Ordinary Time has returned. The 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time came just before Lent, and Eastertide followed Lent. Eastertide ended on Pentecost, May 15; and on May 16 we were in the 7th week of Ordinary Time. We determine which week it is by counting back from Advent: the 34th week is always the week preceding the 1st Sunday of Advent (which is the fourth Sunday before Christmas). Rarely, if at all, is there room for all 34 possible weeks of Ordinary Time before Lent and after Pentecost. This year, it was the sixth week that got crowded out.
But even though we’ve been in Ordinary Time since May 16, we didn’t have the Masses of Ordinary Time on the 8th and 9th Sundays because we celebrated Trinity Sunday and Corpus Christi on those days. Now we’re back to the wearing of the green vestments on Sundays.
Today’s readings provide two accounts of the raising of widows’ only sons and Paul’s account of how he acquired knowledge of the gospel.
The first reading — 1 Kings 17:17-24 — tells of the prophet Elijah. There is a famine in Israel, and he has gone to the pagan territory of Sidon, where he is living in the home of a widow and her son. The preceding verses tell how her supply of four and oil are being miraculously kept from running out by the prophet, a miracle which prefigures the multiplication of loaves and fishes by the Lord. Now there is a second miracle in favor of the pagan woman. Elijah’s prayer brings about the raising of her dead son. This miracle elicits a profession of faith from the woman.
This reading continues a theme from the readings assigned to the ninth Sunday in Ordinary time, namely the inclusion of Gentiles within God’s embrace. In 1 Kings 8:41-43 Solomon prays at the dedication of the temple that the Lord hear the prayers who come to pray there, so that all peoples will know God’s name. And in the gospel for that day, the Roman centurion professes his faith in Jesus. So bath last Sunday and this there is a message that God’s love and saving action are not limited to Israel. Similarly, we should realize that God’s love and saving action are not limited to the members of his Church.
The responsorial psalm — verses of Ps 30 with a refrain based on v. 2 — has us praise God for rescuing us, for changing our sorrow to joy (as he did for the widow of Zarephath and for the widow of Nain in today’s gospel).
The second reading — Galatians 1:11-19 — contains what seems like an astounding claim: that Paul received the gospel, not from humans, such as the apostles, but by direct revelation. Clearly, he knew something of the beliefs of Christians when he was persecuting them, but the Jewish Christians did not clearly understand at that time that Gentiles could be saved by faith in Jesus without being circumcised or following all the prescriptions of the law. This point, which is the central theme of this epistle, is what must have been directly revealed to him during his sojourn in Arabia. Subsequent verses make it clear that the apostles ratified his teaching as correct. God used Paul to reveal the implication for the Gentiles of Jesus’ being the savior, yet, by going to Jerusalem and meeting with Peter (Cephas) Paul acknowledged the authority of the Church in matters of doctrine. Today the same holds true: theologians may have insights into the meaning of revelation, but the teaching authority of the Church judges the validity of those insights; similarly the Holy Spirit speaks to all of us, but if what we hear is contrary to what the Church teaches, it did not truly come from the Holy Spirit.
In the gospel — Luke 7:11-17 — we meet another widow whose son has died. Jesus restores him to life. Unlike Elijah, Jesus does not engage in fervent vocal prayer or perform an elaborate ritual. He just speaks a word of command. Unlike Elijah, he has the power of God within himself. As the widow of Zarepath recognized Elijah as a prophet, the people of Nain recognize Jess as a prophet, but they go beyond that to say the God has visited his people. Jesus is God-with-us.
These two raisings show God’s power over life and death, but they are not the same thing as Jesus’ resurrection and the one we are promised. The two sons in today’s readings had their ordinary, mortal life restored. Jesus rose with a glorified body to an immortal life, and that is what he promises us at the end of time. Now, it is his Body and Blood which sustain the immortal life already invisibly in us.