Shared Homily Starter
First reading: 1 Kings 17:17-24
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 30
Second reading: Galatians 1.11-19
Gospel: Luke 7.11-17
Those of you, who know me, know that I’m a sci-fi fan. Have any of you seen the film, The Mummy? Well, there is line recurring line in the film, “Death is only the beginning.” That line seems to be an appropriate theme for today’s readings. In the first reading, we find the woman of the house whose son has died, saying “O God, what I’ve I done that you’ve taken away my son.” Then we have Elijah saying, “O God, did you have to take her son while I’m staying with her.”
Let’s look at this reading through the lens of dream therapy, where each character in the dream represents the dreamer. Looked at this way, the woman’s reaction mirrors how most of us respond when something tragic happens in our lives, namely, “what did I do to deserve this.” Elijah then reminds us of our probable next response and that is, “why now?” Now, you may be thinking, well, what about the dead son? In this interpretation, the dead son represents something gone dormant. Something in our lives that we want to cling to is no longer working for us as it is and needs to be transformed. Now although, the first responses of the woman and Elijah were a critical questioning of God’s motives, Elijah maintained his trust in God’s love and goodness, “and cried out to the Lord, ‘O Lord my God, let this child’s life come into him again.” It is also like that with us. When we trust in God and ask for help, whatever it is that was troubling us, even if it is us, can be transformed into something revitalized and inspiring, even if not always in the way we expect.
Paul gives us an example of transformation in the second reading. Things were really going well for Paul. He tells us that he advanced in Judaism beyond many among his peers of the same age, because he was far more zealous for the traditions of his ancestors. To put it in another way, “it’s always been done this way and nobody can change it”. In an effort to destroy the new movement that was seen as a threat to religious orthodoxy, he violently persecuted the followers of Jesus. Subsequently, as we know, on the way to Damascus, he was struck blind. We also know Paul’s period of blindness led to the opening of not only his eyes, but his heart and mind were opened. Paul’s new openness made room for Jesus to take Saul’s religious zeal and transform it into a zest to spread the Good News. The second reading shows that even when we’ve done terrible things, we can be transformed into something revitalized and inspiring.
Last Sunday, I was at an interfaith discussion on the Spirit of Love. One of the things that Imam Bode Drame said really struck me. He said the two main roadblocks of our opening to the Divine are fear and grief. Now, we have all heard that love casts out fear but I had never thought of grief in this way.
When I reconsidered today’s Gospel in light of this new insight. You might say, “Something clicked.” Now Jesus was on his way to the town called Nain and he was at the threshold of his destination, when he saw the funeral procession. He knew the woman was a widow and this was her only child.
Now we can look at this literally or we can look at a broader meaning. For example, we all suffer many types of loss during our lifetime. Whenever, we suffer a loss, it means a change in our lives, in our routines and the loss of someone or something that is intimately familiar. Sometimes the loss is felt so intently that it paralyzes us.
Now let’s examine how Jesus deals with the situation of the widow and her dead son. In the first place, he must have been tired from his journey but that didn’t matter to him. He didn’t ask the woman if she was a Jew or if she was in a state of grace. He didn’t ask her anything at all. No, the gospel tells us that “He had compassion for her.” Then he revived her son and gave him back to her. Jesus took the time to stop and Jesus acted upon his compassion. Jesus’ love transformed grief.
In order to imitate Jesus, we have to realize that in each of us dwells, what an acquaintance of mine call’s the God-Seed. Now before we can really love our neighbour and show genuine compassion, we have to nurture our God-Seed. This calls us to internalize deep in our hearts as well as our minds, that God loves us. We have to truly believe that God loves us, warts and all, and be open to that love. We may have suffered exclusion from society or the church, or made to feel shame about this or that, or “less than” than in some way. Today’s Gospel is calling us to have compassion for that part of ourselves that is paralyzed by the grief caused by any of that. God’s love for us is never conditional. There are no limits on God’s healing and transformative love. If we love ourselves enough to be open to God’s love, we in turn become more compassionate; we are revitalized and inspired to act with love. If we allow fear and grief to die within us, then indeed, death is only the beginning.
Please share your thoughts.