Sunday, June 9, 2013

10th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Our lives are marked so often by the ordinary, the not so unusual.  Just consider the moments of the day:  nothing out of the ordinary.  "De More" the Latin phrase that means "as usual."  Could be moments of leisure, times for errands, three meals, set ups, clean ups --- perhaps boring if the same every day.  Really nothing that is a life or death matter.

Then ... there is that day when "de more" might be hoped for.  These are the days when news is not so good.  A friend dies.  The breadwinner next door get his first pink slip.  Perhaps it is a day when a doctor's news brings us to our knees.  Then there is the day when strong winds down out of the sky, like a sharpened knife, destroys everything bringing death is so many different ways.  Families and all they possess are not ruined, they are blown away, never to be seen again.

Today's readings speak of two of those most different days.  Think with me:   700 years ago there was the man, known to many as capable of making his way through those winds of life and death.  People called him Elijah.  For them he was a prophet.  He spoke truth to evil.

At a time when dryness in all of its searing pain brought death to the people of Israel.  No "as usual" days during drought.  But God led his prophet from the land to drought to Sidon to a small town, a village, the people called the placed Zarepheth.  There the Spirit led him to one of the town's widows.  Not only living with spousal loss, this lady knew the most painful death.  Her son was visited by sickness and his life was taken from him.  Where was Elijah?

Obviously the people found him and brought him to the house of death.  He went to the bedroom where the body lay in death.  Elijah lay atop the corpse three times and called out to the God who seemed to be so harsh to the widow's life.  He cried out for new life.  And yes, it happened.  The boy's body was filled with life.  The stunned mother knew what to do:  she cried out to Elijah.  She recognized in him the not just a prophet of renown but she experienced the God of life.

Now come some 700 years later to another village known among the people as Nain.  It was in Galilee.  Jesus and his small company of apostles and disciples were in the town and came upon a funeral procession.  The lifeless body of another young person was on a final earthly journey, the march marking his final day of presence among the people, his burial into another world.  Jesus sees the lifeless figure lying on a lifeless plank of wood.  He touches the body.  Suddenly the stillness of death touches the crowd.  They are almost paralyzed for a brief moment.  What was dead is now alive.  Jesus had confronted death.  "Young man, get up!"  And what must have been the paralysis of fear suddenly become a chorus of praise:  "A great prophet has risen among us."

What do these to event, separated by some 700 years, teach us?  Perhaps we do not focus upon it so easily or frequently enough:  life and death are two threads that are tied together in each day of our life, yes even in the very fabric of our own live.  And the truth be told, we our actions speak so much of life each day.  Death is a reality we push off.  Yet each day can be moments for us when even what is not so good turns to what is terrible.  The two women had that encounter.  Their only source of support in terrible times had died.  Even today for some parents the precious life of their sons and daughters are ended by drugs, by wars, by carelessness, by silliness, by guns!

Death is not the only pain or loss.  Yes, loss of employment.  "You have terminal cancer!"  A tornado visits your house for a second time.  Your teen-aged son or daughter disappears into the hallways of needles or condoms.  Life goes on ... not always to our liking.

Yet, the two widows, were they to meet you today would speak out very loudly and profoundly:  God does not abandon when life is or seems to be taken away. When all that is treasured seems lost, God's treasure house is opened.

In our society today, many shun speaking with the word "death."  We are not comfortable.  A loved one has "passed."  A neighbor has moved ... to another life.  We seem so uncomfortable around death.  Sometimes we cannot even speak the word.  But in the two stories, separated by 700 years, we see something so strong:  God touches death and life returns.  For us who believe in God, the times of death are invitations to us to speak of God of Life.  Fear not!  I am with you always ... even in those moments when death feels like a trap.  Speak out from fear and pain that Jesus Christ, our Lord, has risen from his own death.  He is our Lord of life.  Praised by our God.