HOMILY FOR THE 10TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Readings: 1Kgs 17:17-24/Gal. 1:11-19
Gospel: Lk. 7:11-17
Outside of my bedroom window of the house where I grew up, there was a large walnut tree that stood in the middle of my backyard. That tree had been there ever since I could remember and it was, to me, the greatest tree in the world. I would climb that tree up to a certain point and would just sit on one of the limbs and see the world from a different point of view. I would see that tree change color from season to season waiting for that tree that looked dead in the winter to emerald-green in the spring to bright red and brown in the fall. This was a miracle to me as a kid; seeing the change in the leaves from year to year.
And yet what I didn’t realize that the change in leaves was not its greatest miracle. The real miracle occurred where I could not see. It was under the ground where the roots grew deep in order to not only keep the leaves changing, but also make sure it supported not just me, but the many birds that built their nests in its branches. The stronger the roots, the taller and stronger the tree is to support those who can use its foliage to help them make their lives better.
A miracle is only as good as what happens after it is done. We see that a miracle has been performed. But if there is no real change of heart in that person, then the act can be described as just some sort of rescue. Take someone who is a chronic smoker that is diagnosed with lung cancer. He becomes scared and angry that something like would happen to him. He was told that the cancer was inoperable and would only have a few months to live. He begins to pray for the guidance to get through this ordeal. Then one day, he goes to the doctor and he tells him that the cancer is gone. He is cured of his ailment and will live a normal life. Is that the miracle or will the true miracle be if he decides to never smoke again and go through this ordeal over again? A miracle can only be appreciated when it continues in the life of all who witnessed it.
In the readings today, we find examples of true miracles being performed. Not just for what has happened, but how their lives changed after the miracle was done. In the first reading from the First Book of Kings, Elijah came to a widows’ home where he asked her to make some bread for him, she complains to him that she only has enough for her and her son, and then afterwards she will die. Elijah tells her that God will provide her with enough to sustain them for an entire year.
Now, you would think that she would have a greater faith in God and in his prophet, Elijah. But in the reading today, she blame Elijah for letting his son die; that it was her punishment for her sins. The miracle that God gave her was not enough for her to sustain her faith. So, Elijah takes the child and prays to God for his breath to enter this child’s body so he may live again. Once his life was restored, so was the mother’s faith in God. She exclaims that Elijah is truly a man of God. The miracle that is life is only as good as how that miracle is sustained.
Miracles show us the nature of the faith that we have in ourselves, in each other and in God. In the Gospel proclaimed, Jesus cured the only son of a widow as they were coming into the town of Nain. This scene may have had some personal meaning for Jesus, for he perhaps saw his own life; his own family situation; just him and his mother. Both of his fathers are in heaven at this time. What will happen to his mother when he is gone? He saw in this moment his own life on earth stand before him.
Moved with pity, he told the mother to not weep for her son. He stepped toward her son, touched his coffin, and told him to arise. And he did. To the amazement of the crowd, they began to shout praise to God and proclaim that God was present. Even though the mother the son’s family may have felt abandoned by God, the miracle they saw was proof for them that God, in the person of Jesus, was in their midst.
This is not to say that they believed Jesus to be God; for that would have been blasphemy. They held the belief, like Elijah in the First Reading, that God worked through Jesus to bring life back into this boy and, perhaps, back into the town. One can look at these two episodes in salvation history and see the resemblance there was with the presence of God within the Jewish people. Every so often, they too felt abandoned because of some action they believed went against God. Yet God continually reminds them that, despite their faults, He is always there with them. And he is always with us today. Even in times when we are alone and abandoned, when we think that God has turned his back on us, He will always be with us, cheering us on as we go about our day-to-day lives and doing the best we can. That is the true miracle we are to see; the love God has for us to let us live our lives so that we can return that same love back to him.
This Sunday the Church returns to the season known as “Ordinary Time.” The meaning of the phrase comes from the Latin “ordinalis” which means to denote an orderly succession. This basically means that the Church has returned to its regular order of the year without any special liturgical seasons. While our society sees the work “ordinary” to mean “dull” or “uninteresting,” the message that is gives to us in knowing what God has in store for us in anything but dull.
However, sometimes miracles need to be found beyond what we see in front of us and derive from ordinary means. In the movie “Patch Adams,” Patch came to the room of an old man who was a multi-millionaire. Every day he would ask people how many fingers they see. When they say “four,” he would get upset and walk away. When Patch asked him for the answer, he told him that to look beyond the problem in order to find the solution. Patch looked at the fingers again and said “eight.” The man was thrilled with the answer and they became close friends.
In Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, Paul spoke of his former life and how he felt that this new group, called “Christians,” were a hindrance to his belief in God and how it was his duty to stamp it out. But when God revealed who Jesus was, then he understood the true meaning of the Law of Moses. He took that message to the Gentiles so they could hear this message of salvation. Paul’s miracle continued the rest of his life as he shared it with those around him.
If we act ordinary, it does not mean that we are dull. It means that our life is so balanced, that the extraordinary becomes routine. What may appear as a miracle to others, we see as normal. It is our mission as Christians to allow those who have yet to experience that miracle to raise them up so that the miracle of God-Father, Son and Holy Spirit-becomes an ordinary part of their lives. How is that done? By becoming involved in what matters to us the most; whether at home or at work or at Church. We have an obligation to become involved. We must show that becoming a full, conscious and active participant in our lives is more than just giving prayers and well wishes to those around us. It is taking an active part.
No more is that sentiment present in our participation in the Liturgy. Anyone who takes part as a Reader of the Word, or an Extraordinary Minister of Communion, or even remembering what it was like to be an altar server and seeing their children taking on the tradition can attest that this is more than just a job and more than an obligation. It is a desire to live out our baptismal promises and recognize that our desire to be Christians must be lived past the miracle of those Sacraments that brought us to God. We must now continue that miracle the rest of our lives by being living examples of that miracle so they, too, can be a miracle for others. Then, finally, can we all understand the meaning of the word “Ordinary.”
MAY GOD BLESS YOU AND ALL THAT YOU DO THIS WEEK