10th Sunday in Ordinary Time
As usual, today’s first reading from the Book of King’s is closely related to today’s gospel reading from St. Luke. Both tell the story of the restoration to life of the son of a grieving widow. For most human beings nothing is worse than to outlive your children. A mother especially will never forget the death of a beloved son or daughter. It is not hard for us to understand the grief and sorrow of the two widows in today’s readings even though both cases have happy, miraculous endings. Nevertheless, both miracles are not the kind we normally encounter in the scriptures.
In the first case the widow’s son is not restored by the mother’s faith. The widow of Zaraphath is actually angry at the Prophet Elijah and blames him and the God he represents for her calamity. Earlier, Elijah had saved both the woman and her son from death by starvation in the midst of a terrible drought. But now it seems that the son has died anyway.
Like most people who suffer such a tragic loss, the widow loses faith and blames God for allowing her son to die. She says to Elijah,
Why have you done this to me, O man of God?Have you come to me to call attention to my guilt?And to kill my son.
Words will do nothing to heal the grief of the mother. Only when Elijah is able to revive the child does the woman acknowledge God’s grace and power.
In today’s gospel as Jesus is entering the town of Nain, he encounters a funeral procession for the son of a widow. The mourners are heading out of town to bury the body. In most of the miraculous healings that Jesus performs someone approaches him and begs for his assistance. They believe that he has the power to heal them and he will often say that their belief or faith is responsible for their cures.
But in this case neither the grieving widow nor the crowd of mourners think to approach Jesus and ask for help. He sees the woman crying and approaches her and tells her not to weep. We are reminded of the Beatitudes where Jesus says, “Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Then he approaches the coffin and orders the deceased young man to arise.
The dead man sat up and began to speak,And Jesus gave him to his mother.
Maybe mourning and crying are acts of faith, but it seems as if the grace of God came to the widow of Nain and her son even though she had lost all hope. It was a free gift of God to someone in need.
Perhaps the Church includes the reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians today to also illustrate the point that God’s grace can come to us without asking, or even when we try to resist it. Paul reminds the Galatians that he had persecuted the Church and sought to destroy it. He was on his way to Damascus to do even more damage, but then Jesus appeared to him, and in a way raised him from the dead. Paul insists that his conversion was not due to his own efforts, or the efforts of any other person. It was a free gift from God.
The problems in the world today can seem so overwhelming. Even the problems that arise in our own families can often seem so overwhelming that nothing we say or do seems to accomplish anything. But God’s grace came to the angry and bitter widow of Zarephath, and it came to the despairing widow of Nain. It also came to an angry Paul on the road to Damascus. It can also come to any of us who feel lost and abandoned.
Most of us will not experience such dramatic events as those related in today’s scripture passages but we all have our own roles to play as agents of God’s grace. Just as the Lord chose Elijah and Paul to do his work, so we are called to bring God’s grace to those we care for every day. We know that everything is in the hands of God, but for some strange reason He uses us to do His work.
Reading 1. 1 Kings 17: 17-24
Reading II. Galatians 1: 11-19
Gospel. Luke 7: 11-17 (the Widow of Nain)