10TH Sunday of Ordinary Time
“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 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 of the dead to life, and only God could raise the physically dead back to life. They also 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 to life will be the surest sign that God is at work restoring His covenant and renewing His people. Just as Elijah raised the dead, so the dead will one day be raised by the Messiah, and Israel will have the sure proof that God’s promise is being fulfilled in the one who raises the dead to life.
So Jesus arrives, and He performs many miracles to confirm that his mission is from God, but when He raises the dead to life, these miracles point 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 a prophet like Ezekiel or Elijah. Elijah’s prayers bring about a miracle of resurrection, but it is clear that the resurrection itself is God’s work, not Elijah’s. He only petitions God to do it, 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 actually God’s word that comes from Elijah’s mouth that accomplishes this great work. Elijah knows this is absolutely true and makes no claim that it is by his power that this great work is accomplished. Peter and the Apostles will do much the same when they work miracles in Jesus’ name, not in their own.
But Jesus does not act like Elijah or the Apostles when he raises the dead. He does not beg God to perform this miracle, but simply, as in his other miracles, commands that it be done. In short, Jesus raises people from the dead in his own name, by his command, by his power. Elijah prays and asks that God will raise the child. Jesus simply raises the dead by his word. If curing the blind and healing the deaf and the crippled are signs of the arrival of the Kingdom, even more so is the raising of the dead, which is the very 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,
Now we perhaps may wish and pray that Jesus will come to the rescue of one of our dying loved ones, that He will perform the miracle we pray for and cure the person’s illness. But very interestingly, Christians never pray for Jesus 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 up to the life of Heaven. This is because Christians believe that the only resurrection to be prayed for now is the resurrection to glory at the 2nd coming of the Lord. Why would we want the person to be raised to a mortal life where he or she will suffer and die all over again? Perhaps that Christian attitude was foreshadowed by King David when he stopped praying for his son to live. Once he was dead, David understood that He was now better off in the hands of His loving creator.
In this regard, I have always felt a bit sorry for St. Lazarus. His sisters and friends were certainly happy to have him back again, but poor Lazarus himself would have to go through all this misery a second time. Jesus raised him not so much out of compassion for the bereaved sisters, but to give a most powerful sign of the arrival of His Kingdom and His power which would be the greatest comfort to believers. Likewise He raised the Widow’s son and the daughter of the Synagogue official Jairus, not simply out of compassion for the parents but again for the objective of confirming his mission and identity. He raises the dead primarily and sparingly to signal both his mission and identity, that was part of the plan of God.
But these preliminary resurrection miracles were not the resurrection He was going to make possible for us all. That greater and most desired resurrection would be revealed 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 and a glorified humanity that will be like that of Christ’s, which was only partially manifested in Hid Transfiguration. That is the true resurrection we desire, that is what we hope for with all out heart, and this hope will not be disappointed if we have the necessary faith to live here and now a whole new life, resurrected from the death of sin and manifest