“I tell you, arise!” RC Women Priests’ Homilies June 5th, 2016
In the Gospel for Sunday we see the life giving power of the compassionate Jesus. In Luke 7:11-17 Jesus witnesses a funeral of the only son of a poor widow. “His heart went out to her and he said ‘Don’t cry'”( verse 13, NIV). He was deeply concerned for her knowing that her only financial and emotional support was now dead. She would descend into poverty and grief. The procession to the grave stopped as he went up to the coffin and touched it, saying “Young man,I tell you, arise! The dead man got up and began to talk and Jesus gave him to his mother”(verses 14 and 15). In doing so, Jesus raised two people from the dead, for surely the mother’s heart was as dead as the son’s.
The parallel reading from the Hebrew scriptures in I Kings 17:17-24 shows the prophet Elijah stretching himself out three times on the dead body of a widow’s son. The widow offered him hospitality, and he earnestly plead with God to “let the life breath return to the body of the child”. The life breath returned to the boy’s body and he was revived and given to his mother with the words “See, your son is alive!” Elijah too has saved two lives. While Luke may be showing his people a comparison to Elijah, Elijah pleads with God and resuscitates the boy while Jesus simply tells the man to arise. The people can conclude Jesus has the authority within himself, he is greater than even the revered prophet Elijah.
But the issue is not who is the greater it is about God’s power and will to give life back-to restore the dead, those who are dead while alive and those who have passed on from this life. God wants life for us and God wants us to have the faith to give life to one another. We will not raise anyone from the grave, but as I think of all I know who are not fully alive and who remain in the clutches of a living death, I know that I too need to be a life giver. And that needs to begin with me. So often clergy and those in other helping professions neglect themselves to the point of barely living as they struggle to minister to others. I am guilty of that and know that I cannot be a life giver if I let my own life slip away. I pray for strength to know how to live more fully and to serve more fully, these are complementary. Moreover, recently I have been through a second cancer and just as I thought it was over, gone, and I could get on with living, I got a scare that before excision the cancer may have spread into the lymph nodes-something did not look right on my CAT scan. I was frozen and it was only in communication with other priests and friends that I was able to pray about this. I had to pray hard to even get through the PET scan. And with their help and prayers I did pray and plead with God like Elijah, asking God to let the light of life return to every single cell of my body. I felt strangely at peace after the scan on Wednesday. Today I learned that there is no cancer in my body. I am in awe, and I am very thankful to my God who wants life for me, in its fullest, and for my friends who prayed me into life again. And now I will, with God’s help arise and get on with life. Thanks be to God!
On Sunday we are having the Sacrament of Confirmation at our Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Church in Fort Myers. Our Bishop Andrea Johnson is coming from Maryland to preside,to seal them with the holy oil, and to join in our celebration. Seven people, four women, two young adult men and one bright star child of nine will be renewing the promises of their baptism and receiving the great gift of the Holy Spirit to follow Christ. They are ready and enthusiastically will present themselves. Yet I remember when each of them, except for the child who has been shielded by her mother, a woman of strong faith who is being Confirmed with her, has come to this moment from various types of living death. They have heard the words: “I tell you rise up” and they have risen. From illness and stigma, from fear and withdrawal, from poverty,exploitation,abuse and homelessness and the weight of carrying too much and too many on their shoulders. As Rev. Bingle says below: “we have all been there”. But how beautiful our Confirmands are: standing up to say,no matter what I have been through in my life, or maybe because of it: “I accept Your life, I believe, help my unbelief and strengthen my love for You, for my fellow human beings, and for myself”. I truly believe that Christ has raised them and us from the dead and will do so until we live forever with him. Let us all pray now for moments of confirmation and new life. “I tell you ,arise !”.
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP,Co-Pastor Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community http://www.goodshepmin.org
And from Rev. Dr. Beverly Bingle:
“….What Luke was doing was shaping
the story of the widow of Zarephath
to show Jesus as surpassing Elijah in his role as prophet
and in his compassion for the vulnerable and oppressed.
Luke makes it clear in the response of the crowd:
“A great prophet has arisen in our midst,” he has them say.
“God has visited this people,” he has them say.
This story is really not about resuscitation.
The miracle is not raising someone from the dead
but bringing life to those who are dead to the life they have.
All three of today‘s readings point to rebirth and new life.
They tell us clearly
that our God is the God of life, the God of the living.
The widow in Zarephath was trapped
in the idea that her own sin
was the reason her son was sick unto death.
Paul was trapped
in a legalistic following of his ancestral traditions.
The widow in Nain was trapped
in the social structures
that made her as good as dead without a man to belong to.
So these stories are about metanoia, a turning around,
a change in perspective and belief.
The widow of Nain, without a husband, without a son,
is weak and defenseless
in the culture of that first century patriarchal society.
Jesus’ compassion turns her situation around,
and the crowd sees his action clearly.
They see his compassion for her,
and they understand the oppressive system
that would render her destitute.
They had taken for granted
the oppression of their culture and its systems
to the point that it was invisible to them,
but Jesus’ action makes it visible.
Once they see the systems that diminish their lives,
they also see the possibility of change and choice.
Like so many of the scriptures,
this story gives us a vivid metaphor
for life-changing, life-defining experiences.
The widow’s son is dead,
and he is brought back to life.
The widow faces the death of poverty and exclusion,
and she is brought back to life.
The crowd recognizes
that they have been victimized by a brutal government
that ruled with the cooperation of the rich and powerful
of their own religion.
They been like the walking dead.
We’ve all been there.
It can start with an assumption that turns out to be false.
Like how much money we need.
So we stay in a job that stifles our imagination
or puts terrible burdens on us.
Then one day we see,
and we rise up from that dead-end job and move on.
Or we make a false assumption about God,
like that widow in Zarephath
thinking that some guilt from her past
is causing God to take her son’s life.
Then we grow to understand
that God is not judgmental but compassionate,
and we rise up to live in joy.
Or like Paul in that second reading,
we make assumptions about what’s right and what’s wrong
and set out to punish the wrong ones.
Then something happens—an “ah-hah” moment—
and we turn our lives around.
We’ve all experienced them—
the time before and the time after distinctly different.
Not all of those life-changing experiences are big ones.
The little daily ones are just as important,
like deciding to go to a lecture,
or registering to vote,
or cleaning the closet and donating the clothes,
or planting a tree,
or smiling and waving at a stranger on the street.
Those little experiences are possible
because we understand the systems that try to control us
and we are free to act to change them.
We are free to act, according to Fr. John Shea,
because Jesus gives us the possibility.
Shea calls Jesus a “peddler of choices”
because he “revealed the mercy of God
and the oppression of people,” allowing us
not only to see what keeps us among the walking dead
but also to rise up and live.
In our freedom of the reign of God,
we are called to take action.
Our model is Jesus as he reaches out in compassion.
Sometimes the action is reaching out to refugees in our midst.
Sometimes the action is phoning City Council about Lake Erie.
Sometimes the action is talking with a neighbor.
Whatever action we take, we have a choice.
The Gospel calls us to choose compassion.
And that raises us up, out of our deadness, into new life.
Thanks be to God!
Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m./Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
at 3925 West Central Avenue (Washington Church)
Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor
Mailing address: 3156 Doyle Street, Toledo, O
THANKS BE TO GOD< WE ARISE!