Sunday, June 9, 2013
Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
1 Kings 17:17-24
Lucy’s grandmother is dying and she is engulfed in sadness. This is her “nana” and Lucy can scarcely imagine life without her, but Lucy has always assumed that this day would come. In the natural order of things, her grandmother would die and she would grieve. No matter what, death is sad for those who are left behind. Still, in the ordinary course of events, grandparents and parents will die before their children. It seems to us that this is the way it should be. It is the natural course of life. It doesn’t surprise us, then, that the death of any child touches all of us. It has been said that the death of one’s child is the most devastating loss that a person can ever know. It is true today and it was true at the time of Jesus.
The Gospel tells us that the man in the story was “...the only son of his mother, and she was a widow.” The tragedy in today’s Gospel and in the First Reading was compounded by the circumstances. In a patriarchal society, the loss of an only son, for a widow, was the loss of male protection. Not only had this woman lost her husband and son, she had also lost her economic stability because her culture forced women to rely on men.
The widow’s grief was profound and her future was bleak. Observing the scene, Jesus was so moved that he touched the corpse, told him to rise and gave him to his mother. In doing this he broke the laws of ritual purity.
For the bystanders, this is reminiscent of the First Reading. Through Elijah, God returned a son to his mother and Elijah was seen as “a man of God.” In the Gospel, the act was proof that Jesus was a prophet and it was good reason to spread the word throughout the countryside. Scripture scholars tell us that it seems as if Jesus went to Nain precisely to comfort the widow, because it seems he had no other reason for the trip. It does not matter. We are believers and we know the power of Jesus. This story tells us more. I suspect that this miracle was more about Jesus’ compassion than about his power.
Again and again, we hear in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, that God was moved with pity or compassion. In fact, all of salvation history is the story of God’s compassion. Today we are reminded once more that ours is a God of love. In times of distress, we are sometimes tempted to believe that God does not care, that he is not listening. This is the story we need to hear.