Recently I was walking to a well known Long Island businessman who was insisting that change is so rapid and distractions so many and varied that young people today learn differently from the way old guys like me did. He probably is right. Our society rushes from one entertainer to the next, from one outrageous comment to the next, pausing only to exclaim about how awesome that last experience of stardom was – for the moment!
As I prayed over today’s readings it struck me that they offer us some insights that might be worthwhile to think and pray about. There is no doubt that Jesus in the Gospel has become a media star to all in Galilee. The people had begged Jesus to cure the centurion’s son because the centurion, a Roman pagan, had been good to the poor. That was awesome. Now Jesus himself is “moved to the depths of his being”, for this poor widow. And he does something scandalous. He stepped forward and touched the coffin! Touching the dead made one unclean. But then his words bring about the great miracle: and the young man comes back to life! Now Elijah had done something similar as we heard in the first reading.
But this act of Jesus is both an echo of what Elijah did and a new reality never before experienced in the world. There is both a connection and a break between these two events in time. What are they?
In the first, The Lord heard the prayer of Elijah. In the Gospel Jesus himself steps forward and, by his own divine power resuscitates the boy and gives him back to his mother. In both divine power, God’s merciful love, that cures and gives back life. But Jesus and Jesus alone can act in this world because he is the revelation of God’s life in human form.
This is a newness that is not another spectacle, not another Hollywood star or rock performance or sports celebrity. This is a game changer, a life transformer. And it is all traceable not to an agent or a publicity hype. It is founded in God’s love for all humankind. God’s creative love which made us in His Image; God’s constant care for us that caused him to send His Son to redeem us. God whose son is one with us so that we might be one with Him and the Father in the Holy Spirit.
Yet there is something more and here is where we come into the picture. With Elijah there was only the widow and her son. With Jesus there were both his disciples and the crowd who probably were curious bystanders, not every interested in the message Jesus was teaching. But they all were amazed and they all glorified God. Even among the naysayers the word spread through all of Judea and in all the surrounding region!
Today we are the witnesses that the God who sent His Son continues to watch over us with a merciful love and care that is ours through the life giving Spirit Jesus won for us. We are half way through the Jubilee Year of Mercy Pope Francis has given us. It has two parts to it. The first is so much like Jesus in the Gospel today, giving life out of the deeply human but always divine love of the Son who gave his life so that we might live! What happened at Nain happens every day in the hearts and the minds, in the struggles and the cares of our lives. This is not hype. This is not the razzle dazzle of today’s stars or tomorrow’s heroes. It is God’s love poured into our hearts. And as the Pope reminds us: Jesus is the human face of God the Father’s love for us. We who see Jesus see the Father who loves us and never abandons us!
But the second part of the Jubilee of Mercy is just as important. If we have received his mercy, his forgiveness, his never ending love, are we not called to be merciful to others? Is it not incumbent on us to be ministers of mercy, sharers of God’s love by being doers of his care for others and for the world? Are we not called to show our love for one another through acts of kindness, forgiving those who may have harmed us, seeking forgiveness from those we have harmed, caring for the sick, the poor, the weak, the marginalized; in short the corporal and spiritual works of mercy?
And remember all this comes not from us but from the God who created us, the Son who redeemed us. Paul is our great hero and model in all of this. He knew that Jesus had changed his life but it was not Paul’s doing. It was Jesus’ call and Jesus’ love that worked within him and through him. The gospel preached by me is not of human origin. It is a revelation of Jesus Christ…God called me by his grace…so that I might proclaim him to the Gentiles!
Let your hearts be filled with the example of Jesus. Let your lives be strengthened by the example of Paul. All of what is good and holy comes to us from a loving God. I pray that the rest of this Year of the Jubilee of Mercy may makes us witnesses like Paul and givers of mercy , the mercy we all have received from a loving Father who does not change, is always with us and who calls us to life and to life everlasting. Amen