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10th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Sts. Clare & Francis
June 8, 2013
1 Kings 17:17-24
Galatians 1:11-24
Luke 7:11-17
Homily by Frank Krebs

Maybe we don’t say this obvious truth very often but Luke or any gospel writer is trying to tell us about Jesus.  The gospels are not exactly biography, but they are meant to be icons or paintings that interpret for us who Jesus is.  So what are we learning about Jesus in this gospel? 

We are learning that Jesus through a story about this widow.  This is not so much a story about a young man being raised from the dead, though it is that.  But it is much more a story about this woman.  So while it is telling us about Jesus, it is doing this by focusing on this woman.  There is a large crowd with her.  Jesus sees her.  Jesus has compassion on her.  Jesus speaks to her.  Jesus gives the son back to her.[i]  So who is coming more back to life, the young man or the woman?  Luke employs the son’s coming back to life as a way of pointing to her coming back to life.  What does Luke mean by her coming back to life?

When he raises this young man from the dead, he has compassion on a woman who has lost her husband and now her only son.  She is not only shattered with grief over the loss of these two persons in her life.  The social means of support and connection that she received through her husband and son are gone.  She is alone and without support.  Her social wellbeing, her physical wellbeing, her economic wellbeing, etc. is gone.  She is not thriving. 

Why do I say that Luke has this in mind?  Because this is the great biblical tradition.  When we say that God gives life, what do we mean by life?  Do we mean that a heart is beating?  If God were to be assured that everyone’s heart were beating, would there be “salvation.”  Would there be the Reign of God?  The Hebrew scriptures picture the Spirit hovering over chaos at the beginning of creation.  Is this breath of God entering all living things just making sure they are alive in a minimal sense?  Clearly not.  When, in the Creed, we call the Holy Spirit “the Lord and Giver of Life,” do we mean ticking hearts and operating lungs?  No.  Rome could be dominating everyone.  There could be oppression everywhere and there could still be plenty of ticking hearts and functioning lungs.  To call God the Giver of Life is to look to God as the continual Creator, the over and over again re-Creator, who is growing things and people to the point of thriving.

Luke is clearly painting Jesus acting as God.  Jesus is not just a prophet as the crowd is figuring out.   Luke tells us the readers what the crowd does not yet know: he is the Lord.  This is the compassion of God we are seeing at work, a love of life that goes beyond ticking hearts and functioning lungs.[ii]

For us at Sts. Clare & Francis to be followers of Jesus means to act in union with him with the  same kind of compassion and passion for life, an ever expansive life.  When we see widows just barely getting by, or economically disadvantaged groups struggling to hold together a cemetery for their loved ones, our heart goes out with a kind of passion that says, “This should not be happening; these folks should be thriving.  How can I make a difference?”  That is the call of us at Sts. Clare & Francis, to follow the Giver of Life.

 


[i] This insight is from The Gospel of Luke (The New International Commentary on the New Testament) [Hardcover] Joel B. Green (Author)

[ii] This perspective is from The meaning of “life”: the giving of life as a criterion for ecumenical hermeneutics. (Essay): An article from: Journal of Ecumenical Studies [HTML] [Digital] Peter-Ben Smit (Author)

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