Monday, June 10, 2013

Miracles of All Sorts

Here is the homily I gave for the 10th Sunday of Ordinary Time. I gave this homily at my summer assignment,  St. Matthew's Parish, in Gillette, WY. Enjoy!

A great prophet has arisen in our midst! God has visited his people! Each of the readings today, put God's power on display for us to see. Along with his power, his special love for the outcast is evident. His power and love were present in the Old Testament, they were present in the person of Jesus, and they are present to us today, and our readings show this.

The widow in the first reading is the same widow that baked Elijah bread with the last of her flour. If you remember your Bible stories from Sunday School class, Elijah was sent to this widow by God, and Elijah asked her for bread. She said she had only enough ingredients to bake a bit for her and her son, and then they planned to die. But she fed him first, and then her jar of flour never ran out. She was blessed because she trusted the prophet of God.

But immediately after that episode, we have this story, where her son, her only thing worth living for, dies. Again, God comes through, with power and love, and rescues this widow. Already, God's special love for the poor and the outcast is evident.

Then we see Jesus doing the exact same thing, we see that Jesus has a special place in his heart for the poor and the outcast, and he shows them his power and his love by raising another widow's son from the dead. There's a lot going on in a miracle like this. The first and biggest thing, is his obvious love, and his ability to meet people where they're at and help them. He still does that for us today.

When Jesus raises someone like the widow's son from the dead, it also inserts him firmly into the Jewish tradition of prophets. In my bible classes at seminary, the one thing that has been drilled into me more than anything else is that you have to understand Jesus in the Jewish context he came out of. When Jesus raised a person from the dead, the Jewish people, who were steeped in their history, couldn't help but think of stories like Elijah in the first reading, where one of the prophets from their history also raised someone from the dead.

The Jewish people of Jesus's day were on the lookout for a savior sent from God to liberate them from the Romans who were occupying their land. This savior had to be strong, he had to be a ruler to lead Israel back to it's rightful place as God's chosen people. This poor carpenter from Galilee certainly didn't fit the bill, or so they thought, so he spent three years trying to demonstrate who he was and what he was doing.

The primary reason he raised the widow's sone from the dead was because of love. But it was also a lesson. He raised people from the dead to prepare the world for his own resurrection. After his death and resurrection, when rumors started to spread that this miracle-worker from Galilee had risen from the dead, people would naturally think about these other miraculous raisings that he had already accomplished. These other "lesser" resurrections prepared for the greatest resurrection. I only dare to call the resurrection of the widow's son today a "lesser" resurrection because he still had to die again. Only Jesus' resurrection paved the way for a new kind of life in which there would be no death.

What must it have been like to be around Jesus during his time on earth? When you see him raise someone from the dead, you know this isn't any ordinary man. God worked in powerful and visible ways when he was on earth with us. 

Meditate on what it would've been like to be this man raised from the dead, to receive a favor like this from this great man. And then what is it like to have received these favors when this man appears to be a criminal? Are you popular with the community? Are you condemned by the community. Perhaps people aren't sure how to take you. You're supposed to be dead. The Pharisees plotted to put Lazarus to death after Jesus raised him, because it was causing more people to follow Jesus. Are there similar threats to your own life? Perhaps people are afraid of you. Perhaps they need to poke you to see if you're real. What if you were the mother? You would love this man Jesus no matter what he appeared to be. 

It's important to really enter into these stories. Sometimes we have a danger of disregarding the stories like we hear in our readings today, because these are things that happen in "Bible world," and "Bible world" is something clearly different than the world we live in. Our world is filled with jobs and bills and deadlines, but it isn't filled with people rising from the dead. That's just strange, and that's not how things operate in our world, so we disregard these stories, or hold them at arm's length and don't really engage them. We must remember that the world Jesus lived in is essentially the same world we live in, although now we've added airplanes and Facebook. The world is the same, but God's way of interacting with it has changed.

Paul shows us how God interacts with the world today. Compared to what Jesus did in Paul's life, raising people from the dead is nothing. In the reading today, Paul recalls how God called him from his way of life in Judaism, from persecuting the Church, to actually preaching it and becoming its biggest promoter. God turned Paul's heart from hatred to love, and that is a far more impressive miracle than raising someone from the dead. This miracle, far more the miraculous resurrections of the other readings, show God's power and his love.

But here's what's interesting about what Paul says here. He says that the work he has done, the great things he has done, God set him apart for this from before he was born. Paul recognizes clearly that God has worked powerfully in him and through him. Paul recognizes that God wants to do great things in the world, and he wants to use people to do it. God's power and his love is manifested through us, in the love we have for those around us.

Sometimes we think God is absent from the world because we don't see miraculous resurrections like in the Gospel today. But miracles of all sorts still happen today. Every time a baby is born, you think that's not a miracle? Every anniversary a couple celebrates, you think that's not a miracle? These things don't happen without God's divine assistance. But even on the explicitly supernatural level, before the Church declares someone a saint, we expect and require two miracles as proof that this person is in heaven. And when have a healing or something that looks miraculous, we send the best doctors and experts around to try to prove it false. In the Catholic Church we still expect miracles as signs of God's power and love.

The Eucharist we celebrate is the greatest manifestation of God's power and love for us. In power and love, God becomes food for us to eat, so that his love might be made manifest through us. This is the greatest miracle of all! So approach this Eucharist with confidence, because through it, whatever miracles we read hear about in the readings today will be far surpassed in you, as Christ's power and love come alive in you.

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