Portrait of a Widow at her Devotions, Leandro Bassano
Private Collection [Web Gallery of Art]
Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)
Readings(Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)
Soon afterwards he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went with him. As he approached the gate of the town, a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town.
Back in the late 1970s when I was working in St Mary's Seminary, Ozamiz City, in northern Mindanao - an island that is bigger than Ireland - I used to celebrate Mass in one of the barrios (villages) nearby. There was one elderly woman who was there every Sunday but who never smiled, never greeted me. I filed her away in my mind under 'Grumpy Old Women'.
But on the Sunday that today's gospel was read the idea came into my mind of inviting all the widows in the congregation for a special blessing at the end of Mass. My 'Grumpy Old Woman' came up, along with others, with a huge smile on her face. Every Sunday after that she greeted me as if I was her long lost son.
On Friday 7 June 2013, the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Pope Francis spoke about the tenderness of God: Tenderness! But the Lord loves us tenderly. The Lord knows that beautiful science of caresses, the tenderness of God. He does not love us with words. He comes close - closeness - and gives us His love with tenderness. Closeness and tenderness! The Lord loves us in these two ways, He draws near and gives all His love even in the smallest things: with tenderness. And this is a powerful love, because closeness and tenderness reveal the strength of God’s love.
On 1 June 2013 twenty-two children being treated for cancer in the Agostino Gemelli Hospital in Rome came to visit Pope Francis. They recited the Hail Mary together and the Pope blessed them. He explained that his blessing is like a hug from God. A friend of mine in the Philippines who is a single mother once brought her cousin to meet me and told me later that her cousin had described the blessing I gave them in those very same words.
My 'Grumpy Old Woman', through the blessing I gave the widows at the end of Mass, experienced something of God's tenderness, a 'hug from God', and it transformed her. It gave her a sense that she mattered to God as did the widow in today's gospel whose only son was returned to her, as did the widow who offered hospitality to Elijah in today's First Reading and whose son was returned to her.
Widow's Son Church, Nain [Wikipedia]
On 31 May 2013 Zenith.org told the extraordinary story of Pietro Maso, a young Italian who murdered his parents, Antonio and Rosa, in 1991 and how he was reconciled with his two sisters, Laura and Nadia, whom he had also tried to kill, I was dead and forgiveness resurrected me. It's a story that shows the truth of the words of Pope Francis above, And this is a powerful love, because closeness and tenderness reveal the strength of God’s love.
Pietro was released from prison in Milan in April 2013 after serving 22 years. During his first year in jail he heard Fr Guido Todeschini speak about him on the radio: What do we do, do we abandon him, do we bury him alive as he deserves or do we stretch our hand out to him and try to rescue him, taking into account his young age? Of course, at this moment it’s easier to be executioners than to be moved to pardon. But if we leave him there in prison, forgotten, we commit the same crime.
Father Guido, who didn't know Pietro personally, came to visit him in jail shortly after the broadcast and every Saturday after that made the trip of almost two hours each way from Verona to be with the young man and to bring him the Body of Christ. This eventually led to his being reconciled with his sisters, who had to go through their own struggles to forgive. Laura said on Father Guido's radio programme in 2008, We sisters, together with the loss of two parents had also lost a brother, and so we tried to begin a new and difficult path, with very strong inner suffering, because it’s not easy to forgive such a grave thing. We thank Father Guido for his help: he was the first to go to Pietro in prison and to follow him over these years. Thus we too, slowly, slowly reconstructed a beautiful relationship with the brother we had lost, as we had lost the whole family.
The article ends with a paragraph that is a contemporary expression of today's gospel and that shows the infinite mercy and compassion of God, which Pope Francis keeps reminding us of: Evil had transformed Pietro into a monster, but the forgiveness of God, of his sisters, of Father Guido worked the miracle. They brought back to life a youth who was dead and damned.
Antiphona ad Communionem Communon Antiphon 1 John 4:16
Deus cáritas est, et qui manet in caritáte
God is love, and whoever abides in love
in Deo manet et Deus in eo.
abides in God, and God in him.
The Latin text of the Communion Antiphon is used as a refrain in the video above and the setting is by Henryk Jan Botor, a contemporary Polish composer. He wrote this, as far as I can make out, for the 36thInternational Congress of Young Singers (XXXVI Congressus Internationalis Pueri Cantores) that began on 28 December 2010 in Rome and ended with Solemn Mass celebrated in St Peter's Basilica for the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, New Year's Day 2011. I'm not sure at which church in Rome this video was recorded.