From time to time we need a pick-me-up. If our spirits are down, if we feel a bit forlorn, we need an encouraging word, a little resurrection of the spirit.
We find the truly forlorn in our readings this weekend. In both the first reading and the gospel, we encounter widows who have just lost an only son. Nothing will console them. Nothing short of the greatest pick-me-up imaginable: a resurrection.
Happy to say, in both readings, a resurrection occurs. But they are very different. Elijah prays and prostrates himself, begging God’s merciful action. Jesus, on the other hand, simply speaks: “Young man, I tell you, arise!” (Lk 7:14). Elijah petitions God. Jesus commands creation. Elijah lifts his hands and eyes to heaven. Jesus touches and speaks into a coffin. This tells us about Jesus’ identity. He is God. Only God’s word has power over life and death. And if his word can physically raise the dead, it can also raise our defeated spirits.
When we are cast down by loss, or fatigue ,or confusion, it is right for us to pray. We should pray, like Elijah, for a return of our “life breath.” Like Elijah, it is good for us to beg the Lord for an interior resurrection. But our best recourse is to go straight to God’s word. As we read in scripture itself “the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart” (Heb 4:12). God’s word goes right through us. It gets inside us. It has the power to raise us. God’s word, like the word of Jesus to the dead man, comes with power. So, it is right for us to lift our spirits in prayer. But only God’s word will make us rise.
St. Paul tells us, “the gospel preached by me is not of human origin” (Gal 1:11). Neither is its power of human origin. Jesus’ words had power to raise the dead. The scriptures have the power to raise a falling soul. As with God’s first word of creation (Gen 1:3), a simple word from the scriptures can clear away darkness in the mind and restore light to the soul. By his word, God renews the soul. By his word, he resurrects.
One prominent theologian has written, “we must hear the word of God if we are to be ourselves.” The word of God has the power to return us to ourselves. It returns us to life. We all need a pick-me-up now and then. Nothing picks us up like God’s word
Father George K. Nixon serves as assistant pastor at St. Philip Parish, Greenville. Ordained in 2011, he holds a licentiate in sacred theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. “Verbum Domini” is a series of Father Nixon’s reflections on the Scriptures. Father Nixon may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org