The Power Of The Great Prophet

Today’s Gospel presents an interesting scene:

Jesus is traveling with his disciples and “a large crowd.” As they near the city of Nain, they encounter another “large crowd” mourning the death of a young man as they bear his body to its burial. His mother is already a widow, and the death of her only son leaves her without any security, reliant on the charity of others.

Jesus is moved with pity for her. Might he see in her a foreshadowing of his own widowed mother at Calvary? In his compassion, he intervenes to relieve her grief in a wholly unexpected – and for Jews, a somewhat shocking – way: Jesus touches the coffin, which would have rendered him unclean for a week. His gesture stops the procession of mourners in their tracks. Then Jesus demonstrates his power over death by telling the young man to arise. The Gospel tells us that the dead man sat up and began to speak. What might he have said? Did he recognize the Messiah in this miraculous moment? Had he seen the fulfillment of the Promise as his body lay in death? How might this experience have changed him?

We do not know. But what we do know is just as moving: “Jesus gave him to his mother.” Jesus restores what was lost, brings life and hope where there were death and sorrow. Understandably, the witnesses – two large crowds of people – are seized with fear, but the only thing there is for them to do: glorify God and acknowledge Jesus as a great prophet.

Two things are not immediately evident as we read this Gospel, but are worth pondering:

  • Luke uses the exact same words in this Gospel as are used in 2 Kings when Elisha brings life back to the Shunammite woman (2 Kings 4:32-37), drawing a clear parallel between the prophets Elijah and Elisha and Jesus. Jesus is indeed “a great prophet,” and more.
  • St. Ambrose suggests that the widow also represents Mother Church, grieving for her children dead in sin and carried beyond the security of her gates; the members of the Church will glorify God when He restores them in grace.

Do we sometimes think that Jesus is far from us in our sufferings and needs? Do we give into loneliness and despondency rather than reach out to Jesus? In the Gospels, we see Jesus’ compassion for suffering and his great power at work over nature, sickness, and even death. Do we truly believe that he has the same power in our own lives, that he can do all things? Let’s resolve to bring all our concerns to him in complete trust so that his power is manifest in our every difficulty.

Kathryn is married to Robert, mother of seven, grandmother to two, and a lay Carmelite. She has worked as a teacher, headmistress, catechist, Pastoral Associate, and DRE, and also as a writer and voice talent for Holy Family Radio. Currently, she serves the Church as a writer and presenter, and by collaborating with the diocesan Office of Faith Formation, individual parishes, and Catholic ministries to lead others to encounter Christ and engage their faith. Learn more at or on Facebook @summapax.