Homily for Sunday, June 9

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Homily for the Tenth Sunday in Ordinary time
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

Audio for homily

(I only preached once this weekend, at a Mass we have each year which includes honoring and blessing significant wedding anniversaries (multiples of five years and all marriage 50 years and longer.  Only after setting and publicizing the date did we realize the scriptures for our wedding anniversary Mass would be all about widows!)

The unpredictability of the mystery
of how God moves and works in our lives can be quite confounding.    

In the first scripture today the widow of Zarephath,
a Gentile, not a Jew, a non-believer,
has sheltered Elijah, a holy man, a prophet, through the drought.
And then her son dies.   And she’s very angry.
And she blames Elijah for the her son’s death.
And Elijah blames God for the young man’s death.
But in response to her angry outburst and indictment,
Elijah prays and God brings the son back to life.

In the gospel there’s another widow.
She, too, has lost her son, though we’re not told how he died.
Here the holy man, the prophet, is Jesus.
He has no particular relationship with this widow or her dead son.
He’s a bystander watching a crowd of mourners pass by at the city gate.
No one pays Jesus any attention.  No one asks him for anything.
But he intervenes and brings the dead man back to life.

It seems that sometimes God is good to those
whom we might deem undeserving of his generosity.
And sometimes God’s gifts seem to be showered
on those who weren’t even praying to him.

The unpredictability of the mystery
of how God moves and works in our lives can be quite confounding.

So we need to be careful not to miss the most important point
in these two stories in today’s scriptures.
In both instances, the return of a lost son to life
is the occasion for people coming to know the Lord:
the widow of Zarephath becomes a believer;
the crowds grieving with the widow of Nain testify
that God has visited his people in this man, Jesus.

Think for a moment of your best friends. 
Think of those you love the most.
Would you be so close to these people if your basic approach to them was,
“What can you do for me?  What’s in it for me if we become friends?”
Of course not.  We aren’t attracted to others who only want to use us.
We’re drawn to those who love us, those whom we want to love.

And so it is with God and us.
God’s greatest desire is not to do favors for us
or to get us to do favors for him but rather,
God’s greatest desire is to invite us into the embrace of his love for us.

And so it is with the married couples
whose anniversaries we honor today.
These couples have had good marriages 
not because as husband and wife            
they’ve taken as much as they could get from each other.
Rather they’ve had good marriages 
because each has given the other
as much as possible, to make the other happy.
These couples have found that there’s no greater gift
than the joy received in making one’s spouse happy.

Now, certainly husbands and wives ask things of each other
as we ask things of God in prayer.
But in faith, as in marriage,
nothing is more important than the relationship itself,
nothing more important than loving and being loved.

As husbands and wives love each other, as God loves each of us, 
for better, for worse,
for richer, for poorer,
in sickness and in health... 
For husbands and wives, until death part them.
But in God’s love for us,
not even death separates
from the embrace of God’s love.

Even as we honor and pray for these anniversary couples today,
we remember, too, and pray for those couples
whose marriages had less than happy endings
and we ask for God’s healing, consoling blessing upon them.

But we lift up those unions where marriage is a sacrament,
a sign for us of God’s grace, of God’s faithful love for us all,
for each of us: married, single, widowed, divorced,
God’s love, in which the greatest joy, the greatest gift,
is to know that we are loved by God who desires our love in return.

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