God’s Great Compassion

Luke 7: 11-17
1 Tm 3:1-13/Ps 101:1-3,5,6

God has visited His people!
(Luke 7:16)

Jew or gentile, sinner or saint,
God never makes a distinction;
His love for all knows no restraint,
No bounds for His great compassion.

After healing the centurion’s servant, Jesus journeyed to a town called Nain, with his disciples and a large crowd accompanying Him. As He drew near to the gate of the town, 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 town 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 was raised, and Jesus gave him to his mother. The people exclaimed, “A great prophet has arisen among us,” and “God has visited his people.”

Apparently, the widow in this story was a good woman, popular with her townsfolks, for “a large crowd from the town was with her.” Our Lord Jesus had just come from Capernaum, and a large crowd was also with Him. But unlike the followers of Jesus, who marched with jubilation in the company of a miracle worker, the people of Nain were a procession of mourners. And the two disparate crowds met at the town gate. This stark disparity of revelers and mourners first struck Jesus, but what moved Him to compassion was the mourning widow, now totally alone and helpless.

Reflection

While Jesus healed the centurion’s servant because of the latter’s faith, it was Jesus’ own compassion for the widow that moved Him to raise her son from the dead. While the Roman centurion sent emissaries to Jesus for help, the widow never entreated Jesus’ help. She did nothing; the initiative all came from our Lord. The Roman centurion was powerful, the widow was helpless. One was a gentile, the other a Jew. The centurion’s slave was “valuable to him” (7:2), but the widow’s son was virtually her life. What are these contrasting elements telling us in today’s Gospel account? It may be this: In God’s great compassion, He never makes any distinction, whether man or woman, rich or poor, faithful follower or not, He has no favorites, He is the God of all.

We are, in our sinfulness, like the mourning people of Nain. But “God has visited His people” in our faith, in our remorse for our sins, in helping others who are in similar distress, in His Word in Holy Scriptures, and in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. God’s presence is evident in our breakfast fellowships and prayer meetings, where we vicariously experience His goodness in the testimonies of brothers and sisters. He is present for us in the confessional box, and joins us when we receive Him in the celebration of the mass (which is why we want to receive Him as often as we can). It is certainly His presence that moves us to compassion in works of mercy, just as He is there when we meditate His words in Holy Scriptures.

You fill us with great hope, Almighty Father, for Your compassion has no limits, and You are always with us in Your Holy Spirit, in the Eucharist, and in Your Word. For all these, we have no reason to fear. Amen.

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