Showing Compassion to Those Who Are Grieving
“As [Jesus] drew near the gate of [Nain], a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow.”
From an article entitled “A Grieving Mom’s Request “ which appeared in The Boston Globe Magazine, on March 8, 2015. – a year after the death of her daughter, a grieving mom – Roberta Waters writes to family and friends: she writes,
“There are no appropriate words; nothing you can say that will make it better. But your calls, your visits, your invitations mean a lot to me. They remind me that I am still alive and still have a life outside of this tragedy.”
“I cry a lot, and I am OK with that. I’m not embarrassed about it, and you shouldn’t be, either. Please don’t suggest that I take medication. I’m entitled to my emotions. I need to feel, and to grieve. I want to talk about my daughter. I want to say her name and hear her name, and if I cry, it’s OK. Please don’t avoid talking to me because you don’t want to upset me. I will cry either alone or in front of you, and I don’t want you to feel uncomfortable or guilty.”
“If what you tell me is true, that you think of me all the time, please call me or send me an e-mail. Don’t wait for that random grocery-aisle meeting to tell me how much I am on your mind . .. My loss is not contagious. You shouldn’t be scared to be with me. Any discomfort you initially feel should subside if you give it a chance and give me a chance. If you are planning an evening out, or a lunch date, or a getaway, please make an effort to include me. I often feel like a pariah. My intention is not to ‘bring you down,’ and I do my best not to burden anyone with my sadness. Don’t feel awkward inviting me to have some ‘fun,’ and don’t assume I won’t join in, so why even bother asking. I may often decline, but it is comforting to be included. Being excluded is killing me …”
“If you see my kids, don’t just ask them how I am doing; please ask them how they are doing. They lost their older sister, their confidante, their best friend, and they need to know that people are concerned about them, too. This loss happened to my whole family — all of us – not just me!”
“I realized this past year, after the last meal was dropped off, the last card arrived, and the official visits were over, that everyone’s lives resumed, except for ours. Yes, we go through the motions, smiling, working, shopping, nodding, and telling people we are fine. But deep inside there is that void, that constant ache that will always be there, as it should be, and that is all right with me.”
In today’s gospel, we hear Jesus restoring the son of the widow in Nain back to life! Like many times before, Jesus crosses paths with a crowd of people. He could have passed by or waited until they called him. But He didn’t. He took the initiative-, because He was moved by a widow’s sorrow. She had just lost all she had, her son.
St. Luke explains that Jesus was moved. Perhaps he even showed signs of it, as when His friend Lazarus died. Jesus Christ was not, and is not, insensitive to the suffering that stems from love. He is pained at seeing children separated from their parents. He overcomes death so as to give life, to reunite those who love one another. But at the same time, he requires that we first admit the pre-eminence of His divine love, which alone can inspire genuine Christian living.
Christ knows He is surrounded by a crowd which will be awed by the miracle and will tell the story all over the countryside. But He does not act artificially, merely to create an effect. Quite simply He is touched by that woman’s suffering and so He consoles her. He goes up to her and says, “Do not weep.” It’s like saying; “I don’t want to see you crying; I have come on earth to bring joy and peace.” And then comes the miracle, the sign of the power of Christ who is God. But first came His compassion, an evident sign of the tenderness of the heart of Christ the God/man.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, in today’s Gospel, Jesus encounters the widow of Nain who is burying her son and, St. Luke writes, He “was moved with pity” for her. While we feel the heartbreak for survivors like the widow in today’s gospel and the Roberta Waters grieving for her daughter, we don’t often know what to do or say – and so we sometimes avoid them. But in her letter to her family and friends, this grieving mother offers all of us a lesson in compassion. While we cannot restore their loved ones to life as Jesus does in today’s Gospel, we can restore the grieving to life — we can help them cross the bridge from their isolating grief to being part of the community again. It does not require an understanding of the psychology of grief; it begins with loving and caring enough to call, to invite, to inquire, and to offer. There are no words that will make it better — we can only offer the compassion that is of God that heals and restores in its own good time.
Mary, Comforter of the Afflicted, pray for us!
10th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C
Sunday, June 5th, 2016