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Tenth Sunday – Year C – Ordinary Time
Readings: 1 Kgs 17:17-24; Gal 1:11-19; Lk 7:11-17.
1/ First Reading: RSV 1 Kings 17:17 After this the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became ill; and his illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him. 18 And she said to Elijah, “What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to cause the death of my son!” 19 And he said to her, “Give me your son.” And he took him from her bosom, and carried him up into the upper chamber, where he lodged, and laid him upon his own bed. 20 And he cried to the Lord, “O Lord my God, hast thou brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by slaying her son?” 21 Then he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried to the Lord, “O Lord my God, let this child’s soul come into him again.” 22 And the Lord hearkened to the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived. 23 And Elijah took the child, and brought him down from the upper chamber into the house, and delivered him to his mother; and Elijah said, “See, your son lives.” 24 And the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.”
2/ Second Reading: RSV Galatians 1:11 For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not man’s gospel. 12 For I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ. 13 For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it; 14 and I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace, 16 was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with flesh and blood, 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia; and again I returned to Damascus. 18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas, and remained with him fifteen days. 19 But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother.
3/ Gospel: RSV Luke 7:11 Soon afterward he went to a city called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. 12 As he drew near to the gate of the city, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a large crowd from the city was with her. 13 And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” 14 And he came and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” 15 And the dead man sat up, and began to speak. And he gave him to his mother. 16 Fear seized them all; and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!” 17 And this report concerning him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country.
I. THEME: God liberates people from suffering and death.
People fear of many things in their life, such as: losing their properties, unemployment, sickness, and especially death because it takes away everything. Though everyone fears death but none can avoid it. People feel teribly sad when they see a mother burying her child and crying: «The yellow leaf is still on the tree while the green is felt down.» The more painful than this is the situation of a mother who has only one child; she thinks her child shall take care of her when she grows old. But no body understands God’s providence when she is the one who buries her only child, her only hope in life.
Today readings show the painful situation of the two widows who witnessed their sons to die; but God’s merciful love changed their pain into joy by raising them to life. In the first reading, the prophet Elijah asked God for the Zarephath widow’s son to live again. She is the one who sacrificed her water, bread and a living place for the prophet Elijah. In the Gospel, Jesus raised the only son of the Nain mother from his death even she didn’t ask for it because he can’t stand her excruciating pain. In the second reading, St. Paul recognized God’s immense love for him when he felt from his horse on the way to Damascus. He deserved of death because he persecuted Christians, but God opened his eyes from being blind and gave him the mission of bringing salvation for the Gentiles by preaching.
1/ Reading I: “The Lord hearkened to the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived.”
1.1/ The mother’s excruciating pain: This Zarephath widow is the one who sacrificed her water, bread and a living place for the prophet Elijah (1 Kgs 17:7-16). In return, Elijah used God’s given power to fill her containers with flour and oil until the day when rain is falling down again (1 Kgs 17:14-15). After these things, “the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became ill; and his illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him. And she said to Elijah, “What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to cause the death of my son!””
She didn’t say Elijah’s presence is the reason for her son’s death; but his presence reminded sins which she committed, and her sins are the reason of his death. She followed Jewish tradition that connects sins with sickness and death. In other words, she believed that her sins are the reasons of her son’s death and suffering.
1.2/ God listened to the prophet’s prayer: God never let people’ generosity which had been done for His prophets or leaders be forgotten. The Old Testament proved this point many times. In today passage, the prophet Elijah reminded God what this widow has done for him: “O Lord my God, hast thou brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by slaying her son?”
Elijah showed his faith in God by persevering in his prayer and lied on the top of the child three times to revive him. At last, God hearken to his voice and let the child live again. This event also shows that the power to give and to take away life belong only to God.
And Elijah took the child, and brought him down from the upper chamber into the house, and delivered him to his mother; and Elijah said, “See, your son lives.” The woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.”
2/ Reading II: Christ liberated Paul from his sins and death.
2.1/ Paul’s blinded eagerness before his conversion: He himself confessed his sinful life as follows, “For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it; and I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers.” But the event of falling from his horse and becoming blind completely changed his life because the one, whom Paul eagerly persecuted, appeared and showed him the danger of his blind eagerness, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It hurts you to kick against the goads” (Acts 26:14).
This event helped Paul deeply felt God’s immense love for him. Christ revealed for him to recognize the true religion which is to believe in Christ sent by God, not to blindly chasing after the faith of the jealous Pharisees. He loves and gives salvation for Paul when he is still a sinner and deserving of death. This shows people by themselves can’t do anything to achieve salvation; but must completely believe in God’s merciful love.
