Dare to touch a coffin

GOSPEL: Luke 7:11-17

(an excerpt )

Many of us are good at giving words of encouragement to people who are going through difficult situations of life but only few will dare to move beyond rhetoric, roll up one’s sleeves and get involved in a practical way to rescue a helpless person.

In the Gospel text, we have an account of a widow whose life had been wrecked and brought to a standstill on account of the death of a son. Luke lays particular emphasis on the fact that the dead person was the only son of the mother (cf. Lk 7:12). With the death of an only son, the life of a widow in ancient Israel was really an unpleasant one. It is akin to shutting down one’s life-support system.

The movements in the narration is worth highlighting. Per the Jewish burial custom, the bereaved mother would walk in front of the bearers who were carrying the coffin. Neighbours would ordinarily stop whatever they are doing and join in the funeral procession as it passed by. Jesus, who happened to be at the gate of the city of Nain at that hour, sees the procession. He steps forward; no one invites him to do so. He is simply moved with compassion (Lk 7:13). That deep stirring in his bowels makes him to respond to the situation and act. It was not an ordinary response. He breaches Jewish law and custom and touches the coffin. According to Num 19:11-19, contact with the dead renders a person unclean. His touch makes the bearers of the coffin to stand still. Next he proclaims a word of power to the dead man: “Young man, I say to you, arise.” When he had raised the man back to life, we are told “And he gave him back to his mother” (Lk. 7:15).

Words are good but they are not good enough when action is a better option. There are some people who have found themselves in a quagmire and are gradually sinking. If we stand aloof, we would lose them. Moved by compassion, we need to do two things. First and foremost, step forward, i.e. offer ourselves to help. Let us not wait for a special invitation or appeal before we reach out to help those we can. We must voluntarily step forward.

Secondly, out of love, we must dare to touch the ‘coffin’ that some people are carrying. The ‘coffin’ here signifies problematic situations that may have an effect on us even as we seek to help. To touch someone’s ‘coffin’ is to enter the darkness of someone and together find the tunnel that leads to light.
The proclamation of the Gospel must not be limited to words; actions count. Effective proclamation of the Gospel leads to tangible transformation of lives. Yes, the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ is divine in character and has the power to change lives.


PRAYER: Lord Jesus Christ, your touch raised me from death to life. Today, I offer you my hand to be used to touch the lives of many others so that they too may be brought to life. Amen

Andrews Obeng, svd



(Ghana Province)


“May the darkness of sin and the night of unbelief vanish before the light of the Word and the Spirit of grace. And may the heart of Jesus live in the hearts of all people” (St. Arnold Janssen)

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