Developing a Sense for the Other

Photo by Bok Pioquid
Christian Service Involvement Program
Ateneo de Manila High School
9 June 2013. 10th Sunday in Ordinary Time
1 Kings 17:17-24; Psalm 30; Galatians 1: 11-19; Luke 7:11-17
The story of the widow of Nain is found only in the Gospel of Luke. And just like the stories of Jesus who raised the dead to life, narratives such as this Sunday’s Gospel amaze us. Luke proves to his Gentile audience that Jesus is indeed the Savior. Who else can raise a person to life but God Himself? Restoring life therefore proves that Jesus is indeed God; the taking and giving of life is reserved to God alone.
The response of the people declares who Jesus is: “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited His people” (Luke 7:16). Returning the son to the widow is a sign of God’s action in Jesus and at the same time, the willingness of God to intervene in our history.
Luke, however, demonstrates that though Jesus is indeed a prophet like Elijah, He was more than a prophet. In the first reading, Elijah intercedes for Yahweh in restoring to life the son of the Zarepath widow. The Gospel, on the other hand, tells us that Jesus used His own power to restore life. He said, “Young man, I tell you get up!” (Luke 7:14).
But before we get out of focus, Jesus need not perform miracles to prove Himself as the Messiah or as the Son of God. Jesus performed miracles because He was “moved with pity.” He raised the daughter of Jairus because he empathized with her parents. He restored to life the young man, because he felt pity for his mother. He raised Lazarus to life because He was a close friend of the family. Mercy and compassion are life-giving gestures.
But the varying degrees of death are striking if we compare the three incidents when Jesus raised a person to life. The daughter of Jairus was still at her deathbed. The son of the widow of Nain was about to be brought to the grave, while Lazarus was in its 4th day in the tomb and was in a state of decomposition.
It is said that we die every day. It is said that our journey to our ultimate physical death begins on the day of our birth. Physical growth is a product of numerous cell divisions, a process when cells die and divide in order for it to give way to more cells. Spiritual and emotional death also happens when we experience pain, suffering, rejection, discouragement, and even emotional distance. We die when we feel like being “divided” or “diminished” like the widow who has lost both her husband and her son. And therefore the Lord can always restore us to life at any stage of our “deaths.”
Psychology tells us that all we have to do is to adapt to all our experiences and live with it. However, our faith life invites us to surrender. In Filipino we call it, “pagpapaubaya” o “pagpapasa-Dios.” We are called to entrust to the Lord all our lives, both our positive and negative experiences. There are many human experiences that encompass human control. Death is one. Only God can take and restore life. Thus the response to the miracle was a confession of faith: A prophet is amongst us! God has visited His people! No explanation needed; just a gesture of adoration!
The good thing is this: we ARE God’s children. We have in ourselves a life-giving power. In more ways, we can be channels of God’s life-giving touch. We can be life-enhancers. We can bring joy and ease to our surroundings; we can help, listen, and share knowledge, burdens and sufferings with one another. We can express our compassion through gestures of care and concern: akbay, kalabit, yakap, halik, mano, beso, haplos, tapik, sandal sa balikat, akay, hawak-kamay, atbp.
There is a Jesuit slogan for this: it’s called cura personalis, care for the entire person. And cura personalis entails a physical presence, a person who is actually there. In Jesus’ miracles, He is physically present to those who needed it: Jairus’ father, the widow and the sisters of Lazarus.
We celebrate the 40th anniversary of the speech of Fr. Pedro Arrupe SJ to a group of students from a Jesuit school in Valencia, Spain. He said that the mark of a Jesuit-educated person is “being a man for others.” Today, we use the more inclusive slogan, “persons for others.”
To be a person-for-others means to be life-enhancers; to live that slogan personally and concretely.

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