The “only son of his mother, and she was a widow”

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The “only son of his mother, and she was a widow”…As you already know, in the time of Jesus a widow who had no close male relative to look after her faced a precarious existence. It’s possible that Mary faced the same fears when Jesus was crucified. As last week’s Gospel said, Jesus had to tell the disciples to “feed the crowd themselves” when they tried to talk Jesus into sending the people into a nearby town to be fed. Perhaps Mary was afraid that they would send her away as well. There was a good ending to Mary’s story, though. Mary was given to the beloved disciple “to be his mother,” and her future was thereby assured. Sometimes we do the same even today – one family member takes on the responsibility to “make a home” for mom or dad.

But who are we most like – the short-sighted disciples, or the Beloved one? Do we send our aged family members away for others to care for at our first opportunity, or do we do our best to provide for them ourselves? Do we help out with food, transportation and hands-on care? Do we spend time listening to their stories of happier times or their loneliness and fear? Do we help take care of others who have no family to care for them?

Let’s bring this scriptural passage up to the present, and think about the countless women throughout the world who would be overjoyed if Jesus restored their children to life today. We celebrated Memorial Day this week, and we’re aware that families throughout the world have suffered the terrible loss of beloved family members in this century’s virtually continuous wars. What of lonely widows who lost their sons or daughters? What of the women world-wide who have lost family members due to terrorist attacks or drug-related violence? What of widows in emerging countries whose children continue to die of starvation and disease? Who can show them mercy like Jesus showed the widow whose son He restored to life?

We have all lost loved ones, and we cannot bring them back to the life we know. But we can ease the pain of grief and loss of others, if we make the effort. If we are unable to help, or if we are in need ourselves, do we realize that we can reach out for help from Jesus’ disciples? That’s all of us – John, James, Bartholomew, etc. And you and me.

Dorothy Hathway, CSJA