5th June 2016
In the books of Kings there are many tales told about the great prophet Elijah. This one is while he was staying in a house outside the promised land where he was away from the severe drought that God had caused in the promised land. God provided food for him and for the widow who had kindly taken him in; our reading (1 Kings 17:17-24) tells of what happened next. Some might think that her dead child was brought back to life miraculously by God through Elijah, or that Elijah was like a paramedic who might revive someone who has stopped breathing; it might be noted that miracles are things that amaze us and that we attribute to God – there are many miracle stories outside of the bible, of people being brought back to life, and anyway God causes everything that happens. But this account could also be seen as emphasizing the power and concern of God even beyond the realm of the chosen people or the story might just have been preserved to add to the greatness with which Elijah was revered as a man of God.
In the late 70’s AD Luke wrote in the Acts of the Apostles the story he had heard of the conversion of Paul – he was struck off his horse, heard the voice of Christ and was blinded for a time before changing from persecuting Christians to being one himself. The second reading is from 20 years earlier, in which Paul himself writes, in his own words in Galatians (1:11-19 passim), of the very dramatic spiritual transformation that he had been through. He did this because he wanted to affirm his authority to the Galatians which was needed especially because of the radical nature of his message to them. He taught that God wanted even non-Jews to have a share in all the blessings and benefits won by Jesus; but he himself had made contact with the Church leaders in Jerusalem about this even though he had once persecuted the church. We have a very privileged insight into a spiritual transformation that cannot really be put into words – hence Luke’s version is different..
The gospel for today is about the raising to life of the son of a widow at Nain (Luke 7:11-17). Just prior to this Luke writes of a centurion, friendly to the Jewish community, whose concern for his servant led him to want Jesus to cure him, but what he says to Jesus is well know to Catholics receiving communion – Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my servant shall be healed. The story today of the raising at Nain is only found in Luke’s gospel; we have to remember that he is not writing history but Good News, so it is more like preaching in which something of relevance to the way his readers live or should live needs to be said. So this story is told to show the very human concern that Jesus, and hence God, feels for people; the feeling is expressed as very strong with a Greek word meaning being moved in one’s inner being; the story could tell followers of Christ how they should feel about events in the world.