We see the mercy and compassion of God at the raising of the widow of Nain’s son back to life.
Christ’s compassionate and merciful heart was moved by such suffering and need. Perhaps he saw in the widow’s tears the glimpse of his own mother’s tears at Calvary?
For us, it reminds us that we must treat our brothers and sisters in the Church, our family members, our friends and colleagues with a similar compassion and forbearance.
As St Paul says in today’s Epistle: “Let us not grow weary in doing good.” Galatians 6:9
Our Human Nature
The double truth of our human nature is that we are made in the image and likeness of God and we carry within us the consequences of original sin.
This explains why we have trouble showing compassion and forbearance. We are attracted to compassion, patience and mildness. We desire others to treat us that way. But, because of sin, when called to act that way to others, we can think first of ourselves and our own interests. We are harsh in words and hurtful in actions.
Here we experience that our spirit, our soul, does not have dominion over our body, our flesh.
That’s why the great spiritual teachers encourage works of mortification and penance as means of placing the flesh and the body under the dominion of the spirit.
But this is not stoicism, putting up with what is unpleasant for the sake of proving the strength of our will. Certainly not.
It is because in these works of mortification we preview and pre-experience the dominance that the spirit will have over the body in the resurrection of the body, after the last day.
St John Paul II in his great work, The Theology of the Body, describes what the experience of a resurrected body and soul ,reunited will be like:
In the resurrection, the body will return to perfect unity and harmony with the spirit: man [woman] will no longer experience the opposition between what is spiritual and what is bodily in him/her. “Spiritualization” signifies not only that the spirit will master the body, but, I would say, that it will also fully permeate the body and the powers of the spirit will permeate the energies of the body.
This body we have now will be returned to us in heaven in a complete masculinity or femininity. We will experience no tension or disharmony within us. We will be perfected in our humanity.
St Philip Neri said that: “Where there is no mortification there can be no great sanctity.”
Equally though he warned against giving into excess in mortification lest that become and end in itself. He said: “If you must give in to excesses, do so in being meek and patient, humble and charitable, for all these things are good in themselves.”
We don’t have to necessarily seek austerities and deprivations. Some days it will simply be doing our daily tasks cheerfully and well that will be mortification enough. Because the purpose of mortification is to allow the spiritual to have dominion over the physical; the will over our desires.
However, let us not be too soft on ourselves. The weekly Friday penance and the daily actions of charity must still be part of our spiritual discipline. A life without mortification and penance is the wide and pleasant way that leads to destruction. (Matt 7:13)
I encourage you to find companions and models among the saints who will help you in this continuing task of mortification and penance.
St Philip is a good teacher because he is the saint of joy and of common sense. But he’s not the only one. St Faustina’s diary speaks so mightily of the great mercy and compassion of Christ. You may know many more and have particular favourites.
Cultivate their friendship and implore their intercession. Let us strive, with good intentions, to become more like the saints in virtue. With their sure assistance, “let us not grow weary in doing good”