“Abide with me fast falls the eventide; the darkness deepens, Lord, with me, abide
When other helpers fail and comforts flee; Help of the helpless, O abide with me!”
Hold thou Thy cross before my closing eyes; shine through the gloom, and point me to the skies;
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee; in life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.”
This hymn “Abide with me”, (found in ‘Night Prayers in The Divine Office’) is one of the very heart-touching hymns…
…sung especially in times of funerals.
They stir up feelings of mourning and the pain of loss…
…they also stir up a sense of hope and trust in the Lord, the God of Life and Resurrection.
The Gospel of the Day presents before us…
… a funeral scene
… feelings of mourning and a pain of loss
… and the instilling of hope and trust by the Lord, the God of Life and Resurrection!
The Gospel reading mentions that as Jesus was journeying to a city called Nain, “a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow.” (Lk 7: 11-12).
Life can sometimes be filled with extremely cruel feelings and blunt experiences, isn’t it?
This incident is a clear example of that…
>> A funeral in itself is an extremely sorrowful occurance
>> Add to it, it is that of the only son of a woman
(‘Only son’ meant…
… ceasing of the family generation
… termination of the family’s hopes and aspirations of the future)
>> To top it all, the woman is a widow
… there would be none to support her or to provide for her sustenance
… it was a double heart-break for a woman who had already suffered death once!)
This was a harshly unique situation:
As per the custom of the time, the bereaved mother walks in front of the bier
>> The dead son was being carried to the grave
…and the “dead” widow was walking towards her grave of utter hopelessness and inconsolable grief
A mother had to literally see her child from the “womb to the tomb!”
It was in this painful situation, that Jesus encountered the funeral procession!
The Lord, Who knows everything…
… seeing that tragic procession would have probably had a flash of what would be soon a reality in the future:
>> He Himself would be the “dead” Child…
… and His Beloved Mother, Mary would be the “dead” Widow!
This funeral procession of the “only son” of the “widow”, was a reflection of the scene on Calvary…
…. of Jesus, the “Only Son” of Mary, the “Widow”!
It is also heartening to note that this funeral procession took place in a city named “Nain” (or “Naim”)
This Hebrew name “Nain” has meanings such as…
… sweet, good, lovely, pleasant and delightful!
“Nain” is the word used to describe…
… the quality of Israelities as being the “favoured ones” (2 Sam 23: 1)
… the beauty of music especially the “sweet” sounding harp (Ps 81:2)
… the “pleasant” taste of bread (Prov 9:17)
… the “beauty” of the land (Gen 49:15)
The Psalmist also uses this word “Nain” and its derivatives, to describe…
… the beauty of the Lord (Ps 27:4)
… the favour of the Lord (Ps 90:17)
… the graciousness in worshipping the Lord (Ps 135:3)
It appeared to be a total contradiction that a city with such beautiful expressions and meanings…
… was facing the tragic situation of immense pain and loss and mourning
>> Sweetness and goodness seemed to have been replaced with pain and mourning!
>> Loveliness and pleasantness seemed to have been overtaken by misery and lament!
But Jesus, the Lord of Life and Resurrection…
… transforms the feelings of sadness and helplessness into sentiments of relief and hope!
The Gospel says that:
Jesus “was moved with pity for the woman and said to her, ‘Do not weep’…
… and touching the coffin, He said, “Young Man, I tell you, arise!” (Lk 7: 13-14)
>> Tears were halted…and life was restored!
>> Mourning was terminated…and life was celebrated!
Do we not face situations…
>> When life seems to be filled with extremely cruel feelings and blunt experiences…?
… death and separations in the family and relations
… loss of hope at workplaces and areas of labour
… feelings to ‘quit and give up’ as life loses meaning
In all such “dead” situations, the Lord encounters us in our journey of life, and…
>> Comforts us: “Do not weep!”
>> Restores us: “I tell you, arise!”
We need to trust in Him
>> We need to be willing to encounter Him
>> We need to hold on to Him in our journey of life!
Our God is indeed the God of Life and Resurrection…
… and He seeks to instill hope and trust in Him!
May we always pray, “Lord, abide with me”…
>> And thus with hope and trust, even in the ‘dead’ situations of our life, cry out:
” Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day; earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away!
Change and decay in all around I see; O Thou who changest not, abide with me!”
God Bless! _Live Jesus!
Fr Jijo Manjackal MSFS