10TH Sunday of Ordinary Time 2013 (B)
“Now indeed I know that you are a man of God.
The word of the LORD comes truly from your mouth.”
1 Kgs. 17:24
No miracle was more powerful in confirming the true identity of Jesus as God’s Son than the Resurrection. Even during His ministry, the miracles of raising the dead were most powerful witnesses to his power being from Heaven. In today’s Gospel, Jesus has compassion on the widow of Nain who has lost her only son, and he brings him back to life and gives him back to his mother. One can only imagine the impact this had not only on His own disciples but on the crowd who witnessed this display of divine power.
All genuine miracles point to God as their true source, but especially the miracles of restoring life to the dead. Elijah in today’s first reading raises this boy, again the son of a widowed mother, back to life, and she exclaims that this proved to her that Elijah is truly a man of God whose words have the power of God in them, the power to raise the dead. The religious faithful of Israel knew that only God could forgive sins, a different kind of raising the dead to life, and only God could raise the physically dead back to life. They believed in the resurrection as a sign of the Messianic kingdom because Ezekiel had prophesied that the resurrection of the dead bones to living flesh would be a feature of the coming of the Messiah and His Kingdom. The Valley of the Dry bones has a literal reference to the fact that God will restore Israel as His people, a messianic promise, but it also has a fuller meaning that constitutes the resurrection of the dead as a sign that this restoration of God’s people is underway, because God’s power is accomplishing it.
Thus says the Lord GOD: Look! I am going to open your graves; I will make you come up out of your graves, my people, and bring you back to the land of Israel. You shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and make you come up out of them, my people!
The power to raise the dead will be the sure sign that God is at work restoring His covenant and renewing His people. Just as Elijah raised the dead, so the dead will be raised by the Messiah, and Israel will have the sure proof that His work is God’s promise being fulfilled.
So Jesus arrives, and He performs many miracles to confirm that his mission is from God, but when He raises the dead, this miracle points to a much greater truth, His true identity. He will be accused of blasphemy by his enemies because they recognize that He is claiming to be much more than prophet like Ezekiel or Elijah. Elijah’s prayers being about a miracle of resurrection, but it is clear that the resurrection itself is God’s work, not Elijah’s. He only begs God to do it, prays to God asking God to accomplish this mighty work. The widow recognizes this by saying that the holy man is “a man of God,” or from God, and that it is God’s word that comes from Elijah’s mouth and accomplishes this great work. Elijah knows this is true and makes no claim that is his power that does this work. Peter and the Apostles will do the same when they work miracles in Jesus’ name.
But Jesus does not act like Elijah when he raises the dead. He does not beg God to perform this miracle, but simply, as in his other miracles, commands it to be done. In short, Jesus truly raises people from the dead in his own name, but his command, by his power. Elijah prays that God will raise the child. Jesus simply raises the dead. If curing the blind and healing the deaf and the crippled are signs of the arrival of the Kingdom, even more is the raising from the dead, which is the hallmark of divine power, giving life and restoring life. This will be the work of the Church in another way, but giving life is the work of God,
We perhaps wish and pray that Jesus will come to the rescue of our dying loved ones, perform the miracle we pray for, cure the illness. But interestingly, we do not pray for Him to raise the dead back to this life. Once the person dies, the Christian friends and family change their prayers, not asking that Jesus raise the dead friend or family member back to this life, but asking that Jesus raise the dead to the life of Heaven. This is because Christians believe that the only resurrection to be prayed for is the resurrection to glory at the 2nd coming of the Lord. Why would we want the person to be raised to a life where he or she could suffer and die a second time? Maybe that was on David’s mind when he stopped praying for his son to live. Once he was dead, David understood that He was now in the hands of His creator.
I always felt a bit sorry for poor Lazarus in this respect. His sisters were happy to have him back, but Lazarus himself would have to go through all this a second time. Jesus raised him out of compassion for the bereaved sisters, and to give a sign of his Kingdom and power. Likewise He raised the Widow’s son and the daughter of the Synagogue official Jairus, out of compassion for the parents plus for the objective of confirming his mission and identity. He was going to raise the dead to signal his mission and identity, that was part of the plan of God, so why not do it for these good parents and relatives? But this miracle was not the resurrection He was going to make possible for us all. That greater resurrection would be revealed or signaled only by His glorious resurrection, and that resurrection is the only one a true believer will ever desire. No more suffering, no more death, no more sin, no more unhappiness, no more loss or absence of God and friends; that is the true resurrection, that is what we hope for, and our hope will not be disappointed if we have the necessary faith to live here and now a life of charity and good works.