Who wouldn’t feel compassion for the two widows in today’s
Scriptures? While Elijah is a guest at the home of the widow of
Zarephath her child dies. Jesus, his disciples and a large crowd are
traveling to Nain. On the way they meet a funeral procession for the
son of another widow.
In their societies women had to depend on the male members of
their families for support and protection. For widows that task
would have fallen to their sons. So, besides losing their sons, the
two widows are also made vulnerable. The Zarephath widow’s son is
still young, but she would one day need him. Without the care of
their sons the widows would have had to return to their families, or
in-laws to survive. In a poor society this might not be possible and
so they would become destitute. Luke emphasizes the widow of Nain’s
fragile condition when he tells us that the dead man was, "the only
son of his mother and she was a widow."
Elijah and Jesus weren’t merely wonder workers who could, through
their own powers, raise the dead. Their miracles are attributed to
God’s intervention. After her son is given back to her the widow
exclaims, "The word of the Lord comes truly from your mouth." When
Jesus raises the young man from the dead the crowd glorifies God
saying, "A great prophet has risen in our midst," and "God has
visited his people."
In neither account do the widows ask the prophets for help.
Elijah and Jesus take it upon themselves to come to their aid. Those
who experienced the miracles attribute them to God. It is best
summed up by the people’s acclamation in the gospel, "Fear seized
them all, and they glorified God…." It is the kind of fear humans
have before the awesome power of God. Who else but God can raise the
dead? The widow of Zarephath comes to a similar conclusion when she
says to Elijah, "Now indeed I know that you are a man of God."
Note the difference between how Elijah and Jesus accomplished
their miracles. Elijah performs a ritual act by lying on top of the
boy several times. Jesus, on the other hand, does not even touch the
young man. He simply commands him, "Young man, I tell you arise."
Jesus shows his authority: he speaks and the good work is
accomplished. It is another example of the power of the Word of God
– the same Word we hear proclaimed to us at each liturgical
celebration. It is a Word that can revive our drooping spirits and
put new life into our prayer. The Word can restore hope that has
died and love that has grown cold.
"Widow" doesn’t just apply to women who have lost their husbands.
It can be a term to describe women in situations similar to the
widows in today’s readings. I recently preached at a parish near San
Francisco. It is a great city with ocean and bay views on three
sides. Like older cities it has diverse neighborhoods. What is
happening in San Francisco is also happening in other American
cities. The poor are being pushed out by gentrification and the
resulting higher rents.
I heard of a single mother with two children who had a low wage
job. Her husband deserted her and their children. She is a "widow"
now, comparable to our biblical women. She couldn’t afford it when
her landlord doubled her rent and now she and her children are
We can also call poor men and women in similar circumstances
"widows." They are vulnerable and desperate for help. Some are
parents whose children have died from drug overdoses, or been
victims of violence. Like the widow of Nain, these victims of
powerful societal forces are also caught in a funeral procession of
Our prophets Elijah and Jesus reveal whose side God takes in dire
circumstances. God is on the side of the "widows" – the ones who
suffer and have no one to act or speak on their behalf. Jesus’
miracle shows God stopping the powerful force of death and giving
hope of new life to the desperate. Elijah and Jesus acted for the
good even though no specific request was made of them. Ours is a God
of gratuitous goodness, coming to help us even before we ask. God’s
Word also challenges the faithful community to do the same – act for
the good before being asked.
Paul is very conscious that the good he has received from God was
pure gift. God, he says, "was pleased to reveal his son to me so
that I might proclaim him to the Gentiles." The Christian community
has also received the gift of Jesus Christ. Paul reminds us
recipients of such a wonderful gift that now we too must proclaim
Christ to others.
We proclaim Jesus Christ by doing what he did: coming to the aid
of the "widows" of our world: whoever is alone, in desperate straits
and in need our help. Pope Francis has declared this a "Year of
Mercy." He has called us to be in solidarity with the poor and find
ways to reveal God’s love for them through our words and actions.
