Oh Lord Jesus, Restore Us to Life!
Readings: (1st: I Kg 17, 17-24; Ps: 29, 2-6. 11-13; 2nd: Gal 1, 11-19 Gos: Lk 7, 11-17)
This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a member of the Congregation Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers, Province of Nigeria South East. He is currently the parochial vicar of Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church Woliwo Onitsha, Anambra State, Nigeria. For more details contact him on:firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or +23408063767512
Since Pentecost the Church has been celebrating solemnities that fall within the ordinary time. Today we return to the normal readings of the Sundays in ordinary time. Today is the 10th Sunday of Ordinary time and one theme that one could find running through all the readings of today is: New Life or Restoration to Life. A close look at both the first reading and the gospel of today shows that both stories are quite similar and revolve around the same story line – bringing some one back to life. One finds the following similarities: A mother or mistress is involved, a son is involved, the son was dead, a man of God miraculously restored the dead son to life and ultimately returned him to the mother, the restoration to life in both cases brought about feelings of joy and praises to God, etcetera. There is some level of agreement among most biblical scholars that Luke got his story from I Kings. However, he used Jesus to replace Elijah.
In the second reading, Paul recounts his conversion. Of course, the former Saul when placed in the “scale of life,” would almost weigh nothing, and was as good as dead. However, he was restored to normal life through his encounter with Jesus Christ. He was dead because his activities as Saul were prompted by his human nature or Flesh, whereas as Paul he became fully alive through the grace and love of Jesus Christ. A story was told about a certain woman named “Ojionu” who attended a Church programme with her husband. When the Pastor invited widows for a special prayer session, Ojionu stood up from her seat and started walking towards the Pastor. Citing his wife from his own sitting position, the man called out to her: “Ojionu, the Pastor is calling widows, I mean those whose husbands are dead!” The woman who heard him well turned around, took a mean glance at him and responded: “Do you still consider yourself alive? As far as I am concerned you are dead!” This is the type of response one gets when one could no longer fulfill the obligation required of some one that is alive.
Such a man in this story, like Saul and the young men in our readings of today need to be restored to life. Some scholars (like David Hume in Philosophy of Religion who are opposed to Miracles), would argue that these young men as well as Lazarus (Jn 11), were not actually dead, but were in the state of coma or deeply asleep. They would perhaps further argue that if they were actually dead Christ would not have been able to raise them. Whatever the case is, the question is, of what good is a comatose? It takes the grace of God to restore the person because he or she is as good as dead, and in fact neither useful to the living nor to the dead. He simply hangs in a balance. There is no doubt today that most Christians are comatose in nature and so need to be restored back to life. In fact owing to our condition in this state, we cannot call out to Christ for help, safe our loved ones do so for us as these mothers did it for their sons. This is why we need to intercede for others and also humbly implore others to do so for us in order to invite Christ to restore us to life. This is why David cried out to God: “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (Ps 51, 12).
We die every day like the young men in our readings today. It is Christ who restores us to life every day. In other words, like Paul, it is through the grace of Jesus Christ that we are restored and live again. The life we live is therefore only but a grace granted unto us, and it is for a purpose! For what purpose are we restored to or are we given new life? Paul was restored to life in order to bear witness to Christ. This is why he says “woe to me if I do not preach the gospel” (I Cor 16, 19). He was restored to life so that he himself could become an instrument through which others are restored to life also. He was restored in order to affect others no more negatively, but positively, and as a source of joy, peace and hope unto others rather than being a source of sorrow as was the former Saul in him. These are also the reasons for God restoring us every day to life through the Sacraments we receive. When Christ restores us to life he also expects us to live it to the fullest and this simply means walking in truth, appreciating the gift of life itself, and by extending it to others. Another purpose for restoring us to life is for it to bring joy to those around us just as the restoration of these young men became the source of joy of their mothers and the people around them. In order words, our life – that is, the fact that we are alive both physically and spiritually should bring joy and hope to those around us. Furthermore, the fact that we are restored to life daily by God must move people to praise God and thank Him for what he has done for, in and through us. The restoration of life to us must elicit a positive testimony to the glory of God. This is because, when we do well in life definitely those around us will give glory to God for our being. Jesus therefore tells us: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Mt. 5, 16). This is the only way we can say we have a meaningful life.
In all of these, what it means is that when God plays his role of restoring us to life, the onus therefore, lies on us to make God’s gift of life and call a permanent experience (2 Pt. 1, 10). Jesus restores us to life for us to complete our mission, to make those around us happy, in order to give us another chance to better our lot and those of others around us. It is also in recognition or appreciation of our good life as was the case of Hezekiah (Is 38), and Dorcas (Acts 9, 36). In fact, for whatever reason God decides to restore us to life, all of them point to one fact: That God is the author of life. He is the one who through his Son and the Holy Spirit sustains us. What we do with this life is therefore very important because we do not just live for ourselves but for God and others. So in appreciation of this wonderful gesture of God, like the Psalmist, we must also say: “I will praise you Lord, you have recued me.”
Peace be with you all!