He felt sorry for her - Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

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Home > Archbishop > Homilies > He felt sorry for her - Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)


There is a passage of Scripture that has captured my attention and my reflection during the course of this year. It is a passage I find myself returning to often and quietly pondering. It is a passage that has become a particular link for me with the Jubilee Year of Mercy. I find myself seeing ongoing application for this passage for the ministry of the Church here in Tasmania. It has prompted a number of initiatives that I am taking.

The passage is one that is well known. It is the passage from the prophet Isaiah that Jesus selected and read out in the synagogue in Nazareth. The background to the story is important. Jesus had grown up in Nazareth, living there for close to thirty years. Nazareth was a small village and he would have been well known. He was the carpenter’s son. No doubt he worked with his father. His mother Mary would have been well known. They had relatives also living round about, relations of both Joseph and Mary.

Then he left the village and soon after commenced the ministry of an itinerant preacher. After travelling to the Jordan river near Jerusalem and submitting to the baptism of John, he established himself in the small fishing village of Capernaum by the Sea of Galilee. News of him would have come back to Nazareth. News of his preaching, his miracles and a growing group of disciples. No doubt this was spoken about among the villagers, curious as to what was happening.

Then one day he returns. On the Sabbath he attends the synagogue and he is invited to speak. The synagogue service was like a prayer meeting. He was handed a scroll of the sacred text. It was that of the prophet Isaiah. Jesus takes the scroll and searches for a particular passage. This may have taken a little time and one could imagine the expectation growing among the people. He finds the passage that he is looking for and reads it out.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to heal the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, to set the downtrodden free.

Then he sits down. We are told all eyes of the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he simply said, “This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen”.

It is as though Jesus saw this particular Messianic prophesy in Isaiah as his mission statement. This was what his mission was. This is what he was going to do. And so he did.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me”. We think of the baptism of Jesus at the Jordan and the Spirit hovering over him.

“For he has anointed me”. The Spirit anoints people for a mission, empowering them. Jesus knew that at the moment of his baptism he was to commence his public ministry. The time had come.

“To bring good news to the poor”. Jesus saw his ministry as being towards the ordinary folk. He was at home among those who struggled in life. He wanted to unite himself with them in their struggles. He wanted to preach to them in a way that would lift their burdens.

“He has sent me to heal the broken hearted”. The Gospel today is a good illustration of this. The widow was burying her only son. She would be alone and abandoned in the world – broken hearted. We are told Jesus “felt sorry for her”. We will return to this.

“To proclaim liberty to captives”. We think of those under demonic powers whom he set free. Think of the Gerasene demonic, and the dramatic change that came upon him.

“Recovery of sight to the blind”. The Gospels record so many instances of Jesus healing the blind, like the blind beggar Bartimeus at Jericho.

“To set the downtrodden free”. Jesus brought new hope to so many. Healing their bodies of various disabilities or infirmities gave people a new life, lifting them out of their misery. They were set free from much more than their infirmities.

The ministry of Jesus was a ministry marked by compassion and merciful love to all who were suffering, struggling and oppressed. He healed bodies, but he also healed minds and spirits. He set people free of their ailments and restored hope to their lives.

The ministry of Jesus was a ministry of mercy. This is captured in the Gospel today in a striking way.

Jesus was approaching the town of Naim together with a crowd of people. As they approach the town gate there is a funeral procession coming out. The funeral was of a young man, the only son of a mother who was a widow. In these circumstances she would now be completely destitute. We are told that there was a considerable number of the townspeople with her, possibly aware of the greatness of this tragedy for her personally.

St Luke tells us: “When the Lord saw her he felt sorry for her”. His reaction to this situation was his deep concern for the woman. He recognised her plight and was moved by compassion. Such is the heart of Jesus. Such is his Sacred Heart. It is a heart of compassion for suffering humanity. It is a heart moved and not oblivious. It is a heart that reaches out to those suffering. It is a heart motivated by love – a boundless never ending love.

The sorrow is followed by action. He asks the bearers to stop and calls the boy out of death: “Young man I tell you get up”. Compassion and action.

The Old Testament tells us in the book of Exodus that the Lord is “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (34:6). Jesus is the full revelation of this truth. This is who God is. This is who God is in our lives.

It is from and through Jesus that the compassionate mercy of God touches our lives. Knowing this merciful love we are to become conduits of mercy. The Christian is one who knows mercy and shows mercy.

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Saturday, 4 June 2016