2.2/ Paul’s learning of Christ’s revelation in the Arabian desert: After Paul was healed by Ananias, God revealed His will for Paul to be the apostle of the Gentiles. So, instead of went to Jerusalem to meet other apostles, he came to Arabian deserts to spend time with God. In this meditated time, Christ privately revealed all divine mysteries because he didn’t have time with Christ as other apostles. This important period prepared him for his future apostolic works. Paul reminded others many times that he became the apostle of Christ is by God’s will, and the reason why he knows Christ’s teaching is because he was directly instructed by Christ. Only after these three years, he went up to Jerusalem to meet other apostles.
2.3/ Paul’s eagerness of preaching the Gospel: God doesn’t take away Paul’s eagerness but He gives him the direction to use that eagerness for preaching the Good New as he confessed to the Galatian in today passage, “For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it; and I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers.”
Looking back at Paul’s life, we clearly see God’s wonderful providence. He didn’t take away his blind eagerness so he might stop to persecute Christians, but showed him the meaningful purpose which he could participate in God’s plan of salvation by bringing salvation to the Gentiles through his preaching. From that time, Paul became the person who eagerly preaches God’s word without fearing of suffering, scourges, prison and even death.
Paul’s life teaches us an important lesson. God doesn’t want us to die for ever; but He always provides opportunities for us to live. The important thing for us is to have courage to recognize our sins, to repent, to do God’s will and to live. If we stubbornly persist in our will, we are deservedly of suffering and losing our life forever.
3/ Gospel: Jesus had compassion and raised the widow’s only son to life.
3.1/ God is compassionate with human sufferings: Facing death, people is completely powerless. They are frightful when facing it, especially the young, the mass of death, or a sudden death as the Nain mother’s son in today passage. She is a widow and has only one child. She considers him as the only hope to sustain her in her old age; and now, he was dead and left her forever. She never thinks that she is the one to bury him, but him to her. God has a special compassion for the widow and the orphan because they are lacking supports from their husband and father for their family. Whoever maltreats them, that one does to God, He shall protect and liberates them (Cf. Psa 68:5; Isa 10:2; Jer 49:11; Eze 22:25).
The Greeks, especially the Stoics, though they believe in the Most High; but they don’t believe He is compassionate for human suffering. They reason: if people can cause God to be happy or sad, they have power on him. If people have power on God, they are greater than Him; but no one is greater than the Most High. Therefore, the Most High must have no feelings. This belief is completely opposite with the Catholic faithful who believe God has compassion with human suffering. Luke reported Jesus had compassion for the Nain mother who is weeping for her son, and Jesus consoled her, “Do not weep!” In the Gospel according to John, he reported “Jesus wept” (Jn 11:35) and “Jesus deeply moved again” (Jn 11:38) before he raised Lazarus who died in the tomb for three days.
3.2/ God has power over both life and death: God has power to raise the dead. In the old Testament, beside the prophet Elijah raised the Zarephath widow’s son, we also have the prophet Elisha who raised the Shunem widow’s son to life by breathing air from his mouth to the boy’s mouth (2 Kgs 4:34-37). In the New Testament, there are three times Jesus raised the dead to life: He raised the Zairus’ daughter to life (Cf. Mt 9:24-25, Mc 5:41-43, Lk 8:54-56); also raised the Nain mother’s son in today passage (Lk 7:11-17) and raised Lazarus who had been three days in the tomb (Jn 11:38-44). The Book of Acts also reported two events: Peter raised to life Dorcas, a woman who always helped others, (Acts 9:40-41); and Paul raised to life Eutychus, who was felt from a window and died when he listened to Paul’s teaching (Acts 20:9-10).
When witnessing God’s power in raising the dead, people were greatly feared and glorified God. They said: “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!” Christ’s power of raising the dead has been foretold by the prophet Isaiah about the Messiah (Isa 25:8-9; 35:4-6).
Jesus’ touching of the bier is an unclean act according to Levi’s law (Lev 21:11) and prevents him to enter the temple; but he is ready to be unclean so others can live as he also touched the dead, the hemorrhaged woman and the lepers. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews beautifully described Christ as follows: “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb 4:14-16).
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– Since we have God who always has compassion for human suffering, we should offer our suffering to God and pray: If He wills, He takes away our suffering; if He wants us to suffer, ask Him to give us more strength to stand them.
– God has power both on life and death. He has power to take away life and to give life. If we have such God who controls our life, we should have no fear.
– We shouldn’t fear of any power of this world, even death, because Christ has died and risen. Death has no power on Him and us.