Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
1 Kings 17:17-24
Psalm 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11, 12, 13
June 5, 2016
In our first reading Elijah restores the widow’s son to earthly life. Jesus does the same for another widow in today’s gospel.
Certainly, the first answer that might come to find is to help the women. They are both widows and without male children surviving in those days and so they would have had no status or means to take care of themselves.
If this was the only reason for restoring the men’s earthly lives, then one might ask why God didn’t do this for every widow who lost an only son.
Is there some other benefit that comes from the miracle?
In Elijah’s case, the story ends with the woman identifying Elijah as a “man of God” because of the miracle. Likewise, when Jesus does the miracle, the people say, “A great prophet has arisen in our midst,” and “God has visited his people.” The miracles show the power of God at work in Elijah and, even more so, Jesus.
More specifically, it shows that God has power even over death. In these stories, the sons are simply resuscitated to earthly life but we know this to be a precursor of things to come, when Jesus will take those who have died in this world and raise them up in the resurrection to eternal life.
When our families and friends are sick, we can and should pray for them to get better.
When death comes, while we may miss them greatly, we do expect God to return them to life in this world but we do pray that they receive eternal life in Heaven.
Here I think we should reflect on how we respond when a loved one dies. Each culture and religion can have its own customs. For us, the immediate reaction is often sadness yet with some joy of the person going to Heaven. We generally have calling hours, a funeral service, and a burial.
We might think of these are three completely separate “events” but that is not how our church looks at it.
We might think of calling hours as just a time to offer our “condolences.” This does, and should happen, at calling hours but if that was all calling hours are, couldn’t people just stop by the house or call anytime? Looking at calling hours with a little more depth, they are a time to come together to share memories and to console one another. It can be a time to pray. Our Catholic funeral rites actually include a prayer ritual for the calling hours. It includes a bible reading and prayers. It might only last a few minutes but it is time to ask for God’s consolation upon the family and friends. If you look at the ritual, it can also be a good time for someone to offer “words of remembrance” (sometimes considered a eulogy).
Then there is the Funeral Mass. Often, this is seen as all about the person. As such people think it is when people (sometimes several) would offer words of remembrance. Certainly, the funeral must include the person for who they are but it is not a time just to reminisce or put the person on a pedestal. The funeral is to offer our prayers that our loved one be welcomed into Heaven and to give thanks for the gift of eternal life. It is a time of faith.
Then we go to the cemetery to inter our loved one. As with the calling hours and the funeral service, there is a set ritual for burial prayers. In fact, if you think about it, when burial comes immediately after the Mass, there is no final blessing in the church because the funeral isn’t over. The funeral ends with the burial and so the final blessing happens at the graveside.
So, while the funeral Mass is the pinnacle of the services, we need to appreciate and understand that not everything has to happen at the funeral Mass. We have opportunities to share memories at the calling hours (or a reception afterwards). In church, we remember the person for the faith we profess.