Daily Reflection
August 27th, 1999
Bob Whipple
1Thessalonians 4:1-8
Matthew 25:1-13

It’s really easy for humans to despair, for there seems to be so much to despair about.  All we have to do is look at recent news from Atlanta, Littleton, Paducah, or even here in Omaha.  Every time I read or here about the recent flood victims, my heart goes out to them.  What will they do?  What can they do?  There’s nothing like random violence to make us feel as if we are like dandelions in a hurricane.

Think about the mother of the man who has died in today’s Gospel section.  What must she feel?  He is her only son.  She is doubly devastated.  Not only has she lost her child, a part of her joy, but she is now destitute--her son may have been her financial as well as emotional support.  Remember, she is a widow in circa 1 AD Judea.  How will she live?  What will she do?  The Gospeller doesn’t tell us if she has daughters.  If she does, and if they are married, she may have to go to them, to ask to live with them and their husbands and families--a devastating thing to have to beg for.  If she has none, there is no place for her to turn.  If she has unmarried daughters, the devastation is multiplied.

Indeed, I am even set with a very tiny despair myself as I write this.  I feel I must try for a message of hope, the goodness of God, something positive, from this reading.  But what I’ve written above seems so depressing, so bleak--what good can come out of this?  What will I do?

We humans are conditioned, especially in affluent American society, to believe that we should and always will have a variety of options, including ones pointing away from what we want to do, what is distasteful, fearful, or onerous to us.  But the people in Omaha’s Bottoms don’t have many options.  I’ve got to write this--no option.  The widow has no option--just a terrible path ahead of her.

It’s at this point that Jesus steps in and works his miracle.  He says, “Do not weep. “ Why not?  The woman’s son has just died and she’s staring age and poverty in the face!  Why not weep?

Because whatever the world holds,  God has compassion on us as Christ had for the widow.  We need to understand this even though our miracles are not as dramatic as hers.  Or even when they’re just not there at all.

We may say “Pretty neat” or “that’s nice”;  she’s got her son back, and everyone’s happy.  But it’s not that simple.  Christ’s miracles are not parlor tricks to impress the locals; they are chosen examples of the way God is and wants to be with us.

The people in the Gospel story say to themselves, "A great prophet has arisen among us!" and "God has visited his people!"  John Wesley said it  another, simpler way: “The best of all is, God is with us.”

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