Somebody once said that the best way to break a habit is to drop it. I cracked my knuckles when I was young and it drove my grandma crazy. I wonder if that is why I did it. There are all kinds of physical habits like that, thumb-sucking, nail-biting, and foot-wiggling. I have a friend who pulls at his left earlobe when he is about to say something about which he is not too sure.
There are interior habits as well and they can drive us crazy and they are not so easy to drop. Some of them have to do with attending the Eucharist or praying at all. The habit might be about casting our eyes downward, because we interiorly do not experience our goodness and we are not too sure of God’s goodness either. This kind of habit has to do with our image of ourselves in our own eyes and in the heart of Jesus.
Spiritual inferiority takes many forms and forms many habits. We might have a recklessness about our spirit and so habitually neglect being in our own presence. There might always have to be noise, music, TV, something to keep us from being simply present to ourselves. As we move toward the Eucharist, we might check our habit-life, especially the interior ones. We cannot drop them in the holy water font on the way in and expect they will be gone as you leave. Praying honestly with them is a great preparation for celebrating God’s habitual gaze upon us personally and communally.
Elijah is back trusting the word of God in the presence of the impossible. In our First Reading we hear the second half of the story which opens this chapter. It was a time of no rain and he had been sent to a widow who had little flour and oil. He had asked her, who was preparing a little funeral dinner for herself and her son, to give him something to eat. She trusted him, though she was not a woman of Israel, and for a year there was enough for all three to eat.
What we hear is a prophetic healing. The same son becomes ill and his breath leaves him. The widow chides Elijah that he has come into her house to reveal her sins which must be the cause of her son’s illness and death. We hear that Elijah takes the son, prays mightily to God and the son revives and Elijah gives him back to his mother. The mother declares the important faith statement that Elijah is a holy man, a prophet, because only prophets can do such great deeds of God.
Jesus is back doing prophetic healings Himself. The story which opens this chapter has a faith-statement made by a Roman Centurion. His slave is sick and sends for Jesus in desperation. As in the First Reading, the Roman foreigner expresses more faith than Jesus is finding in Israel. The slave is found well.
Our Gospel story is about a mother who has lost her son as well. Jesus approaches the mourners as they take the son out to bury him. Jesus is moved with deep feelings for the mother and raises the son back to life and gives him back to his mother.
Here as well, the crowd around Him announces the arrival of a great prophet and that truly God has visited the people. Widows, in the Jewish scriptures are to be cared for by the family, or those who are able. The two widows of today’s readings are losing the sons who would provide for them. God cares for both by giving them both back their sons and sources of life. Jesus had compassion or deep emotional reception of the condition of the widow. Luke will continue through out his Gospel that God, “Emanuel” will always be with us.
This divine intimacy is a difficult idea, sense, and experience for us. We like to determine who gets close, closer, and closest. Some people we keep standing outside at the front door. Some get in where things are neat and orderly. Few get into the basement or storage rooms of our houses and our persons. Distance assists in our sense of control and allows us to be judgmental, suspicious, and prejudiced. If we keep others at a safe distance we might not have to feel any responsibilities for them.
Jesus came close to the widow’s loss and her dead son. His reception of her condition becomes a small picture of the larger intimacy He creates through the sacraments and His abiding presence. We cannot control His ways and His coming over the threshold and into the hiding places of our lives. We of course can distance ourselves from the thoughts of such a loving God. We might have to let go of the habitual illusion that we are in control and we will take care of ourselves, our spirits and who else gets in.
Letting someone in real close might call for some changes in our fears, judgments and prejudices. And those are habits we have grown to love. If we allow Jesus’ presence to be real, well then, there might be a closeness to others, especially those who are not like us, and that might bring us back to new life.
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