5 June 2016: Tenth Sunday in Ordinary time

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
1 Kgs 17:17-24 Ps 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11, 12, 13 Gal 1:11-14a, 15ac, 16a, 17, 19 Lk 7:11-17

The compassionate God present among his people

Green_bannerDuring Ordinary time the Lectionary invites RCIA participants and the believing community to hear and to reflect on Jesus’ stories and teachings from his everyday ministry. This week’s readings ask us to reflect on God’s personal compassion and continuing presence with us.

(In Ordinary time, the first reading and the gospel provide Sunday’s theme. The second reading is part of a multi-week, sequential reading from one of Paul’s letters.)

The first reading from the book of Kings is part of the Elijah Cycle, which traces the lives and actions of the prophets Elijah and Elisha. Their stories influenced later Jewish expectations of a messiah, and the Christian scripture writers’ accounts of Jesus’ miracles–including today’s gospel story. Elijah’s raising of a widow’s son parallels Luke’s gospel in characters, actions, and words.

The second reading is from Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Paul evangelized the Galatians between 50 and 54 AD. He writes this letter in 54 or 55 to refute the “false teachers,” to assert his own validity as an apostle, and to restate the key ideas of the gospel message. Paul stresses that his gospel is “not of human origin,” rather through a direct revelation of Jesus (see Acts 9: 3-8). Paul also notes his life as an observant Jew, his Jewish education as a Pharisee, and his initial opposition to Jesus’ way.

Luke’s gospel tells the story of Jesus’ mighty act of raising the widow’s dead son to life, recalling the Elijah story and connecting Jesus’ ministry and actions with the Hebrew prophets. This story shows us three aspects of Jesus:

  • Compassion: The Lectionary translator tells us that, on seeing the widow, Jesus was “moved to pity.” Luke’s Greek word–σπλαγχνίζομαι (splangk-NIHD-zoh-mah-ee)–is more physical and immediate: Jesus’ “guts yearned.” Today we would say “his heart broke” for the woman. Luke’s Jesus is not a casually observing bystander; he is fully engaged, empathizing with another’s catastrophic loss. In a single word Luke reveals a side of God we don’t often see.
  • Prophetic role: In the first reading, the widow calls Elijah a “man of God” who speaks the truth. The biblical meaning of truth is “fidelity demonstrated by an act.” In the gospel, the crowd calls Jesus a “great prophet.” Prophets speak what is true: through the action of raising dead sons, both Jesus and Elijah point to God’s compassion for his people.
  • God’s Word-in-action: In the first reading, the widow says “the word of the Lord” comes from Elijah’s mouth. In the gospel, the crowd says “God has visited his people.” Elijah speaks “the word of the Lord” to raise the widow’s son. Jesus is God’s incarnate Word who raises the widow’s son. Jesus is God fully present and engaged with his people.

Today’s readings present two miraculous stories of life restored, not just to the dead sons, but to the grief-stricken widows as well. When we are stricken–injured, sorrowful, hopeless, faithless–we can easily forget God’s compassion and abiding presence with us. God’s truth–fidelity to us shown through actions–is God’s Word-made-flesh. Jesus, present with us in Word, sacrament, and believing community, knows us, his guts yearn for us. Do we let him restore us to life?

—Terence Sherlock

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