1 Kings 17:17-24
The son of the mistress of the house fell sick; his illness was so severe that in the end he had no breath left in him. And the woman said to Elijah, ‘What quarrel have you with me, man of God? Have you come here to bring my sins home to me and to kill my son?’ ‘Give me your son’ he said, and taking him from her lap, carried him to the upper room where he was staying and laid him on his own bed. He cried out to the Lord, ‘O Lord my God, do you mean to bring grief to the widow who is looking after me by killing her son?’ He stretched himself on the child three times and cried out to the Lord, ‘O Lord my God, may the soul of this child, I beg you, come into him again!’ The Lord heard the prayer of Elijah and the soul of the child returned to him again and he revived. Elijah took the child, brought him down from the upper room into the house, and gave him to his mother. ‘Look,’ Elijah said ‘your son is alive.’ And the woman replied, ‘Now I know you are a man of God and the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth itself.’
The Good News I preached is not a human message that I was given by men, it is something I learnt only through a revelation of Jesus Christ. You must have heard of my career as a practising Jew, how merciless I was in persecuting the Church of God, how much damage I did to it, how I stood out among other Jews of my generation, and how enthusiastic I was for the traditions of my ancestors.
Then God, who had specially chosen me while I was still in my mother’s womb, called me through his grace and chose to reveal his Son in me, so that I might preach the Good News about him to the pagans. I did not stop to discuss this with any human being, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were already apostles before me, but I went off to Arabia at once and later went straight back from there to Damascus. Even when after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him for fifteen days, I did not see any of the other apostles; I only saw James, the brother of the Lord.
Jesus went to a town called Nain, accompanied by his disciples and a great number of people. When he was near the gate of the town it happened that a dead man was being carried out for burial, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a considerable number of the townspeople were with her. When the Lord saw her he felt sorry for her. ‘Do not cry’ he said. Then he went up and put his hand on the bier and the bearers stood still, and he said, ‘Young man, I tell you to get up.’ And the dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Everyone was filled with awe and praised God saying, ‘A great prophet has appeared among us; God has visited his people.’ And this opinion of him spread throughout Judaea and all over the countryside.
“Young man, I tell you arise!”
I love a good comeback story! Who doesn’t see in himself the hero of his own tragicomedy? The failed, flawed individual ever optimistic, always on the verge of a comeback. We want to succeed. To claim greatness. We want to recognize that same yearning and struggle in someone else. So with indefatigable optimism, we cheer him and ourselves on.
Scripture is filled with comeback stories. One of its brightest has to be Paul. Paul, the Christian slayer, the zealot Jew. Filled with high-minded wrath and fury, Paul is struck down on the road to Damascus. He loses his sight, but learns to see with his heart. Conversion is a lot like resurrection. Paul does a complete about-face after meeting Jesus, and switches sides. Proving that you can be at once, a hero and a traitor. Be vilified by your old friends, and embraced by your new ones. With Christ, one really can lose one’s life and gain another.
And that’s the visual in today’s readings – the parallel between resurrection and conversion. “Young man, I tell you arise!”, says Jesus to the dead man. “Let the life breath return to the body of this child”, says Elijah to the dead boy. Modern day resurrections lack the drama of the stories in scripture, but they’re no less meaningful. Change happens, in incremental steps perhaps, but it does happen. Living in Christ, we’re more aware, more mindful of things that would never have occurred to us before. We no longer see with just our eyes, but through the prism of hearts renewed. Hearts lifted up by his Hand.
(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)
Prayer: We pray for all those who have taken the sacraments of baptism and confirmation this Easter, that their journeys continue with courage and grace.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all those who work to help new Christians find their faith. Taking the first step is hard, staying on the path is even harder. We give thanks for all those who help us to keep to the narrow road.