Sunday Sermon for June 5, 2016, the Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Readings: 1Ki 17:17-24; Gal 1:11-14a, 15a,c, 16a, 17, 19; Lk 7:11-17
In the first reading today we hear about the death of the son of a widow with whom the Prophet Elijah stayed when he was passing through that region. The woman had been very good to Elijah, but in her humanness, she harbored some questions. She knew that Elijah was a holy man, but to be a great Prophet he puts him into a different realm altogether. Beyond that, as there are today, so in ancient times, there were many false prophets. These were people who tried to make a living from giving prophesies. God is not too fond of people charging money for the gifts that He gave them at no cost.
Just think about how many people have been fooled by some who have fraudulently presented themselves as being a prophet, receiving locutions or apparitions from Jesus or Mary, or having some extraordinary “holiness” which is marked by strange phenomena. People are seeing our Lady in the rings of trees, the dirt on driveways, on a tortilla, and even on a grilled cheese sandwich. It is one thing to suggest that the shapes and lines might look like an image of Jesus or Mary, but to light candles, make pilgrimages, and send the sandwich and tortilla on tour demonstrates that people can be pretty easily fooled. For centuries people have noticed that clouds might look like something, but only in our day do we say that the cloud is that thing. This is what is happening with these other “phenomena.”
I mention all of this only to say that it was not unreasonable for this widow to harbor some doubts and questions. She may have even prayed to the Lord and asked for some kind of proof that Elijah was really God’s Prophet. The day came when her son died while Elijah was in her house. The woman blames her son’s death on Elijah and assumes that the child’s demise is in punishment for her past sins. Elijah’s response is also very interesting as he asks “will you afflict even the widow with whom I am staying?” It is not uncommon for those who befriend the Saints suffer a great deal.
Elijah prays to God and the life of the child is restored; he gives the boy back to his mother. Because of this event, the woman no longer has any doubts about the veracity of Elijah and his vocation. He is clearly a Prophet of God, because no one else could restore the dead to life. However, it must be made clear that Elijah did not bring the child back to life. He prayed to God, and the Lord gave life back to the boy.
Contrast this with what we hear in the Gospel where another widow has lost her son to death. As the funeral procession is making its way toward the burial place, Jesus stops the procession and tells the young man to get up. The man arises and Jesus gives him back to his mother. There are many elements that are similar in these accounts, but the great difference is that Elijah prayed to God for the restoration of the boy’s life while Jesus commanded the young man to arise. Elijah was a Prophet of God; Jesus is God.
When we preach to people that Jesus is Lord and God it would be reasonable for them to wonder, question, or doubt. St. Paul had rejected the Gospel message as preached by the Apostles. In the second reading, however, he says that the Gospel preached by him is not of human origin; rather, it came through revelation from Jesus. Any and all doubts were removed from the mind of St. Paul and he embraced the truth of our Lord’s divinity.
If it was necessary for God to give clear evidence that Elijah was who he claimed to be, it is even more necessary to give evidence regarding the one who claims to be the Messiah and the Son of God. This evidence was provided through the miracles our Lord wrought, by His death and resurrection, and by His revelation which is written down so that we can believe.
We can be certain that God will raise up Saints in our day, as He has in every generation. But He told St. Paul that where sin abounds, grace abounds even more. This means there is an abundance of grace available today and that grace will result in the raising up of some extraordinary Saints. We can be sure that Satan will try to confuse people by raising up his own “prophets” who will work miracles. The difference will be clear: Satan’s characters will be proud and take credit for the “miracles;” God’s Saints will be proven by humility and giving all credit to God.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.