10th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
Jesus the Lord of Life.
The first reading and the Gospel describe two very similar events. They tell the story of two women who have lost their only children and they are consoled by God, who through an envoy of his has returned them back to life.
These two women represent the whole of humankind that is powerless against the triumphant force of death. Where should people turn to in order to find help? Who can come to their rescue?
The first reading and the Gospel are showing us that God is the ‘Lord of Life’. He never leaves people in the grip of death, but raises them up so that they may live forever.
In the second reading, Paul tells the Galatians that God had called him and revealed his Son to him in order that he would proclaim the Son to the Gentiles. The Gentiles of Paul’s day, and the “strangers” of our own day stand helpless and often hopeless, in the face of tragedies.
Up to now we might have looked at death with pagan eyes. Let us pick up courage and change our ideas, as Paul is telling us in the second reading.
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation, are from the published works of priests who have, by their Divine inspiration, become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word, we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“Allow the Spirit of God to break the chains that keep us from understanding and accepting the word of God.”
1 Kings 17:17-24.
One day the prophet Elijah left his country to go and stay at Zarephath, near Sidon, where he was a guest of a widow. Only a few days after his arrival, the son of this widow falls seriously ill and dies. The woman, a pagan, begins to seek the cause of his death and concludes that it must be the sins of her youth. This conviction of hers is manifested in the words she tells the prophet: it is your presence in my house, she says, ‘that has caused the death of my child’; your holiness has attracted the attention of God to my sins. This widow is good and generous but she feels tormented by two facts: the loss of her child and because she feels responsible for this loss. Elijah does not give any reply by word of mouth. He takes the child from her lap, and carries him upstairs, where he prays to the Lord and ‘returns to him the warmth of life’. He then comes downstairs and hands him back to the mother.
Let us reflect on what has happened here. In front of the dead child, Elijah and the woman behave in a completely different way. It is this different and opposite behaviour that lay the main teaching of this episode. The widow has lost all hope and feels totally defeated, mocked by death and all she can do is try and find who is guilty for all of this and this only increases her sorrow. The prophet instead believes in the God who gives life and who does not abandon anyone in the power of death.
Many Christians today still keep thinking and reasoning like the pagan woman. What do they do when a child falls ill or dies? Some still speak of it as ‘God’s punishment’ and hold that the Lord sends ill-luck and accidents to punish people for their sins; others instead go and see a diviner in search of a reason or the person who is the cause of all this evil. One, who behaves in this way, does not believe in the God of life. How can one think that the Lord will punish innocent children for the sins of adults? When will we stop thinking that God or our ancestors are the cause of death, calamities and accidents? God is good and he can only give life and provide what is good for people. Also the ancestors are good, they are with the Lord, share in his life and pray for the protection and good of their families. Any other or contrary believe is paganism. Always remember, it is the consequences of sin that punishes us, not God!
The Psalm is a prayer of thanksgiving after serious illness, and it is easy to put it on the lips of the young man raised to life in 1 Kings and in Luke. ‘Sheol’ was the place of the dead. Later the psalm was used at the re-dedication of the Temple in BC 164; it was if the whole nation has recovered from illness.
Some preachers say that God never condemns anybody and that he saves all people. They teach that we are all brothers and sisters and must share our goods. They then do not insist as they should on such important practices as practicing the Word of God, Prayer, the Rosary, Novenas, Holy Hours, Procession, Fasts, and Self-Denial. They even fail to insist on some very important and strict norms of Canon Law. Such opportunists want to be popular, and to increase the numbers of their followers; they go about preaching an ‘easy and convenient gospel’ and are not challenging or demanding enough. This kind of criticism, which we might have heard leveled at some catechists, is the same being leveled against Paul by some trouble makers within the Christian community of Galatia. He talks of Christ, they went about saying, but he makes no mention of the difficult precepts imposed by tradition.
Paul defends himself from this accusation by saying that he did not learn the Gospel he teaches from men: it was revealed to him by Jesus Christ. Does Paul mean that he learnt everything in a vision, without anybody telling him anything? No. Here by ‘Gospel’ he means the decision not to impose on the Christians the tenets of the Old Testament. Paul declares that it was not a man, but the Lord himself who revealed to him that salvation does not depend on observing the Old Law, but comes from faith and trust in Jesus. To confirm this statement he tells the Galatians the story of his life, being a religious fanatic, who attached more importance to ancient traditions than to the revelation of God.
Today we are asked to focus on a suffering woman, a poor widow who has lost her only son. Jesus and his followers meet the funeral procession on the way to the burial grounds. Moved with pity for the mother, Jesus stops the procession, consoles the weeping woman and brings the child back to life.
This story, like much of Luke’s Gospel, draws a portrait of a very human Jesus, a man deeply moved by human suffering and full of compassion. His heart goes out, at first not to the dead boy, but to the mother who is overwhelmed by sorrow and lost in tears. Jesus first enters the inner sufferings of the woman, who is grieving the loss of her only child, her last hope. Jesus wants first to heal that deep inner wound and tells her to stop weeping. Only after the inner healing will he raise her child from the dead. Similarly, Jesus will give inner healing to Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb on the morning of his Resurrection, before sending her to the deliver the ‘Good News’ to the apostles.
Jesus has pity on those suffering. His compassion does not limit itself to emotional feelings or prayers for those suffering, as important as these may be. His compassion urges him to concrete action, to do something practical to alleviate the suffering of people.
