeless and devoid of the Gospel good news. But I think it is powerful in its honesty: the Promise of Christ isn’t that life will always be easy and uncomplicated, but that it is always blessed.
In the midst of life there will be illnesses, losses, disappointments, and death. Our hearts will hurt.
In the midst of life we are in death. But it isn’t the end.
In the raising of the widow’s son, Jesus offered us an embodied parable, showing us that appearances can be deceiving. What seems to be an ending may instead be a beginning. Death can lead to a new life.
And He showed us, too, something very important about God — that those who saw the miracle recognized and shouted out loud: God is with us; God cares for us and loves us. With no strings attached.
Jesus restored the man’s life because He was filled with compassion. There was no mention of faith, there were no prayers, no pleas, no cries for help — it was simply and fully and act of grace. The Holy response to human grief is to bless and to heal.
Although we cannot see it, death is not the end. Divine Love has the last word.
The same is true of the “mini-deaths” we face throughout our lives, both the good and the bad. Every change is an ending of one thing, and a beginning of something new: graduations, separations, births, marriages, new jobs, retirements, relocations, … some are easy, some are joyful, some are heart-wrenching.
In all things God is with us. God cares for us and loves us.
As Julian of Norwich saw so clearly in her vision, God has promised: “All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”
Virtual hugs and real-time blessings,
Reflect on these words:
You have turned my weeping into dancing;
you have taken away my grief and replaced it with joy.
~ Psalm 30:11
Note that there was weeping first, which only later turned into dancing. Don’t be afraid of tears — your own or anyone else’s; they bless and refresh the soul.