Earlier in Luke’s Gospel Jesus gave us our marching orders, "Be
merciful, just as your father is merciful" (Luke 6:36). It is what
he did throughout his life and now, with the grace Paul has
proclaimed, it is our turn to do the same.
here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:
JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD
"Elijah went to Zarephath of Sidon to the house of a widow."
Today’s readings speak of mothers and sons. The Bible also many
readings of fathers and daughters, brothers and sisters, husbands
and wives, friends and strangers. You might say that the Bible is
the pre-eminent book of relationships, even bad relationships.
I had the opportunity, a month or so ago, to attend a
presentation by Jack Jezreel, the founder of the JustFaith
program. He makes an interesting statement that has given me great
moments of meditation. He cites an example of a church member who
was telling him of the great work his parish did giving clothes to
the poor, handing out food, and so forth. Jezreel tells the man
that, while this is good, "giving stuff is not charity. Charity is
about relationship." He states further, "If you want to follow
Jesus, you are going to have to hit the road so you can have an
encounter, not to change those you meet but to change yourself."
This is what we see over and over in the Bible, people encountering
others. Jesus can be found, as Jezreel states, "on the road." Pope
Francis also draws forth this sentiment of encounter.
Pope Francis states: "We thank God, who has raised up in many a
desire to be close to their neighbor and to follow in this manner
the law of charity which is the heart of the Gospel. But charity is
even yet more authentic and more incisive when it is lived in
communion. Communion shows that charity is not merely about helping
others, but is a dimension that permeates the whole of life and
breaks down all those barriers of individualism which prevent us
from encountering one another" (1/10/15). A month later, he
elaborates his theme of encounter, when he speaks these words: "In
order to be "imitators of Christ" (cf. 1 Cor 11:1) in the face of a
poor or sick person, we must not be afraid to look him in the eye
and to draw near with tenderness and compassion, and to touch him
and embrace him. I have often asked this of people who help others,
to do so looking them in the eye, not to be afraid to touch them;
that this gesture of help may also be a gesture of communication: we
too need to be welcomed by them. A gesture of tenderness, a gesture
of compassion.... Let us ask you: when you help others, do you look
them in the eye? Do you embrace them without being afraid to touch
them? Do you embrace them with tenderness? Think about this: how do
you help? From a distance or with tenderness, with closeness?
Ask yourself, "Am I practicing charity based on relationship?
Molinari Quinby, MPS
Coordinator of Social
Justice Ministries Sacred Heart Cathedral--Raleigh, N.C.
the Sunday scripture readings designed for persons on the run.
"Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted in the Sunday
parish bulletins people take home.
Sunday -C- June 5, 2016
I Kings 17: 17-24; Psalm 30; Galatians 1: 11-19; Luke 7: 11-17
From today’s Galatians reading
who from my mother’s womb has set me apart
called me through his grace,
pleased to reveal his Son to me...."
Paul is very conscious that the good he has received from God was
pure gift. Through our Baptism the Christian community has also
received the gift of Jesus Christ. Paul reminds us that, as
recipients of such a wonderful gift, we too must proclaim Christ to
So we ask ourselves:
- How do we proclaim Christ to others in our daily lives?
- Have we been reluctant or felt intimidated to speak and act
on Christ’s behalf?
DEATH ROW INMATES
"The use of the death penalty cannot really
be mended. It should be ended."
Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick
Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison
system. Each week I post in this space several inmates’ names and
addresses. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of them
to let them know we have not forgotten them. If you like, tell them
you heard about them through North Carolina’s, "People of Faith
Against the Death Penalty." If the inmate responds you might
consider becoming pen pals.
Please write to:
- James F. Davis #0510234 (On death row since 10/2/96)
- MelvinL. White #0434355 (10/15/96)
- Gary A. Trull #0412440 (11/19/96)
---Central Prison 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh 27699-4285
For more information on the Catholic position on the death
penalty go to the webpage of the Catholic Mobilizing Network:
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