Sunday in Ordinary Time
June 5, 2016
Fr. José Maria Alvim Cortex, F.S.C.B.
Sunday Reading Meditations
Today’s first reading and Gospel talk about death. In each reading, there is a widow who has lost her only son.
In the first reading, the prophet Elijah prays over the body of the dead son of the widow in whose house he was staying. God hears this prayer and the boy comes back to life. It is God who revives the boy. The prophet is merely an instrument in this miracle. Thus, we see that only God has power over death. The Psalm says: “O LORD, you brought me up from the nether world; you preserved me from among those going down into the pit” (Ps 30:3).
In the Gospel, Jesus encounters the funeral procession of a young man, the only son of a widow. There was a large crowd of people going to the burial place with the widow. They were shocked by the death of this young man. Jesus is moved with pity for her. He stops the procession and says to the corpse: “Young man, I tell you arise!” (Lk 7:14). In doing so, Jesus reveals his divinity. He does not need to pray, as Elijah did. Jesus himself has power over death and could miraculously rouse the young man from the sleep of death. That is why the people exclaimed: “God has visited his people” (Lk 7:16).
In both miracles, people who were dead came back to life. It was the same with Lazarus and the daughter of Jairus, who were also brought back to life. However, these were not cases of resurrection.
The revival of the body is only a partial answer to death. The widows had their sons back for a time but they died eventually. Death was delayed but not conquered. Both miracles were just signs that proclaimed the great coming events of the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
What our faith promises us is not revival from death but something completely new. In Christ, our body will rise into a completely new dimension. We will enter fully—body and soul—into eternal life.
Today’s readings invite us to consider what our faith brings to the experience of death. What is the difference between facing the death of our loved ones with Christ and without Christ? First of all, we have to say that Christians weep and mourn like those who have no faith. In our grief, we are no different from anyone else. Faith is not a magic solution to death. The disappearance of a loved one from the visible world is hard for everyone. When death occurs, a place becomes vacant. All human beings experience such emptiness. Death leaves a gap in the lives of the family and friends of the deceased.
Again we ask, what difference does our faith bring to the experience of death? I found a very interesting answer to this question in the writings of Adrienne Von Speyr, a Swiss mystic who lived in the twentieth century: “When a man dies from the earthly point of view, he lives on in God as eternal life. With his death, with his disappearance from the visible world, a place becomes vacant, but it does not remain empty. God takes possession of it. From a worldly point of view, a man’s death leaves a gap in the life of his friends and of those who loved him. But that gap makes room for God in men’s hearts. It is a reminder of God and is a source of devotion and surrender to God; it is seized and filled by God.”
The experience of death really challenges our faith. When we lose someone we love, we need to search for Jesus’ presence in the absence that we feel. It is this movement of our faith that makes the difference in the way that a Christian faces death.
With Jesus’ death and resurrection, all darkness was filled with his light. Today’s entrance antiphon says: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; whom should I dread?” (Ps 27:1–2).
Faith does not bring those we have lost back to life. It does much more! It fills our hearts with the hope of the Final Resurrection. God’s light fills the gap created by our loss, showing us that we have not lost those whom we have loved but have begun to possess them in a new way that will never end. We could not proclaim Jesus Christ as our Savior if he did not save those we love the most.
Let us pray for the increase of our faith. May the event of the death and resurrection of Christ illuminate our hearts, wounded by death. May we have greater faith in the eternal life that Christ brought us. May our mourning be transfigured by the light of the Easter morning. May we begin here on earth to experience the promise that will be gloriously fulfilled in Heaven. May our surrender to God lead us to face death with hope.
(1) Adrienna Von Speyr. The Word Becomes Flesh: Meditations on John 1-5, tarns. St. Lucia Wedenböver, O.C.D., and Alexander Dru, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1944.
Sunday Reading Meditations