by Father Mike Stubbs
“How to meet and date a wealthy widow.” That’s the heading that appeared when I Googled “wealthy widows” in my search on the Internet.
No, I am not contemplating leaving the priesthood in favor of another lifestyle. Rather, I wished to examine a typical stereotype of our culture: the widow that inherits a sizable amount of money, making her an attractive catch for a younger man.
That scenario ends up being the exact opposite of the situation in Jesus’ day. Two thousand years ago, a woman whose husband had died would have lost the family breadwinner. She was left without any Social Security benefits or pension. Usually, she was plunged into poverty. If she was raising young children, they would have shared in her misery. The stock phrase in the Bible, “orphans and widows,” became a convenient way of referring to the poor. It appears, in one form or another, 32 times. In our own day and age, we might compare the term “single parent,” which too often indicates a person who is struggling financially.
Society at the time of Jesus was not structured in such a way to allow a woman to be self-sufficient. Consequently, the widow’s predicament only worsened if she had no adult children to take care of her. That is the plight of the widow in Sunday’s Gospel reading, Lk 7:11-17. Her only son has died.
Fortunately, Jesus comes on the scene. Seeing the widow, he takes pity on her. He performs the dramatic miracle of raising the dead man to life.
It is easy to see the benefit for the dead man. Who wouldn’t want to live again? (Unless, maybe if you were in heaven.) That’s the obvious result.
On the other hand, it appears as though Jesus intends more to help the widow than to help the dead man. The Gospel story says: “When the Lord saw her, he was moved with pity for her.”
Perhaps, when Jesus saw the widow, he thought of his own mother and imagined how she would feel if she saw him dead. The love that Jesus had for Mary, his mother, would have inspired pity for this poor woman. That provided the motivation for the miracle.
In any case, the benefits of this miracle extend far beyond the poor widow. The crowd which has witnessed the raising of the dead man react with amazement. Jesus’ reputation spreads throughout the region. Everyone gives glory to God for the wonders happening through Jesus.