Cycle C: Tenth Sunday of the Liturgical Year




For the first time in the Gospel, we see Jesus coming face to face with death, the death of a young man whose funeral procession he came across on his way to Nain. We are very interested in knowing what Jesus did and what he said, because there is no other circumstance in life when we experience our limitations in such a radical way. That is why we feel powerless before death.


  • The context


Jesus was coming from Capernaum where, a few days earlier, he had healed the servant of the centurion who had shown very great faith in him. Moreover, Jesus was not alone. He was accompanied by his disciples and a large number of people. Nain was a small town which is still inhabited today, not far from mount Thabor.


When he came near the gates of that small town, Jesus and his followers came across a funeral procession. We can easily imagine their reaction. They must have become silent, especially when they came to know that the dead person was a young man who had died in the prime of life, the only son of a widow. That poor woman had lost her last reason to live.

All eyes in the crowd must have turned to Jesus. A few days earlier, he had healed a dying servant in Capernaum, and now he was standing before the bier of a dead young man. What was he going to do? Speak a few words of consolation to that poor widow, as we ourselves do in such circumstances? The evangelist wrote that Jesus felt sorry for that woman. His first words were for her. “Do not cry,” he said. Then he approached the bier and told the bearers to stop. Then he said: “Young man, I tell you to get up.” And the young man got up and began to walk. The bystanders could not believe their eyes. So, they began to praise God for what had happened.


  • The message


What can we learn from this Gospel incident?

  1. First, what strikes us is to see how Jesus could feel deeply touched by the sight of human suffering. As soon as he saw this poor widow in tears, he was moved with compassion. Saint Luke uses the same expression – “moved with compassion” – to describe the reaction of the Good Samaritan at the sight of a wounded man.


Jesus’ compassion was so great that he seemed to forget what he usually expected from those who asked for a miracle: an act of faith! When he raised Lazarus from the dead, he expected that act of faith from Martha: “I am the Resurrection and the Life. Do you believe this?” And when he reached the tomb of his friend Lazarus, Jesus was unable to hold his tears, so much so that people said: “See how much he loved him.” It seems that the sight of human distress was always unbearable for Jesus. In Nain, he was moved by the tears of that woman. So, he said to her: “Do not cry.” And he raised her son from the dead.

Some of you may think that, being of divine nature, Jesus could not really experience our human feelings. You have only to read again this Gospel incident to realize that holiness does not mean lack of sensitivity. To be sensitive is a great quality. Holiness has nothing to do with a kind of stoic attitude of cold and austere resignation. Jesus did not feel it beneath his dignity to weep before the tomb of Lazarus or to feel sorry for that poor widow of Nain.


  1. Secondly, what is remarkable in this Gospel incident is the sovereign authority with which Jesus dealt with death. Those who stood by were all deeply impressed by it. And rightly so, because no prophet had ever spoken the way Jesus did. People were aware of that. That is why the evangelist wrote: “He spoke with authority, not like the scribes” (Mt. 7: 29). He spoke with total confidence. And it is the same sovereign authority that impressed the apostles in several other occasions like, for example, when he calmed the storm over the sea (Ref. Mt. 8: 26). That is why the people reacted by saying: “A great prophet has risen in our midst.”


Jesus knew what death is. That is why he shared in the suffering of those who lost a dear one. However, he showed us also that he was the absolute Master: he raised the widow’s son to life, he raised the daughter of Jairus and he raised his friend Lazarus who had been in the tomb for four days. And he did it with such ease. He had only to say, “Young man, I tell you to get up,” – “Little girl, I tell you to get up,” – “Lazarus, here, come out.” And when we realize how easy it was for Jesus to raise the dead to life, we can truly believe the promises he makes: “If anyone believes in me, even though he dies he will live” (Jn 11: 25). In other words, the death of our bodies will not be the end of everything.


  1. The miracle itself is very revealing. Usually, Jesus’ miracles recalled events of the Old Testament and they foreshadowed future events. For example, the multiplication of loaves recalled the gift of the manna in the desert and it foreshadowed the gift of the Eucharist. The miracle of Nain recalled the other miracle performed by prophet Elijah when he, too, raised the son of a poor widow to life, as we heard from the First Reading today. It also foreshadowed the Resurrection of Christ.


  1. From this Gospel incident, we learn that Jesus has power not only on physical death, but also on the death of the soul which prevents us from living in union with God. That death, too, requires a resurrection, an invisible resurrection. Jesus alone can achieve it. Remember what he said to the paralytic before healing him: “Your sins are forgiven” (Mt. 9: 2). And to the thief dying by his side: “Today, you will be with me in paradise” (Lk. 23: 43).


  • Application to life

We can summarize everything by saying that, on that day, a procession of death met a procession of life. After the miracle, the people who wept stopped weeping, threw away their funeral garments and joined the other procession to return to the little town of Nain in unbelievable joy and exultation.


The Church is that procession of life which, in the footsteps of its Master, encounters millions of people who are dying spiritually or are already spiritually dead. Christ alone can raise them to new life. There is no salvation without him. That is what Saint Paul was not afraid to proclaim before the tribunal of the Jews: “For all the names in the world given to men, this is the only one by which we can be saved.”


Jesus had supreme power over the death of others. However, was that a sufficient proof to convince us that we, too, will rise again from the dead? It could have been. In that case, Jesus himself would not have had to die on the cross. If he died like we will all die some day, it is because he wanted to share in our human condition.

And when he died, it looked as if he had lost his power over death. But you know very well what happened. After three days, he came back to life and showed himself alive to his own disciples first, and then to a large number of his followers. Thus the Resurrection of Jesus should be the feast of our greatest joy. Now we know for certain that we shall rise again one day, because Jesus himself rose again from the dead. That is the central event on which our faith is founded. Saint Paul wrote: “If Christ has not been raised, then your believing it is useless”. But if Christ has been raised, death has been vanquished. That is why the death of our bodies can be compared to a sleep as Jesus said about the Roman official’s daughter whom he raised from the dead (Ref. Mt. 9: 24). One day, we will rise again from that “sleep” and reach the place that Jesus has gone to prepare for us.


A woman had not intended to dial that number. She wanted to call her sister and make arrangements for meeting her that evening. There were still several matters to settle before she left for home. A week ago, they had buried their mother, and within the last few days they had disposed of the furnishings of her house. A deep sense of loss still gnawed at her heart. Instinctively her fingers had dialled her mother’s number, just as they had done automatically for years.

As soon as she was aware of the mistake, she wanted to hang up and not hear those horrible words: “No connection is possible with that number.” But her hand became numb. Suddenly the telephone booth became very stuffy and she could not move. Then something strange happened. She heard a pleasant recorded message from the telephone office which she had never heard before. It said: “Connections with the number you have dialled are temporarily interrupted.” That recorded message suddenly became for her a very meaningful statement: at some time this connection with her mother would be re-established, at a time determined by God.(G. Beissel)


The resurrection of the body is something difficult to believe. However, the Gospel tells us that it is not only possible, but also certain. Yet remember that if you are certain about it, you still have to believe, because you have not yet experienced it. And when we say that we are certain about our resurrection, we don’t say it to boast about it as if it were a privilege that belongs to us alone. No, we are not boasting about it, but we are not afraid to tell others about it. And if we really believe in our resurrection, we are bound to be happy.

Hervé Morissette, csc