10th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The first reading comes from the First Book of Kings. As would be assumed, this book, and its companion, 2 Kings, are Old Testament writings about the kings of Israel. The kings certainly are mentioned, but these books are not political histories. In a way, the kings are not the principal figures.
Very prominent in these books are prophets, because the books are religious texts. Their purpose is to make the presence of God better known to the Hebrew people.
In this weekend’s reading, Elijah, the prophet, visits a home. He meets a woman, the mistress of the house, whose son has been very sick and now has stopped breathing. The mother is desperate. Elijah prays over the young man, and the young man recovers. He lives.
This miracle confirms that Elijah indeed is a man of God, who speaks God’s word.
The second reading is from the Epistle to the Galatians. The Galatians lived in the area now in Turkey. They were converts from paganism. They were not Jews. As time passed, however, Christians of Jewish origins arrived, and they demanded that the Galatians follow the rituals and practices of Judaism.
Paul writes to establish that once he was second to no one in the most intense Jewish fervor. Since being called by Christ, however, he preaches a Gospel that is the Lord’s gift to everyone, irrespective of nationality or ethnicity.
For the Gospel reading this weekend, the Church presents, from St. Luke’s Gospel, the familiar story of Jesus at Nain. There he encounters a grieving widow whose only son had died. Immediately the scene is set, although few in the modern culture would grasp the impact.
Given the customs of the day, the woman had good cause for grief and anxiety, not simply the usual sense of loss at the passing of a loved one. She was a widow. The dead man had been her only son. With his death, she lost all security.
The reading states that Jesus was “moved with pity for her.” As the story unfolds, Jesus touches the corpse. Again, this hardly bothers people alive today. In the time of Jesus, however, such a gesture defied Jewish laws of purity.
The event revealed basic facts about Jesus. All the ritual laws, such as touching the dead, were open to the Lord’s amendment or definition. These laws came not from a prophet, such as Moses, but from God. Jesus is God. He has control over the law.
Secondly, the outreach of Jesus to the grieving woman, without any appeal from her, illustrates the overwhelming love of God for us, especially in our need.
Sustaining life and even restoring life after death are the strong features of the readings from First Kings and from Luke. More than anything else, death represents the ultimate helplessness of mortals. No human being escapes death in the long run. Death is so final, as many who grieve after a loss will be quick to say.
In First Kings, and in Luke, God comes as the supreme authority over death. Acting through the prophet, in the first reading, God restores life. In the third reaching, from the Gospel of Luke, acting through Jesus, God restores life.
It is a study in the power of God. It is awesome to behold. Consolingly, these readings reveal the love of God for humans, for us. In each instance, a grieving mother is in the story. In ancient times, women were very vulnerable. Secondly, as mothers, the pain of losing a child was acute.
With great love, God restores these sons to life. God extended divine love to these women very visibly and tangibly. He gave earthly life. For all who love God, eternal life awaits.
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