The grief of a mother in Nain evokes an emotional and physical response from Jesus. The widow loses her only son. She also loses her security and will live in poverty. Jesus shows the onlookers the heart of God.
Consider the scene. Two groups meet at the city gate: Jesus and his crowd of disciples and the widow’s community. Both groups note that “the Lord” had compassion. This is the first time Luke refers to Jesus as “Lord,” and he uses the word in relation to Jesus’ compassion.
The Greek word for this compassion literally implies a gut reaction to the situation of the one who suffers. Jesus has such compassion for the widow that in his gut he empathizes with her pain.
Luke stresses compassion as having two distinct aspects: Jesus’ heart is moved, and then he acts. Without both aspects, the encounter becomes mere pity, which diminishes the person in need. Jesus first comforts the woman with words: “Do not weep.” Then he offers physical help: the son rises and speaks.
Our words and actions can restore life. The tears that move Jesus can give us pause to consider that Jesus consistently models the way compassion orients right action. We embody the character of Jesus when we feel moved emotionally to initiate concrete responses.
Will we allow ourselves to experience such a compassionate encounter? Can we bring our grief and fear to the gate of our life as it once was, and can we imagine Jesus’ heart going out to us? If we can, then inevitably we will do likewise.

God of compassion, may we meet people at the gates of their grief and embody your care. May they experience life restored as our hearts go out to them and as we offer aid through word and action. Amen.


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