1Kings 17: 17-24; Luke 7: 11-17
There is nothing more difficult as human beings than what we hear in the first reading and Gospel today, a parent having to bury one of their children. It doesn’t even matter what age that the child is, whether infant, teen, or adult child, it is excruciating for a parent to have to live through that. We are convinced that a parent should never have to be the one doing the burying.
But both women find themselves in that situation. Both are in moments of desperation because not only are they burying their sons, but they are widows, so they find themselves cut off from their livelihood and support. They are at that moment where all they can do is cry out in pain and agony for what they are experiencing.
In my experience, people do often go in one of two directions. They become angry at God, isolate, and live as the victim for how they have been wronged. Others, though, find themselves driven deep within to their own inner tomb to find something bigger than themselves; or for most of us, a combination of both.
The widow of First Kings is angry and desperate. She can’t understand why God would do all of this to her. She is sent Elijah and believes him to be a man of God, but first he takes her food and now thinks is responsible for the death of her son. Elijah, too, is at a loss over the whole situation. He too cries out to God. He stretches himself out over the young man and calls out to the Lord to breathe life into him. Although it is a story of restoration of life, it is even more a story of restoring the faith of the widow. Like her, we are often driven to desperation, deep within our own inner tomb to seek out answers. Often we don’t find them, but find something even greater. We find hope and faith; we find a deeper trust in God and the inner voice that has been locked in the tomb.
The same is true of the widow in today’s gospel. She is desperate but is not looking for anything. She doesn’t ask Jesus any favors. It is something deep within him, compassion for her, that drives him to move towards restoring life. Again, like the woman in the first reading, it will be her faith in Jesus that is restored and brought to the fore. They recognize him as a great prophet, but he is even more than that.
The readings invite us into our own desperation, into our own inner tomb that often remains closed from life. We put too much trust in the externals of life, the things that help keep us safe. Although most of us do not know the plight of these widows, unless we have lost children of our own, but they are still an invitation to confront death before the big death because what we often need to face in our lives feels like death but will lead to life. We are invited into our inner tomb, like these widows, to find that deeper trust and faith in the true God who desires to bring us to life.