Christ’s Compassionate Heart

Home > Living the Gospel > Christ’s Compassionate Heart

Were there a Nain newspaper at the time of today’s Gospel, the dead man’s obituary would have had a very short list of these: survived by his mother, preceded in death by his father. Jesus somehow knew this widow was about to bury her only son. She would be left to bear her grief alone, yes, but still more devastating was that in this patriarchal culture, women survived by way of the men in their lives. The widow of Nain was among the most vulnerable, the ones God insists we must notice and protect (Deut 24:17-22). Now on the margins of society, the widow was a survivor only insofar as she was not in a coffin alongside her son. And so without anyone begging him to do so, without anyone even pointing out the widow’s plight, Jesus touches the coffin. With this gesture and a few words, both exemplifying the depth of God’s compassion, Jesus brought not just this man but also his mother back to life. The widow survived by Jesus’ intervention, by his noticing and being moved to act. On June 2nd, Pope Francis moved to act as he led Roman Catholics in the first worldwide “Holy Hour,” in which participants prayed at the same time around the globe for those suffering from war, slave labor, human trafficking and the economic crisis. The Vatican asked Catholics to join Pope Francis between 5-6 p.m. Rome time (11 a.m – 12 p.m EDT) in a Eucharistic adoration. The faithful gathered in cathedrals, neighborhood parishes and monasteries to pray with Pope Francis, who prayed at St. Peter’s Basilica, for those who still suffer slavery and who are victims of war, human trafficking, drug running and slave labor, as well as for the unemployed, the elderly, migrants, the homeless, prisoners and those who experience marginalization. A Vatican official noted that it was “the first time in the history of the Church” that such an event had taken place. May we similarly pray for and notice the vulnerable in our midst who are survivors but only marginally so.

In 1990, Joann Cayce received the Thousand Point of Light Award from the first President George Bush, who gave her the award for her lifelong commitment to the poor. Known as the Mother Teresa of Central Arkansas, Joann and her family constituted a complete volunteer organization serving the rural poor who have few available job opportunities, no street shelters, soup kitchens, or overnight programs to give the homeless a warm respite. Even if a family received a box of food, they often had no way to get it home. During the winter, children sometimes missed school because their shoes had fallen apart. On weekends and summers when school was out and federal food programs stopped, some children would have to go without meals. Abused wives needed shelter, elderly people had health problems and new babies lacked cribs and diapers. Joann and her family serve people within a sixty to eighty mile radius. Through the years, the list of donors has grown and in December of 2002, when Joann was recovering from a stroke, donors sent and volunteers distributed a total of 26,000 pairs of children’s socks, along with toys, underwear, warm sweaters, scarves and cases of powdered milk; even cash was donated toward the purchase of food. Many children had a wonderful Christmas, thanks to the compassionate love of ordinary people who followed the example of Christ. Joann calls them angles on earth. Just look around you at our own Lisle Community Garden, Clothing Bank, Food Pantry, etc. and the many volunteers and you will notice we also have angels on earth, an extension of Christ’s Compassionate Heart.

Sylvia Bates