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10th Sunday of the Year- 09 June, 2013
I Kings 17: 17-24; Gal 1: 11-19; Luke 7: 11-17 Eric Clapton who was one of the most influential musicians of the rock era, on a warm spring day in March of 1991 received a phone call from his wife, Lori. In a frantic voice she told him that their four and a half year old son, Connor, had just accidentally fallen to his death after crawling out of an open window of their 53rd floor Manhattan apartment. Clapton could not believe what he was hearing and rushed over the ten blocks to find paramedic equipment everywhere, and ambulances, and police cars. Only then did he begin to realize with a sinking heart, “Oh my God, it is true.” Out of his suffering, Clapton turned to his music and wrote a very personal song to express his grief . . . his struggle to live with the loss of his son . . . his yearning to know peace in his life again. It became a popular hit. It is called, “Tears in Heaven,” and its lyrics speak of Clapton’s search for the healing of his shattered heart. These are the words he wrote to his son:
“Would you know my name if I saw you in heaven?
Would you hold my hand, if I saw you in heaven?
I must be strong to carry on, ’cause I know I don’t belong here in heaven.”
The last words of the song are these:
“Beyond the door, there’s peace for sure,
and I know, there’ll be no more tears in heaven.”
The central theme of today’s readings is that, in a world of broken hearts, God sees and cares for us in our grief. He shows compassion on our miseries and gives us His healing touch. Today’s Scripture readings challenge us to become channels of God’s compassionate, healing love and to place our hope in Jesus who gives us resurrection and eternal life. The first reading, taken from I Kings 17, shows us how our merciful God uses His prophet Elijah to resuscitate the only the son of the poor widow of Zarephath who had given the prophet accommodation in her house during a famine. In the second reading, taken from the letter to the Galatians, St. Paul declares that the good news of God’s love, mercy and salvation which he preaches has been directly revealed to him by God Who had chosen him for ministry from his mother’s womb Today’s gospel story reveals to us the compassionate heart of God in Jesus. Meeting a funeral procession coming out of the village of Nain, Jesus was visibly moved at the sight of the weeping widow, going with the town to bury her only son. Jesus knew that the widows were one of the most destitute, dependent, and vulnerable classes of Israelite society, totally dependent on the mercy of others and the local synagogues and the Temple of Jerusalem. So Jesus stopped the funeral procession, touched the bier, consoled the mother and surprised every one by resuscitating the boy, thus extending God’s love and compassion to the bereaving mother.
Widows formed one of the most destitute, dependent, and vulnerable classes of Israelite society. To be a widow was to be completely dependent upon others for the provision of shelter and daily sustenance. Under the Israelite theocracy, it was through the husband that wife received the inheritance of land, financial security and physical sustenance. As a result, the worst thing that could happen to a woman was for her to lose her husband. But the Old Covenant law protected widows and made provision for them. For example, in Deuteronomy 24, there are regulations that prevent the Israelite from harvesting their fields more than once. Why? So that whatever remained of the harvest after the first pass would then be given to the destitute of society which included the widow. The first harvest was for the land-owner. The remaining harvest was given to the poor. Even then, the widow was left completely dependent upon the graciousness of the landowners and their obedience to the Mosaic Law.
Among the Jews, burial was required before sunset on the day a person died. The Jewish law severely restricted who could touch a dead body. Basically, only those who prepared the body for burial ever touched a corpse, for to do so made a Jew religiously unclean and temporarily disqualified from participation in religious services. A high priest was not even allowed to enter the room with a dead body, even if it were the body of one of his parents. On the practical side, this was probably a good public health measure to limit the spread of infectious diseases. On the cultural side, it had been ingrained into the minds of the people for generations. No one, especially very religious people, touched dead bodies unless they absolutely had to.
The scriptures make clear that God takes no pleasure in the death of anyone. Widows and orphans were a particular concern of the prophets. Jesus stands in that prophetic tradition. The scene at Nain is particularly sad because the mother in this story, who had already lost her husband, has now lost her only son and her only means of support. Jesus was visibly moved by the sight of the weeping widow, perhaps because he could foresee his own mother in the same position at the foot of his cross. His compassionate heart prompted him to console the widow saying: "Do not weep." Then Luke reports, “He touched the bier and when the bearers stood still, he said, ‘Young man, I say to you, arise.’ And the dead man sat up, and began to speak. And he gave him to his mother,” and participated in her indescribable joy.
Jesus’ physical touch not only restored life but brought freedom and wholeness to soul as well as body. Christ comes to restore what was lost. He, in fact, acts to remove the cause of pain and sorrow. In reading this fragment of the Gospel about the resuscitation of that young man of Nain, we could emphasize Jesus' divinity. But here we see Jesus’ humanity as well. We don’t see Jesus in the gospel episode as a remote Divine Being, but somebody close to us sharing our loss and sorrow. Jesus’ raising of the widow’s son was also a sign of the spiritual resurrection offered to all people. Jesus is showing concern about the need for us to be spiritually alive here and now.
The reaction of the people around was one of awe and admiration. "A great prophet has risen among us and God has visited his people." They had no doubts about the origin of what they had seen taking place; it was the work of God. Not surprisingly, the story spread like wildfire all through Judea and beyond.
Life messages: 1) We need to become channels of God’s compassionate and healing love as Jesus was: The gospel reminds us to have the same love and compassion for those who suffer that Jesus had. Our deeds of love will transform the broken-hearted and help them to experience God as the Father who has come among His people. We need to ask God for the grace to become like Christ for the others in our daily lives. Our society needs saints, and we can each be one in our own environment. As our Lord comforted this woman, let us comfort others.
2) We need to be spiritually alive: This story should help us to look at our own situation and see, first of all, how alive we really are. When we live in mortal sins we are physically alive and spiritually dead. We need the spiritual revival offered to us in the sacrament reconciliation. St. Augustine comments, "Our Mother the Church rejoices every day when people are raised again in spirit sacramentally.”
3) We need to offer ourselves with our broken hearts to Jesus: We need to bring our deepest hurts and broken relationships to Jesus and experience how he reaches out to us to grant us his loving reconciliation. Let us invite Jesus to transform the most difficult situations in our life. The Lord Jesus still raises the dead. We trust that promise each time we bring our shattered lives, our broken hearts, our anger, our depression, our deepest hurts to the table of the Lord and hear, in the voice of the priest, His sure and certain words: "This is my Body and this is my Blood given and shed for you!"
A prominent businessman was walking down the street of a large city on his way home at night, long after it was safe to be on the streets alone. There were all kinds of derelicts and people of questionable reputation on the streets. As he was walking by, the businessman happened to look down and see a man all curled up in the gutter trying to stay warm. The cool night air was progressively getting chillier and chillier. Something about this man made the businessman take another look at him, and then another. Finally, he walked over to get a good look. When he saw the man, and the look in his eyes, the businessman instinctively did what Jesus did with the widow who had lost her only son that day in the town of Nain. The businessman's heart went out to the man in the gutter. He bent down to him and said, "Whoever you are, you don't belong here!" The businessman took the man home with him to see if he could help him. As it turned out, the businessman was right. This man didn't belong there. He was a prominent physician who had taken to drink and had all but ruined his career. Just as Jesus had seen that the young man did not belong on the funeral bier, so the businessman saw that this man, whoever he was, didn't belong in the gutter. This story also has a happy ending. The businessman saw to it that the man got into a rehabilitation program and turned his life around. All because of that little word "compassion." Compassion can do more than you may think, especially if it's straight from the heart of Jesus.
(Source: Homilies of Fr. Tony Kadavil)