The story of the widow of Nain is at first glance the story of raising to life. There are various accounts in the Gospels of how Jesus raised the dead to life. The story of the raising the daughter of Jarius is common to (Mark 4:42, Matthew 9:25 and Luke 8:55). John gives us the story of Lazarus in (John 11:44). Only Luke gives us the account of raising the widow’s son at Nain. Jesus could tell the messengers from John the Baptist that the dead were being raised to life in (Matthew 11:5 and in Luke 7:22). Imitating his Lord, Peter in the Acts brought back to life Tabitha, surrounded by the widows in (Acts 9:40).
Such activity was part of the prophetic activity of Jesus. We noted how the words in 1 Kings tells us how Elijah gave the son of the widow of Zarephath back to his mother as quoted directly in (1 Kings 17:17-24). For Luke, Jesus was a prophet and acted and spoke like a prophet. A critical Pharisee spoke of Jesus in the same terms and so did the two grief-stricken disciples on the way to Emmaus on Easter day.
Jesus responded primarily here as a genuine human being. When he saw the plight of the woman, he did not hesitate or question. He responded at once with compassion and love. He brought the ‘Good News’ to this poor widow.
We can speculate whether she was like other widows in Luke, prayerful like Anna (2:37) or persistent like the one in the parable (18:5). Often in Luke, spectators express gratitude for what has happened (5:26). The reaction of the crowd here is of special interest; they say that “God has visited his people”. This recalls the words of Zechariah in the Benedictus (1:78). The image of Jesus making a divine visitation is a helpful way into understanding this Gospel.
It was believed that Elijah would come back before the Messiah to prepare the hearts of people of Israel to welcome the Messiah (Mal. 4:1.5; 11:4). When the people see the raising of a dead person, they are convinced that Jesus is that prophet to come; and they are right, but they still have to discover that Jesus is much more than a prophet. He is God himself in Person. Luke is already a believer in the divinity of Jesus. He refers to Jesus as “Lord” (v.13), a title reserved for God alone.
God hears the cry of the poor in (Jb. 34:28; Prv. 21:13) and he wants to do something about it, but can do it only through us, his sons and daughters. We are the hands, eyes, ears, and mouth of Jesus today. We can stop the movement towards death and despair and with the strength and love of Jesus, move in the opposite direction to bring hope and practical help to those crushed by suffering.
There is so much suffering going on around us, so many sick or dying, so many hungry and looking for work. Do we allow ourselves to get discouraged and give up? We cannot solve all the problems, but like Jesus, we can always give some help and hope to the one we meet today on our ‘Way’.
In the miracle of raising the son of the widow, Jesus makes us see the compassion of the ‘God of Life’ for all people who are suffering. We begin to realise that like God, He holds the power over life and death.
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week to lead us in the ‘Way, the Truth and the Life’.
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following 10th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year C, we reflect on …
Sun. … Many Christians today still keep reasoning like the pagan woman. What do they do when a child falls ill or dies? Some still speak of it as ‘God’s punishment’ and hold that the Lord sends ill-luck and accidents to punish people for their sins; others instead go and see a diviner in search of a reason or the person who is the cause of all this evil. What do we do?
Mon. … When will we stop thinking that God or our ancestors are the cause of death, calamities and accidents? God is good and he can only give life and provide what is good for people. Also the ancestors are good, they are with the Lord, share in his life and pray for the protection and good of their families. Any contrary believe is paganism.
Tues. … When the tragedy of death strikes us do we lose all hope and feel totally defeated? Do we like the widow at Zarephath do all we can do and try to find who is guilty for all of this thereby increasing our sorrow? We should be like the prophet instead who believes in the God who gives life and who does not abandon anyone in the power of death.
Wed. … Paul declares that it was not a man, but the Lord himself who revealed to him that salvation does not depend on observing the Old Law, but comes from faith and trust in Jesus. To confirm this statement he tells the Galatians the story of his life, being a religious fanatic, who attached more importance to ancient traditions than to the revelation of God. Do we put our faith and trust in Jesus or do we hang on to our family and cultural traditions?
Thur. … Jesus has pity on those suffering. His compassion does not limit itself to emotional feelings or prayers for those suffering, as important as these may be. His compassion urges him to concrete on action, to do something practical to alleviate the suffering of people. Where do our responses to suffering stop, at prayer and emotional feelings or action?
Frid. … We are the hands, eyes, ears, and mouth of Jesus today. We can stop the movement towards death and despair and with the strength and love of Jesus, move in the opposite direction to bring hope and practical help to those crushed by suffering. Let us ask Jesus to guide us on our missions of mercy and love by helping us to start if only in some small but meaningful way.
Sat. … There is so much suffering going on around us, so many sick or dying, so many hungry and looking for work. Do we allow ourselves to get discouraged and give up? We cannot solve all the problems, but like Jesus, we can always give some help and hope to the one we meet today on our ‘Way’. Today is the best day to start our mission of compassion and love for the suffering. It really means that we cannot wait any longer. Let us not be deaf to the cries of the suffering, Jesus can hear them and he looks to us as Christians for positive and loving action.
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Father, we pray that we may open our eyes to see the pain and suffering of many of our brothers and sisters and that we may respond in the manner according to your mercy. Make us like Christ, grant us his love and compassion and the ability to proclaim the ‘Good News’ that Jesus is the ‘Lord of Life’ to those in despair.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.
Compliments: Bible Discussion Group.Our Lady of the Wayside, Maryvale.
“Discovering the Truth through God’s living Word”.