Are you one of those people who seem to lack patience? Have you ever prayed for patience but didn’t seem to get what you prayed for? I’ve never made any steps forward by praying for patience. Usually I just end up in situations which publicly remind me of how impatient I am. In my life I’ve discovered not to pray for patience but to pray for compassion. Simply put, when I am more compassionate, I am more patient. Moreover, as we look into scripture, compassion is a significant part of God’s divine energy and it is the healing power of Christ.
As we look at the readings today, there are two parallel stories. The story in First Kings is a prophet (Elijah) who goes to the home of a widow whose son falls sick and dies. Elijah prays over him that the life breath may return to the boy and the child is revived. The similar story in the Gospel has another widow who loses her son. Luke states that he is a man, not a child as in the first story. Jesus, being the man of God, steps forward, touches the coffin and commands the son to arise. With this the people begin glorifying God and call Jesus a great prophet. Jesus, as well as the crowds in the Gospel story, certainly would have known well the accounts of Elijah. So would many of the readers of Luke’s gospel. And if Elijah can bring the dead back to life, then so too can Jesus who we claim to be greater than Elijah.
When you look at these stories what catches your attention? Perhaps it is the details around how the “miracle” happens? Or is it the healing power of the holy man? Who in the story do you find yourself identifying with: the widow, the holy man, or the son? If you take a closer look, both stories have the holy man concerned with the widow, but is it only the need to do something about her grief? Luke suggests not. This son, he says, is her only son. Why is this significant? This is a widow. She has no husband. She lives in a very patriarchal society where men have all the rights and women don’t have any rights. For her to lose her son is for her to lose the only connection she would have in her society which would give her identity, voice, status, rights or even a legal advocate. When Jesus sees how this woman is so deeply torn, Luke says he was moved with pity. He is moved in the very core of his being. And he must do something about the situation. Both stories are about the power of compassion, the need to do something about the situation that brings life.
Here we are in this time after Easter where we focused on resurrection and new life. Liturgically we are beyond both Ascension and Pentecost which means Jesus has ascended to his Father and sent us his Spirit. Thus the question we are left with is how do we discover the power of compassion to do something about the situations that need more life? I have witnessed some remarkable things parents have done out of love and compassion for their children. But rather than start with remarkable things, perhaps we can start with a small yet significant thing. How do we bring compassion into the areas of our hearts where we are so judgmental towards others? I’m reminded almost daily how judgments which we hold against one another rob us of so much happiness. The Dali Lama said, “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
Fr. David Colhour, C.P. is the pastor of St. Agnes Parish in Louisville, Kentucky.