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Can you ever imagine a moment, a time, an experience where you felt completely alone. Not that you were physically alone with no one around you like you were in some desolate location - an igloo on some glacier, in the middle of some desert or the top of a mountain without any other human contact for an extended period of time. But worse than that - when there are people around and feeling alone. When you feel that:
No one truly understanding what it is you’re experiencing.
No one knows the pain, the fear, the doubt that plagues your heart.
No one can relate to the anxiety that keeps you awake at night.
That experience of feeling completely alone is probably a bit more common and might have affected many (if not all) of us at some time. What’s so challenging is that it can be such a vicious cycle. Especially when we have friends or relatives for whatever reason aren’t equipped to help us deal with what it is we’re facing... When no one seems to have the ability to bring healing, speak words of comfort to whatever trial it is. People can become more isolated, feel more disconnected when they are going through whatever challenge it is that caused this aloneness in the first place. Yes, I’d venture to say that experience of aloneness we’ve experienced at some time or in some way in our lives.
In the Gospel we just heard, as is often the case, we can focus solely on the miraculous event and miss the deeper message. Which is understandable because this miracle is truly spectacular. To hear how this funeral procession, in front of a crowd of people in this city of Nain turns into a resuscitation party - a coming back to life party, is pretty amazing.
But there’s something deeper that Jesus is trying to teach us that is far greater than that singular spectacular event. The Good News of the Gospel is that even when we feel our greatest despair, desolation, and we feel utterly alone - we aren’t. When our feelings betray us, our friends and family are inadequate, whether because of their lack of ability or their choosing not to - God never takes his loving gaze off of us. God will not leave us alone.
We learn that with just a few details from this passage. Actually when we think about it - there’s so few details, we don’t even know important things like the widow’s name or the name of her deceased son. But we do know the sense of aloneness she was experiencing. She’s already lost her husband. She’s now lost her only son. In that day and age, that wasn’t just an emotionally devastating loss of those closest to her; her livelihood, her security was gone too. She's lost everything that mattered, everything that was of value and importance to her. So we can understand why she’s weeping; why she’s inconsolable as she walks in a crowd.
We can imagine random people saying well intentioned things like "he’s in a better place," "at least he’s not in pain now" or "I know how you feel" - which could make her only feel feel worse and more and more alone. Because no one could no how she felt. And all those well intentioned words probably caused her to wonder What’s this better place that my family has gone to, leaving me abandoned...
All this pain is in this woman’s heart. Her tears cannot revealed the depths of sadness she was experiencing. Depths that no doubt some mourners in that funeral procession probably were uncomfortable with - you can imagine some of them wanting to race through these funeral rites in their unease over her pain and their uncomfortableness in the face of it.
Jesus continues to do the same thing in our day and age; in our own trials and situations... He meet us in our aloneness. He speaks to our fears, our doubts our anxieties - words of Hope, words of comfort, words of healing. Jesus bring to our isolation his loving presence. He removes whatever blinders, whatever obstacles there might be from seeing Him, experiencing Him.
It never ceases to amaze me to see the amazingly beautiful and unique ways Jesus’ continues to do this, some 2,000 years later. Not too long ago, I was asked to go visit a woman - who I had never met - who was in hospice care and had not been a practicing Catholic for many years. Because of the prayers of members of her family, and their openness to not simply be with her in the midst of her illness, but love her, pray with her and ask her if she wanted to meet Jesus - Sacramentally in the Last Rites (to prepare to meet Him in eternity) she was open to that. When I arrived, she had deteriorated a great deal already. And despite years of non-practicing she wanted to receive the Sacraments. She was the most responsive during the entire visit as we prayed the Our Father. And while the miraculous, instantaneous healing that I would have loved to have seen the Lord work at that moment didn’t happen, I couldn’t help but witness a great number of other miracles:
- As she was dying, surrounded by nurses, doctors, family and friends coming in and our of her room - she was beautiful, gentleness of Jesus coming to her at a moment of extreme aloneness. Her fidgeting, her nervousness abated as we prayed with her. You could physically see her demeanor change.
- Even more, Jesus presence and action was able to bring healing to that family. Some members who were anxious and estranged were able to experience some measures of peace, and reconciliation that had eluded them. And she was able to pass away to meet Jesus face to face the next day not feeling alone, but rather knowing He was there to guide and lead her.