As far as I remember there are three miracles in which Jesus raises someone from the dead. The most famous is the raising of Lazarus, his friend. His sisters, Mary and Martha, were also well known to him. Jesus stayed with them at Bethany, on the outskirts of Jerusalem. That miracle led his enemies to plot to put him to death.
Earlier, in Capernaum, Jesus raised the little daughter of Jairus, an official of the synagogue, from the dead. The official pleaded with him. Jesus goes to his house, where the mourning had already begun, and took the little girl by the hand and raised her up and told her parents to give her something to eat.
Today’s reading at Mass recalling the miracle in which Jesus raises the widow’s son as they carry him through the gates of the town of Naim seems somewhat different. The mother and son are strangers to him. We don’t know their names; they have no claim of friendship or position that may influence him. It’s the very opposite. The mother is a widow. Her son was the last asset she had and now he’s dead. She has nothing. Absolutely poor.
Our reading from Luke (Luke 7,11-17) provides the answer Jesus will give to John’s disciples as they approach him after this incident and ask “Are you he who is to come?” Tell John, Jesus says, “the blind see, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the poor have the gospel preached to them.”
“The poor have the gospel preached to them.” Those who have nothing and who know they have nothing, like the widow, are given the greatest gifts. God notices them. God’s heart goes out to them.
That was an important teaching of St. Paul of the Cross, the founder of the Passionists. “Go to God in your nothingness,” he said to people looking for guidance. Learn from the poor widow. Go to God with nothing.
In the years Paul of the Cross founded the Passionists, a lot of men left his community for one reason or another, and Paul respected them, but he reacted when someone left for the wrong reasons.
St Vincent Strambi, his biographer, tells about a priest who left the Passionists to make a career for himself in the church. He wanted to be a success so he got a string of degrees and began to climb the church bureaucracy. He wrote Paul a very self-congratulatory letter informing him how much better he was now for leaving the Passionists. At the end he signed his name, noting all his new degrees and honors after it.
Paul answered his letter, thanking him for letting him know how he was making out and wishing him well. But at the end of the letter he simply signed his name: “Paolo, n,n.n”– “Paul, a nobody, no one, having nothing.”
Our first reading today is all about bishops and deacons. (1 Timothy 3,1-13) Our gospel is about a widow. Who’s more important?