Jesus journeyed to a city called Nain,
and his disciples and a large crowd accompanied him.
As he drew near to the gate of the city,
a man who had died was being carried out,
the only son of his mother, and she was a widow.
A large crowd from the city was with her.
When the Lord saw her,
he was moved with pity for her and said to her,
“Do not weep.”
He stepped forward and touched the coffin;
at this the bearers halted,
and he said, “Young man, I tell you, arise!”
The dead man sat up and began to speak,
and Jesus gave him to his mother.
Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, exclaiming,
“A great prophet has arisen in our midst,” and
“God has visited his people.”
This report about him spread through the whole of Judea
and in all the surrounding region.
I tend to pay attention to words in the Gospel of Luke. There are some interesting parallels here that might help mourners feel more connected to the Lord. Jesus and the dead man were both only sons of widows. They each have the verb arise (egerthe) applied to them, which is also applied to the resurrection. In Jesus’ case, the rising is from the midst of the people. We know, as did Luke’s listeners, that Jesus will, like the man, rise from the dead, and will begin/continue to speak. And this Word, as we know from history, will spread through “all the surrounding region” and beyond.
Human beings experience death literally. We also experience death in our wants and needs–our need especially for a Savior, the “great prophet” acclaimed in the reading here. This reading is rarely used in funerals. But it engages a message of hope beyond the example of Jesus’ healing power. Just as Jesus and man shared common experiences, so we too, as brothers and sisters of the Lord, will share in his resurrection. If we know of the faith of our loved one, we can have confidence that like Jesus, she or he too will be raised.
And what is our response as believers? It may be difficult for those burdened by grief, but the bystanders praised God. Our hearts may not be totally engaged in that, but we can do less than rely on the worship of the Church, and glorify God, as we deepen our understanding of the loss of a precious loved one.