The last few Sundays have been dramatic Feast Days: Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, and Corpus Christi. In no small way they have continued to amplify the great message of Easter. Christ is Risen! Leave the upper room and tell all. And know that it is through the Holy Spirit that the Son continues to be among us so that we may be raised up to the glory of the Father. But this particular Sunday doesn’t have a great title other than the 10th Sunday in Ordinary Time. This time is ordinary not in the sense of being plain or unremarkable, but in the sense of being counted as the next Sunday after the last Sunday. For Time is anything but unremarkable.
In the Second Reading we hear Paul giving witness to how his own past lived in Judaism became entirely disrupted by the revelation of the Risen Christ. But rather than see this only in terms of a discontinuity between past and present (or between Judaism and Christianity), the scriptures for today present us with similar stories between the Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures) reading of Elijah the Prophet and today’s Gospel.
BREATHING IN AND BREATHING OUT
In the First Reading the son of a widow has stopped breathing. He has died. At first the widow turns to Elijah to ask him if this misfortune is some type of punishment. The prophet takes the son to an upper room to speak with God and to ask that the “breath of life” be returned to the child. God hears Elijah’s prayer and returns the breath of life to the child. The widow reacts to this disruptive change of events with gladness and praise for Elijah as a true man of God who speaks the truth.
In the Gospel Reading a similar situation presents itself. A widow’s son has died. In fact, the boy is already laid in a coffin and there is a funeral procession taking him outside the gates of the city. Although the widow has not said anything to Jesus one way or another, Jesus is moved by seeing her and says, “Do not weep.” This is speaking the truth to fear and sadness in the face of death. What’s more, Jesus touches the coffin and the procession halts. Jesus offers the very breath of life in forming
the next words, “Young man, I tell you arise.” And his divine command becomes reality. Afterward, there is both praise to God from the crowds for his actions as well as fear and awe. For as fearful and sad as death can be, something more powerful is present here and has taken that fear and sadness away.
AWAY FOR THE SUMMER
Whether we actually have vacation time or not, we all dream of summer vacations as time away and hence behave in that matter. We will try to take things slower. We will try to relax. We will try to “get away” from the normal and seek the extraordinary. But we will always be between this (Ordinary) Sunday and the next (Ordinary) Sunday, between wondering one way about what God has done or given us or feeling differently afterwards.
But if we take the time to seek the deeper truth, perhaps spend a little time participating with the Divine Breath of the Spirit by simply breathing in and breathing out, we might experience a more profound presence of God in our lives. When we start to form words and think of the power the “breath of life” has to form and shape what it sends out into the world, perhaps we too might ask with more discernment in our prayers (like Elijah) and speak more lovingly (as Jesus did) in the face of life’s disappointments. Who knows how God will answer? Or how the Spirit will prompt you to speak.
Director of Christian Formation
This article also appears in the Sunday Bulletin for June 9, 2013.