The Gospel of Luke plays with time, just as we so often do. Written in a theatrical way it plays with flashbacks and portents like an epic story where the audience is in on all the acts.
Jesus has only just answered the prayer of the Centurian. The prayer that we say at every Mass - 'I am not worthy to have you under my roof but only say the word and my servant will be healed'. The faith of a Gentile; a Roman soldier at that, surprises even Jesus. in a buoyant mood and with the crowd at his heels he enters the next town to be faced with the saddest of sights.
The death of an only son is hard enough but for a widow in a desert town it brought the promise of hardship. Surrounded by sorrowful townsfolk for the moment, their sympathy will go only so far. With no-one to care for her the widow could be forced into destitution or begging.
Is this a moment of foretelling? Does Jesus see his own widowed mother grieving over his own lifeless body in the sadness of the funeral procession? Or is there the simple compassion of knowing that he has the ability to help and so he does.
The mere understatement of the miracle must have been part of the wonder; in the midst of tragedy God acted in the midst of his people.
The news reports are full of tragedy these days. The numbers of people lost to the sea crossings almost defy our sensibilities. To think of each as a son or daughter, mother or father is heartbreaking. To consider those left behind wondering if they had done the right thing even more so. The grief wells in our hearts and we feel faced with the choice of two evils - to believe we can do nothing or to believe that nothing we can do will make a difference.
Francesco Tuccio felt that same helplessness when only 115 migrants from a boat holding nearly 500 made it to shore on his home island of Lampedusa in the Mediterranean. As he looked at his carpenter's hands, he wondered what help he could be. The answer came from the gifts God had given him. He collected the wreckage from the shore and made crosses of hope. Full story here.
Now one of Francesco's crosses is displayed in the British Museum. Others are on pilgrimage around parishes to connect us to the reality of the fear and the hope that drives people into the sea. With our support, charities do all that they can. Jesus walks among the lost, the forsaken and the grief-stricken offering food, clothes, companionship through the hands, feet and hearts of the many volunteers who cannot just stand by.
Maybe we can't bring the dead back to life but with compassion and a determination not to be dismayed, we can bring the living to a hopeful future.