Sunday, June 05, 2016

Jesus spent A LOT of time with the poor and overlooked. Do you? (Sunday homily)

The similarities between the first reading, 
with Elijah, and the Gospel, with our Lord, 
are obvious and striking. 

Elijah visits a widow, with a dying son. 
Jesus meets a widow at the funeral of her dead son. 
This is not an accident. 

There are a couple of things you can discover, 
if you are able to take time to read and really study the Gospels:

First, Jesus himself was deeply familiar with the Scriptures – 
what we call the Old Testament. 
Of course he is God, so that means, as a member of the Holy Trinity, 
he inspired the human authors. 
But if you approach the Gospels simply taking Jesus as a man, 
you can’t help noticing how fully imbued he was with Sacred Scripture.

Second, Jesus was very conscious of who he was, 
and what his mission was – and how everything he said and did 
represented a fulfillment of Sacred Scripture.

One of the things you will sometimes find people claiming – 
you’ll see it in films, or TV shows about Jesus, 
or even in scholarly articles and books about him – 
is that he only slowly became aware that he is God. 
So there was a recent movie about Jesus as a boy – 
I didn’t see it, but apparently it took this approach; 
it showed Jesus only gradually realizing he was the Messiah, 
and that he was God.

That’s not what Scripture shows, however. 
Here, Jesus knows exactly what he’s doing, and why. 
By performing this miracle – raising a widow’s son from the dead – 
he knows he is doing something only the great prophet Elijah did. 

If this were an isolated case, this wouldn’t be so clear. 
However, look at the whole story of what Jesus said and did. 
He performed healings, which fulfilled what Isaiah foretold. 
He fed the multitudes, which recalls not only the Manna in the desert, 
but also a miracle by the prophet Elisha. 
He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey – fulfilling yet another prophecy. 
I could go on, but you get the idea. 
Jesus both knew the Scriptures very well, 
and he very deliberately chose 
to do all manner of things in line with them. Why?

Because, of course, that is how he helps people to see 
that he is the Messiah, the hope of Israel.
But also, Jesus is saying, I’m like Elijah, only I’m more than Elijah. 
When Elijah performs this miracle, notice what he does. 
He calls out to God, saying, O Lord, please do this! 
Elijah has no power to heal this boy, and he knows it. 

But Jesus does not pray. He commands! 
Just as God said, “Let there be light” – and it was so; 
here, Jesus, God in human flesh, commands the boy to rise; 
and it was so!

There’s another detail here, and it’s the one I hope to leave you with. 
Notice, the widow did not seek out Jesus. 
In other miracles, people seek Jesus for help. 
But here, Jesus seeks her out. 

After all, it says he made a special trip to this place. 
I have no doubt he went there with this very purpose. 
And upon meeting the funeral procession, he seeks out the widow: 
he has compassion on her.

Even in our time, a widow who lost her only son would be in trouble. 
Those of us who have farms and businesses can appreciate that. 
But in those times, there wasn’t any Social Security. 
She would have been in a very bad way. 

And this recalls something that is also very clear in the Gospels – 
something Pope Francis has pointed out: 
how often and how insistently 
Jesus seeks out those who are poor and powerless.

Here in this community, you and I are extraordinarily blessed. 
We are a close community. 
We have a strong parish, strong family life. 
You or I may not consider ourselves “rich,” 
but compared to what so many go through…we’re rich. 

We are also rich in faith and devotion. 
Last week we had our Corpus Christi Procession, 
and the 11 am Mass was packed; the attendance was strong. 
We had high school seniors – graduating that day! – 
who were at the Mass, and took part in the procession.

So here’s the point I want to make. 
When Jesus walked the earth, 
he made a point to seek out those who were on the margins, 
those who might easily be overlooked, 
or who might be looked down upon. He sought out the poor.

You and I are his disciples. We want to be with him. 
So we might ask ourselves: am I seeking out those in need? 
Am I reaching out to those who might otherwise be forgotten?

About 800 or so people 
will come to Mass this weekend and hear these words. 
If every one of us accepts this mission: 
I will look around to see who – 
in my neighborhood, at work, at church, in school, in our community – 
is most in need, who might be easy to look past, rather than talk to. 
And I will reach out. I will seek them out.

And can we commit to take another step?
In this corner of Shelby County, there are people in need, 
but not a whole lot, and not the greatest need. 
Jesus didn’t just stay in Nazareth. 
He went looking for this widow. 
There are great apostolates to people in need in Sidney, 
in Piqua, in Troy and Dayton. 
I know many of us have helped provide food, and supplies, 
and donations; many have volunteered. 
What I’m suggesting is that we can do more. 

Jesus spent a lot of time seeking out the poor. A lot of time. 


rcg said...

Sorry to have been away so long. I like this blog and read it, just too lazy to log in.

As is often the case with Fr. Fox' homilies, this is thought provoking. I have often wondered what, exactly, is 'poor'. I think it is much more that narrowly defined monetary wealth and we pull up short of the spiritual help we can give other folks.

Fr Martin Fox said...


Good to see you again. I think of our visit together often.