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10th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Power of God

Today we have two beautiful stories about raising two dead sons for two struggling Jewish widows. They are filled with all kinds of meaning for us and so we begin to unpack them for our life lessons.

One of the concerns of the author of the story in 1 Kings was to enhance the prophet’s status and to establish the authority of the prophet’s word; this word points to the fact that Israel’s God (not the Canaanite god, Baal) is the author of life. Please note here that the “truth (God is Lord over death) is being conveyed by means of story rather than by means of history. It is [our] task to bring out the truth rather than retell the story as a historical report” (Reginald Fuller, Scripture scholar). In any case, the raising of the dead child by Elijah creates awe and reverence for Israel’s prophet but it does not stop there; this resurrection gives authority to God’s word spoken through Elijah.

The widow here “learns that the word of the Lord in the mouth of the prophet is ‘truth’—that is, it does what it says. Note the biblical meaning of the word ‘truth’. It is not just factual accuracy, nor is it truth in a philosophical sense. It means fidelity – here the fidelity of God to His/Her promises, a fidelity shown by God’s acts. So the climax of the story – and here lies its theological point – is that the woman discerns that Elijah is indeed a man of God, and that the word of God is effective in deed” (Fuller). God’s fidelity here means God’s Word comes to us out of God’s love.

The word “compassion” really means “to feel with” and God’s hearing of Elijah’s prayer manifests God’s compassionate nature! The God of Israel and our God is a God Who is compassionate, merciful and loving, and this story reveals this kind of God to us – not the harsh angry punishing God that we often associate with the Old Testament! “In Jewish tradition great compassion was shown to widows. There was no social security in those days, and widows depended on the charity of neighbors. Hence the loss of an only child was a grave loss.” (Albert J. Nevins, M. M., Scripture commentator). These widows expected, and received, God’s compassion!

Luke’s Gospel today borrows from the story of 1 Kings 17. Catch the pathos associated with this poor woman! No wonder Jesus, who has power over life and death, raises the boy to life in an act of great compassion. Sounds a lot like the First Reading, does it not? Yes, because Luke wants to draw a parallel between Jesus and Elijah; Luke definitely wants to show Jesus is truly a prophet, really the prophet, and so draws and borrows from 1 Kings 17.

However, note one big difference. “Whereas Elijah prayed three times to Yahweh, Jesus speaks on his own authority. By restoring life to the son, Jesus restores life to the widow – she can now survive in the male-dominated society.” (Father John F. Craghan, C.SS.R. Scripture scholar) And do note that in both stories “the compassionate [Jesus and Elijah] communicate the presence of God” (Craghan); so in these readings life is restored to two sons, once by a compassionate Elijah and again by a compassionate Christ. Do recall that in the case of each one of us, this same compassionate Christ restores life to us in the Sacrament of Baptism. Do thank Him for that constantly!

For us as Christians/Catholics, it is important for us to note also the following. “The People of Israel had seen the power of God active in their lives. Their God, they knew, was a God who saved and a God who gave life. This saving action which they had glimpsed, became human reality in the person of Jesus. In Him the power of God came in its fullness. Christ’s deeds show clearly what God’s action means to men/women, a power to heal, to reconcile, to give life.” (Fathers Robert Crotty, C.P., and Gregory Manly, C.P., Scripture commentators). Paul, as we read in the Second Reading, came to know and experience this too!

And so did and do we! “While the miracle at Nain shows the power of Jesus and proves His claim to be Son of God, it also shows the compassion Jesus has for our needs. When one of us suffers, all in the Mystical Body suffer. We must identify ourselves with our needy brothers and sisters if we are to be true Christians.” (Nevins)

Br. John Cline, C.R.

06 – June 5, 2016

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